Archives for posts with tag: grandparents

There’s nothing like the lessons that history teaches us about ourselves. I sometimes wonder how this time in our lives will be judged in even a few decades with all the venom spewing onto social media and the internet. To escape the news, I picked up Bill Bryson’s wonderful book, “One Summer…America 1927.” I know it was a bestseller when it was published, but this was the perfect time for me to read it. I had also recently read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson, a history of Germany in 1933 as Hitler was coming into power.

The current news is disturbing, watching crowds of Americans chanting hateful words at fellow Americans. Everywhere there is the fear of people who they assume are different from them, whether they be Mexican, Middle Eastern, of different religions or sexual orientation. We seem to be confused about what kind of people belong in America.

Reading Mr. Bryson’s book, my senses sharpened as I read his description of the 1920s, noting that instead of the terms like the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties, etc, it could have been called the Age of Loathing. “There may never have been another time in the nation’s history when some people disliked more people from more directions and for less reason.”

He continues with descriptions of the bigotry, especially the Ku Klux Klan, which reached record numbers. It’s focus was regional with hatred of “Jews & Catholics in the Midwest, Orientals and Catholics in the Far West, Jews and sometimes Europeans in the East, and blacks everywhere.” Then there was the national interest in eugenics, the scientific cultivation of superior beings. Using eugenics, people were deported, groups were restricted in the places they could live, civil liberties were suspended and thousands of innocent people were involuntarily sterilized, including people who scored low on the newly developed IQ test, used not to determine who was the smartest, but who was the least intelligent so they could be weeded out. In the way that these things tend to move, the people chosen to make these decisions had their own prejudices and interests projected onto the results of testing. Those with epilepsy and other mental or physical disabilities which made them inferior stock, so to speak, were victims also. Europeans were tiered with lighter skins being preferred to the darker skins of the more southern regions.

You can read both of these books to see the similarities of what is going on in our country today – and you should!

I had already been trying to process the anger and fear I see daily. It’s hard to understand where it comes from when I look around me. For one thing, what exactly qualifies a person to be considered white? Since the beginning of our country, immigrants have flooded in, assimilating into the country while still retaining some of their heritage. You can drive across the Kansas plains and see tiny towns on the flat horizon with the steeples of large churches built by the European settlers who came there standing out as the places the farmers came together to worship in this new land. I was just in Okarche, OK, which was settled by Germans who conducted all their education and worship services in German until just before World War I.

Since I was born in 1945, I have seen the acceptance of so many different kinds of people in my own little corner of the world. As a child, I only knew African American people in service areas but, through the years, I became friends with bi-racial couples and worked with professional people of all races. Being Native American was not embraced even in Oklahoma, the land of the red people with more than 70 tribes today. Now it is a source of pride with people searching for traces of Indian bloodlines.

The recent surge of interest in genealogy has opened up the realities of our country’s growth with DNA tests available to reveal our roots. My family seems to have moved from the east to the west in the traditional ways with my father’s family moving from the British Isles to Maryland and on to Kentucky, with some spurs in Louisiana, before my ancestors ending up in Oklahoma. My mother’s family took the southern route from the east coast, farming through the southern states into Texas and, eventually, southern Oklahoma. No telling what other family tree branches hold as far as mixed breeding along the way.

We’ve welcomed refugees even if it took awhile for them to be totally assimilated. I remember enrolling Vietnamese children after they were sponsored by local churches. They were so sweet as they came to a new country, a new state and city and started school when they couldn’t even speak the language. They were model students, hard working and thankful to be there.

Today, our wonderful diversity is all around me in ways that were shocking mere decades ago. Children with disabilities are not hidden or shuffled off to institutions as we mainstream them in schools when possible and celebrate them with Special Olympics. They are beloved children who teach us as much as we teach them. Medical advances have made so many lives more livable and children learn to accept rather than ridicule those with differences. One of my grandsons has grown up with a friend with disabilities and doesn’t seem to even notice.

Both of our presidential candidates have children who have married into the Jewish faith, which would have been hard to do in past generations, both from the Jewish and protestant sides. My grandmother was raised Catholic but had to leave the church to marry  my grandfather who was Episcopal. True love ruled out back at the turn of the 20th century and they were married over 55 years. I can remember the fears around the candidacy of John F. Kennedy as to whether the Pope would try to run America if Kennedy were elected.

I was fortunate to grow up in a community where Jews and Catholics were community leaders and friends, so I didn’t see the kind of ugliness as much as in other places. When I worked for the American Red Cross, I took classes such as water safety, disaster planning, and even diversity to many rural schools. For our fundraising records, I was supposed to bring back the racial breakdown of the classes where I made presentations. This was almost a joke as I answered that I could barely tell the girls from the boys. In rural Oklahoma, there were so many kids who were of mixed heritage – African American, Native American, Hispanic and white. Fortunately, the teachers had the statistics for me from enrollment numbers. We all keep those kind of records these days, I guess. It was eye-opening for me to look out at a sea of 2nd or 3rd graders and try to figure out who they were. They were all kids to me and it was amusing to try to decipher the different colors of skin and facial features that could be from anywhere. Such is the melting pot we live in.

One of my grandsons asked me years ago to explain the differences in religions, especially protestants. After pondering that for a minute, I explained some of the differences in structure of the governing bodies and of the basic beliefs. I also explained that churches vary by community depending on the people who are members. You might want to join the Presbyterian church in one town, the Methodist church in another or some other religion. It was about finding which one felt right with your beliefs and where you felt you belonged as far as the membership. It gets confusing in today’s world because each religion is also subject to interpretation by the leadership. This is world wide and we all know that the worst things mankind has done to fellow human beings throughout history is usually done in the name of God. Not the God I believe in who is about love and acceptance, but the God they describe to meet their own desires.

Today, I have friends who have had to hide their sexual orientation for most of their lives and are now able to lead very happy lives, loved and accepted by their families and friends. It’s not always easy for them but they can at least know there are places and people who are working to make it easier for them to live and work as they please. My boss at Oklahoma State University is from Malaysia. Last week, I sat with three friends and thought about where we all are. One of them has a gay son, one has a daughter who is married to a Muslim and raising her grandchildren in that religion and one has a son who is married to a German girl. A friend from long ago was able to see his son married to his partner and accepted at last. As parents and grandparents, we accept and love, even if we know there are still those who will make it more difficult for them along the way.

As two of my grandchildren graduated from high school this year, my own high school, I took pride in watching the cheers from the students as classmates of various racial backgrounds crossed the stage. They are so much more accepting than we were because they are exposed to the differences in their everyday lives. They play sports with them, go to class with them, and get to know them as people. Sure, there are still those who snicker and make tacky jokes or mean comments, but it is infinitely better. In their world, where everything can change in a minute with social media, I still see things as better.

I worry today with the hatred I see spewing because it’s hard for me to understand the fear. The more people with differences of race, religion, sexual orientation or physical limitations you meet, the more you relate to them as fellow human beings. Basically, we all want the same things in life – to love our families and provide homes and ways to contribute to our societies. Sure, there are aberrations with people who have distorted visions and sick needs and ugly aspirations for power and control, but people are basically good.

What is a white person, this ideal that people want to bring back, anyway? There are so many shades of skin that I don’t know what that term even means. How can you be a white supremacist if your own heritage may be of a nationality that was once the focus of the hate you are now spewing? Do you have Italian or Irish blood? You were once hated and feared too. Scandinavians were also suspect as were any people who spoke another language. Where do your people come from anyway? Who are you to think you are superior to anyone? Really?!

What were those good times that people talk about? Do you want to go back to a time when people were discriminated against because of their heritage, their skin color or even because they were women? How good were those times? I can look back fondly at the past and loved growing up in the 50s and 60s, but there were some things that weren’t so great. Adults didn’t talk about anything with kids and I’m always finding out family secrets that were hidden in those days. Finding them out makes understanding easier. There was alcoholism and abuse and no telling what other ugliness hidden in those perfect families of the day. There was discrimination in the workplace and in daily life, all hidden in pleasant seeming communities and churches. It wasn’t quite as peaceful as it looks like in the nostalgic pictures we see.

People will always be people, with all the good and bad things that implies. In our country, in our time, I hope that we will always try to be the best of the best. Let’s be the place where people feel free to believe and live and love because when those things happen, our whole world gets better. Today and every day, let’s look at our own prejudices, which we all have, and try to understand why we have them. Take each prejudice one by one and find someone who makes that prejudice just wrong. If you can find one person, you can find many and, maybe, just maybe, one person at a time, we can put people in perspective and not judge them as a whole but as individuals who enrich our lives. Together, we can recognize the ones who are making it difficult for others and make changes. Together, we can do lots of wonderful things.

We have to keep trying to stop hatred and the ugliness it spreads and encourages. We have to keep trying!IMG_0090







One of my favorite things about Facebook is seeing all the pictures taken on the first day of school.  I know it’s a parent and grandparent thing that makes kids roll their eyes and escape to the newest social media before their parents can find it, but it’s a very special day for everyone.  Decked in new clothes from head to toe, carrying new pencils and crayons and notebooks in their backpacks, children, students march off to a new classroom, new teachers, maybe even a new school.  The first day of school marks another milestone, more challenges, and many sighs.

For the students, it’s exciting and scary all at the same time.  Will they know anybody in their classes, will they look right (even if they wear uniforms, there’s a “look” they need to have), what if they can’t find something, what if, what if?  There’s so much to take in as they learn about their new teachers, take on new subjects, take notes on new assignments.

For the parents, there are tears of pride, fears for letting their children out of their watch, knowing all that lies out there, and cheers that they have successfully helped their child grow into yet another level.  For working parents, there are sighs of relief for the regular schedule and anxiety about making all the teacher meetings and extracurricular activities.  And the anxiety for all of hoping you can keep up with the homework that seems so much more complicated than when you were in school or manage all the carpools and PTA meetings and, and, and the list goes on and on.

For grandparents, it’s sighs at the recognition of time passing all too quickly, pride in watching another generation grow up, and gratitude for being able to be a part of it all.

This year, my oldest grandson is a senior in high school and it brings tears to my eyes to realize how quickly the time has flown by.  Next year, he’ll take a major step and I know that will be the most emotional of all.  I now have five grandchildren in high school and two in middle school.

My youngest grandchild started Pre-Kindergarten.  I got to take her to her new room and meet her new teacher and watch her excitement at being in a “big kid” school, even though the chairs are small and the lockers scaled down.  It’s a new world for her.

Today, I watched the complete spectrum as I saw photos of my grandkids leaving for their first day at school, photos of my children’s friends’ children and my friends’ grandchildren.  The parents are the children I once sent off with all the same emotions they have today.  I have a grandson beginning his last year with his parents’ supervision and a granddaughter leaping with joy into the next fourteen years of school, her mother helping her figure it all out.  It’s one of those circles of life that bring it all home.

I remember my days as a parent and then I go back and remember my own days.  It brings back all the things I felt on my own first day.  I’m grateful that it just never changes.  I’m grateful for the wonderful teachers I had through the years, for the wonderful educational opportunities we have in our country, for getting all of my own children through school, and for being here to see this next generation.  The first day of school is VERY important.  Thanks for all the photos that link us together for this special occasion.Karen - 1st day of school


In a conversation with some of my grandkids, I was surprised that they weren’t thinking about gifts for their parents or siblings. When I was little, I bought presents for my parents, brother and sister and my grandparents. I had a memory of going to the dime store with $5 to buy all the gifts and coming home with Evening in Paris perfume for my mother and I can remember buying a lot of handkerchiefs for everyone.

This past few days, I’ve taken a couple of the grandkids on shopping trips so they could buy gifts. My 12-year old granddaughter has been finished for weeks, everything perfectly selected and probably wrapped by now. She’s got the whole thing figured out. No need to help her.

I took my 4-year old granddaughter shopping for her mother the other day. Since it’s just the two of them, I thought she needed to have a surprise or two for her Momma. And she’s old enough to start learning the giving part. I asked her mother likes jewelry and she replied, “Yeah, she does.” I wish I could write the inflection she uses for that phrase, because it is way too cute. She had a bit of a time picking out things because a 4-year old doesn’t understand prices very well, but we found something appropriate and special. Then we went to Target for some fillers. That’s the true test, because it was hard to get her away from the toys and what SHE wanted. She picked out something, a little treat, and I asked her if her mother liked that. She said, “Well, I do.” I guess Mom will, too. That was harder than I thought it would be because I had to watch her all the time. They get away from you so fast at that age and we all know that panicky feeling of turning around and finding them gone. In a nanosecond. She’s pretty proud of herself and promised to keep it a secret. I think that will work since she’s already moved on to something else. The learning part will come when she presents her gifts to her Momma and sees the delight.

Today, I took my 12-year old grandson shopping. He had $20 to buy gifts for his parents, his brother, and three grandparents. I told him I could help out, but he quickly made it clear he wanted to stay in his budget. We started at the sporting goods store, which was having a store-wide sale. We circled the store as the reality of prices settled in. Up until now, he’d done his holiday shopping at the little store at his elementary school where kids could buy cheap gifts, really cheap gifts, things only a parent or grandparent could smile at. He had looked so stricken when his older cousin told him that they didn’t have those stores in the middle school that I offered to take him shopping.

I told him to watch for Clearance signs, which would have the best prices. We were about to give up when he found something on the sale table for his brother. He was trying to do the math and decided this was what he wanted. We walked around some more and he found something cheaper for his brother, so he chose that to have more money for his parents’ gifts. Smart thinking going on here. He found some things he knew his parents would use, one of his criteria, and handed over his $20 bill. With the discount, he had $3 and change left, so I suggested we go to the Dollar Store to buy presents for his grandparents, since he knew what he wanted for them.

The Dollar Store is a miracle of bargains for someone on a budget and he found what he wanted immediately. He also found something for me, but didn’t want me to see it, so I gave him some change to cover taxes and hid in the car. He was so proud of himself. He had done all his shopping in less than 45 minutes, even counting driving several miles in 5:00 traffic, and stayed basically within his budget.

His next concern was hiding the gift. . .like all of us would be tearing his room apart to see what we’re going to get. I was the same way because I was a gift snooper myself. Can’t wait to see what the perfect useful gift was for me!

There’s not much cuter than watching kids learning the joy of giving and giving from their heart. Whatever we end up with really doesn’t matter. I need to check the progress of a few more grandkids in their shopping, hoping a couple more need my help. It’s one of the sweetest things about the holidays.


Some friends and I were talking today about how we’ve reached the age when we’re really interested in our ancestry. Not that we weren’t before, but we probably just didn’t have the time to do the research and find the stories. And one of the things we all agreed was that we wish we’d asked our parents and grandparents more questions, learned more about them in the days before they knew us.

There was a day when I asked my mother about her grandmother and she started telling me the most interesting stories. I went home & came back with a recorder a few days later and had her repeat them, not knowing about the recorder. She sat at her desk illustrating her memories for me to explain things I wasn’t familiar with. That recording is a treasure, my mother talking and me asking the questions. Why didn’t I do more of that? How did I miss asking my grandparents and my father and my in-laws things that I wonder about now.

In this age of technological advances that change so quickly we can’t keep up, it’s amazing how little we had when I was growing up and how much I’ve seen in my lifetime. They were watching the changes, too. What did they think?

Here are five questions I wish I’d asked. I know there are more, but here are my first five good ones!

1. What did you do during the war? My father was a Lt Colonel in the Army Air Force in World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Why didn’t I ask him more about what his time overseas was like? My grandmother worked in a parachute factory. What was that like? My grandparents sent three sons and a son-in-law to serve and their youngest son didn’t come back. Why didn’t I ask more questions?

Here’s my father during the war…

Scan 28

He told me some stories, but not all.

2. What did you do for fun when you were young? Who were your friends? What did you play with? Where did you go when you were young adults? They didn’t have electronic games or television…what did they do?

Who is my grandmother’s friend in this photo?

Artie Holt West (right) & friend

What kind of lodge was my grandfather in?

Ben West lodge group (2)

Here’s my other grandfather’s fraternity picture…

Scan 49

3. What kind of work did you do or what did your parents and grandparents do? Or maybe, what was your first or favorite job? I know one great-grandfather ran a mill on the Ohio River and another one was a farmer and another one ran a wagon yard in Ardmore. One of my grandfathers worked for the telephone company on the wires when that was a new thing. What did the women do? One grandmother ran a neighborhood grocery store and rooming houses.

4. What was your house like growing up? How big, how many rooms, how were they furnished? That sounds so simple, but I know it was so different from the way we live our lives today. The way I grew up is different from my parents. I can remember our first dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, television set, air conditioner. Our homes are so much more complicated today.IMG_3731


5. What were your dreams? I don’t know if they did as they were expected to and dropped their dreams behind them and found new ones or what they expected out of their lives.

It’s universal among my friends that we wish we’d asked more. We’re getting to the age where our children and grandchildren should start asking us. One of the problems is we think our life isn’t that interesting. We need to get over that and just remember and share. All of us have interesting stories…all of us.

I played with dolls a lot when I was little, was the oldest child, did a little bit of babysitting…but wasn’t thinking about being a mother at all. I married when I was barely 21 and wanted to live happily ever after. The craziness of birth control in the 1960s was supposed to be sure fire and make it so I didn’t have to think about it. I went on birth control pills, like we all did, and then found that the high strength of the ones they used then was making me gain weight and have migraines. Off of those and on to something else…and I got pregnant on that one. Hmmm. I’d only been married nine months and we’d even gotten a dog to keep us from thinking about having kids. Farthest thing from our minds.

When it was obvious that something was up, I went to the doctor – no home pregnancy tests in those days. They called to tell me that the test was positive. Positive what? Positive I am or positive I’m not? That’s how little I knew. My husband was so excited that he called all our friends and we had a party. They did…I remember sitting there by myself wondering what in the world this was going to be like…don’t remember if I was scared or it was just such an unknown.

Being in college, I immediately started reading what the doctor gave me and anything else I could find. My mother got me the newest edition of Better Homes & Gardens Baby Book, the instruction book she had used when she had me. How many times did I read that? I was in graduate school, so it was probably like studying for a final that was coming up months away, a long semester.


I threw up a lot, slept a lot, read the book to make sure I was doing it right. My mother took me shopping for maternity clothes, pretty hideous in those days, although I did have some cute mini-length dresses. My mother-in-law made me a couple of tops. I ate lots of ice cream – good excuse. I’d quit teaching, graduate assistant in Freshman comp, since the baby was due the first week in June, so I read a lot. The only book I can remember is Rosemary’s Baby, which was probably not the best choice. But humorous. My husband and I always joked about the chocolate mousse. You have to read the book or see the movie…

So, I lazied along, getting bigger, looking more and more like a knocked-up teenager, waddling along. We felt the baby kick, I began to feel like a turtle on its back when I laid down. I read the name books over and over, searching for the absolutely perfect name. I didn’t want something that could be a nickname, so I went with a cute name with a more traditional middle name, picking a name from one of my favorite childhood stories if this was a girl, something more Scottish sounding if it was a boy. No tests to see if it was a boy or a girl…waiting to see.

May 27 came along and I felt funny. My husband went to his part-time job at the pizza place, classes may have been over for the semester. I kept thinking this was really bad gas, getting up and going back to bed. Afternoon, he was home and we decided to call the doctor. They said to come over and checked me, saying I needed to get to the hospital, I was halfway there. See? What did I know? I said goodbye to my husband as he headed for the father’s waiting room. No fathers in the delivery back then. They prepped me and I waited. It never got too bad, or the drugs they gave me made me forget. I had a spinal, and then she was born…my first child, my first daughter. When I woke up, my husband was there, so excited. He could only see her through the nursery window and I only saw her at appointed times. When they brought her to me, I couldn’t believe it. She was so beautiful…love at first sight. I fell back asleep and woke to find my father sitting beside me. I asked him what he was doing…he’d driven to Stillwater from Tulsa and couldn’t see the baby this late. He had come to see his baby. On the way, he’d stopped and run into my father-in-law returning from seeing his baby, my husband. Our mothers thought it was the funniest thing…very sweet.

In a couple of days, we took her home. No car seat, no instructions. Off on our own. We took her to her room and put her in her crib, held our dog up to see who this newest member of the family was, and just stared. She stared back solemnly. She knew! She knew she had been born to the most ignorant parents in the world and there was no way they could get this right. Anyone who knows her today understands the look. We burst out laughing. Thank God for our senses of humor. And I marveled every day at this little perfect miracle of ours. Such a love as I had never known…

Scan 16

My mother came over for a couple of days. I think she slept in a chair in our duplex or on the sofa. She was a big help…the two of us opened the baby book, propped it up on the changing table and followed the photo directions for changing, bathing, feeding. Awesome. We laughed a lot. After a couple of days, she started going home each night, 1 1/2 hour drive, and coming back in the morning. She wanted to be with my father and she didn’t want to intrude on my husband and me. Incredible mother! I learned to use the newest thing, Playtex bottles with disposable liners, boiling the nipples and lids every day as I made a refrigerator full of formula. Breast feeding was just beginning to make a comeback, which is an odd thing to say. Only a few hippies were doing it then. Regardless, the baby thrived, never had allergies, and grew very fast. We had a diaper service since we didn’t have a washer and dryer, used the new disposable diapers for trips. Very few gadgets actually. We didn’t need them.

We started taking her home to Tulsa in a couple of weeks and my mother would dress her up and we would drive around to show her off to her friends. I was one of my first friends to have a baby. Actually, at 22, I had been one of the oldest mothers in the hospital. I would have been a younger mother today.

It doesn’t suck to have the first grandchild on both sides. We got lots of help and lots of attention. Thank goodness! We didn’t need it later. The months went on and we got better and better at it. When she was about four months old, I got her to smile at us. We were driving and she was in her carrier in my lap…no car seats or seat belts, for this matter. I was reciting nursery rhymes to her while we ran errands and was saying, “Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?”…and she smiled. Miracle of all miracles. We were passing her test and making it as parents. She was beginning to think we might pull this off!

After she was born, I had an IUD inserted, thinking there were no hormones associated with this. A little over a year later, I felt like I had so much love overflowing from this baby that we should have another one. The IUD was removed and I got pregnant almost immediately. Getting pregnant was never my problem…wish I could have shared that ability with those who need it. Another girl. The pregnancy was very different but having another baby was a piece of cake. Two adorable little girls we loved with all our hearts.

A couple of years passed and we decided to go for another one…maybe we’d have a boy this time, not that it mattered. Pregnant quickly again. Easy pregnancy, third girl was born. We were done…three beautiful little girls. Motherhood was the best thing I’d ever done. My husband was a great father, we were enjoying it all, having so much fun watching them grow up. I loved it all, so surprised that this was where I found my joy.

A couple of years later, I was pregnant again…unplanned. Who plans their second and third children and has four? It was almost scandalous at the time. People were into zero population growth, only have two children to replace themselves, and here we were having four. Oh well. We made sure this would be our last…good grief…and waited for the next one. Amazingly, the last one was a boy! More joy for all of us, although four girls would have been precious. The story went on and on.

Some women are meant to be mothers, some aren’t, and some of us just get thrown into it like jumping off a cliff. It was the biggest blind leap I ever took. It’s been educational, thrilling, scary, emotional, frustrating, exasperating, fun, silly, sweet and loving. I wouldn’t ever trade this experience. My grandchildren are a joy, but it is even better to watch my children as parents, having the same journey I had. Forty-five years ago today, I stepped off the cliff and became a mother. It’s filled my heart ever since!

My grandparents were special people in my life and I was lucky to have them for as long as I did.  My father’s parents lived in Oklahoma City during my lifetime and we drove over to see them every week when I was little.  Daddy worked for his father and they discussed business with my uncles while we played with our cousins.

My grandmother’s name was Agnes, but we knew her as Aggie.  She was born into a large Catholic family in Uniontown, Kentucky…a rather poor family.  Some of her siblings became nuns and priests, some to escape poverty.  Grandad was James Clay Hamilton, known as Clayton.  He was also from a large family in Uniontown, but his family was Episcopalian and a little further up the income scale.  Grandad went to college at the University of Kentucky, was a Sigma Chi and majored in mechanical engineering.  I guess Aggie graduated from high school, although I never heard.

The story is that when Grandad took Aggie on the train to get married, he brought her a fur muff.  She was embarrassed as she didn’t even own underwear.  I wish I knew more about them when they were young…that’s the only story I ever heard.  My father was the oldest child, born in Grandad’s family home in Uniontown.  Then they had another son and a daughter in the next couple of years.  The youngest son was born a couple of years later.  I know they moved to Ohio and eventually to Oklahoma City, where Grandad opened J. C. Hamilton Co., an automotive parts warehouse.

They raised the kids and there are infamous stories of my father’s rebellions.  But he turned out ok and went to work for his father, also becoming a champion bowler and golfer along the way.  He’s another story.  All the boys and their son-in-law were in the service during World War II.  My grandmother never got over the sorrow of losing her youngest son, shot down over Germany and buried there.  She took her anger out on F.D.R. and would never even buy a stamp with his picture on it.  In later years, she developed arthritis and it was attributed to the anger she held inside.  She kept in touch with her son’s girlfriend for many years.

But, the Aggie and Grandad I grew up with were delightful grandparents.  I loved to stay at their house with the old furniture, antiques.  In their first house, there was a room across the back, behind the kitchen.  On holidays, the adults would eat around the big table there, while the youngest of the nine grandchildren were at a kids’ table in the kitchen.  Grandad had a workshop in the garage where he made beautiful things from wood.  I can still smell the sawdust and see the piles of shavings on the floor.  They had a tall bed in one of the bedrooms and we would hide under it in our endless games of hide and seek around their house.

July 1949

Aggie got a parakeet when those were the new fad.  He would ride around the house on her shoulder, talking to her and giving her a peck on the lips.  She loved that little bird.  One day, she stepped out the back door, forgetting he was with her, and a noise startled the bird and he flew away.  She had other birds, but never like that one.

Aggie was very involved in her church – she’d had to convert to the Episcopal church since she didn’t marry a Catholic.  At Easter, they took oatmeal boxes and made them into intricate Easter baskets that they sold to raise money.  I can’t even begin to describe these baskets with their flowers and petals made of crepe paper.  They are works of art.  I have a couple of them that I keep wrapped up.  You can see them in this Easter picture of my family.

Hamilton Family   Easter 1953

When her friends would call and ask for Agnes, my cousin and I would start giggling and call for “Agnes” to come to the phone.  She just smiled at us.  Grandad wasn’t as involved, although I know he left the church a lot of money.  That pretty little church later became a nightclub.  I wonder what they would have thought of that!

Grandad was a bird hunter and I can picture him suiting up with my father, leaving early in the morning with the dogs and returning with quail for us to eat that evening.  Hunting and building were his hobbies outside of work.  He invested well in the stock market and was one of the wealthiest men in Oklahoma City for money you could put your hand on at one time.  You would never know it.  Nothing much changed around there.

They eventually moved to a newer house, but nothing changed there either.  It was a place of stability.  They had recliners when those were new and would stay up on Saturday night to watch wrestling on TV with Aggie furious with the bad guys.  We never stopped giggling over that.  Aggie fixed us the same breakfast…two pieces of bacon, prunes, probably toast or cereal.  On Sunday nights, they had crackers, cheese and sardines.  I never liked the sardines.  There was always candy corn in a dish on the coffee table in the fall.  Around the holidays there was that sticky ribbon candy.  She had a finger that she couldn’t bend.  She had been cleaning a toilet with the harsh chemicals they used in the old days and some got in a cut in her hand, causing blood poisoning.  I picture that crooked finger, bent with arthritis in later years.  She made wonderful cookies which were always in the jar in the kitchen.  I have that jar in my kitchen window now and it makes me smile.

As they got older, they discovered the cafeteria.  It was a very nice one near their home and the entire family would drive over there, sitting at a big table.  Aggie never learned to drive, but she could tell Grandad how to.  The grandkids would be giggling in the back seat as she told “Dad,” as she called him, to go faster.  I’m sure he got pulled over for speeding, but most of the police knew him and let him go.  There wasn’t as much traffic then, so I don’t think he was much of a threat.

When we stayed with them, I explored or giggled with my cousins and siblings.  I went through and read their books, opened the drawer of old photos, hung out in the garage watching Grandad make things or sat in the kitchen with Aggie.  It was peaceful and safe.  In later years, I remember being there for a weekend when I was in college.  I was engaged that year and more aware of them as a couple.  Grandad was sitting in his recliner and Aggie stood behind him, combing his hair.  It was the sweetest thing ever.

Grandad helped a lot of his family members who hadn’t done as well as he had.  He opened branches of his company for his sons, sons-in-law, and even grandkids through the years.  The traveling they did was to visit relatives, mostly in Oklahoma and Texas.  My mother, a great housekeeper anyway, said their visits were a terrific incentive to get everything in shape.  One time they went to Hawaii, maybe for their 50th wedding anniversary.  They looked so out of place, Grandad in his suit and Aggie in her sensible shoes.  I loved that they took that adventure at their age.

Agnes & J. C. Hamilton

Mostly, I remember their laughs and how much they loved each other.  I know their life wasn’t always the picture perfect vision we saw as children, but they had the marriage we all wanted.  They loved each other and they loved us.   Perfectly delightful!

Aggie & Dad

A friend once said to me that the only thing we can really give our kids is memories.  I had to agree.  When I think about this, it helps me put everything in perspective about buying things for kids vs spending time with them and how to balance all of it.  One thing grandparents know oh so well is how fast time flies.  When kids are little, parents think they will never outgrow acting like….well, acting like kids.  My mother once told me that there aren’t many little babies.  Absolutely true…they just don’t stay little very long.  They just don’t stay anything very long because they are growing and learning and changing at lightning speeds.  It’s all a blink in time.

Being obsessed with time lately, I’d been thinking about my grandchildren and how little time I have left with them..  I’m not going anywhere, but they sure are.  The oldest one is 15 1/2 and just got his learner’s permit.  The oldest three are all over 6′ tall.  They’re starting to date and have their own activities and jobs.  Where was I fitting into any of this?

I’m very lucky to have all eight of my grandkids in town.  I watch my friends flying all over the country to visit their families and be a part of their lives.  I can’t begin to say how much having my family here has meant to me as I have ventured into each of the new chapters of my life…widow, new jobs, loss of my son, and now retirement.  Having them here is my strength and my joy.  The times we all get together are the best with a noisy jumble of families and activities.  I absolutely love watching them interact and enjoy each other.

BUT…I wasn’t spending any time with the kids.  When we are all together, they are talking to each other.  I go to their games, their assemblies, see them at family gatherings and take them on special outings.  They range in age from 11-15 with a three year old thrown in the mix.  Six boys and two girls.  What did they think about me?  What did they know about their grandfather?  What did I know about them?  So, I decided to start taking at least one of them to dinner each week – just the two of us.  I’m on my second round of dinners now.  It’s random – I pick a night I’m not busy and call one of them until I find one who wants to go.  They’re under no obligation to have to go at any time.

The first time around, they didn’t know what to think.  I let them pick the restaurant that time and learned a whole lot of new information.  Who knew that two of them like sushi so much?  Not me.  This time around, I’m introducing them to new places.  The conversations are wonderful.  We talk about everything imaginable and I answer questions on anything they ask.  And they do ask.  They ask about all kinds of things in the world and want to hear what I say.  How great is that?!  I hear about school and their friends and what’s up in their worlds.  I don’t judge, but sometimes give a loving comment.

The outcome of the dinners, which are the grandest way to spend time I can think of, is that we all love it.  They have all gone home to tell their parents how much they liked it.  They can’t wait for the next one.  I know them better and am prouder of them than ever.  They are incredibly nice, kind, smart young people and I am so proud of their parents for the job they have done.  Can there be anything better than this?  It’s a two way street for learning and loving.   How lucky can I be?

Time…it’s what we have to give each other.