I burst through the front door, “Hi, Grandma! I’m here.” A pint-sized girl with a head full of curls, I looked forward to spending a week with my grandma on our family’s Iowa homestead.
“Hi, sweetie,” my grandma called back from the kitchen. “Make yourself at home. Don’t forget about the big can of V8 in the ‘fridge. I got it just for you.”
Even though I never liked V8 — Campbell’s Tomato Juice was my thing — she bought a can for me every summer, looking forward to my visit. And every evening, I’d force myself to drink a glass, just to see the smile on her face.
The next morning, Grandma and I headed out for breakfast at Perkins in her rusted green pickup truck. Widowed at fifty-seven, my grandma hated to be alone. She and my grandpa had been married for just short of 40 years when he passed away from pancreatic cancer. Now my Grandma Norma ate out twice a day, whether by herself or with one of her lady friends. As we pulled out of the driveway and onto the gravel road that led into town, Grandma stealthily applied bright red lipstick to her thin lips. Suddenly, she burst into the first verse of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” in her strong, soprano voice. I joined in, off-key and happy. Grandma always told me that singing kept her awake, which I’m sure it did, but I knew she liked it, too.
Entering the comfortable restaurant, the cashier greeted us. “Good morning, Norma. Is this the granddaughter you’re always telling me about?”
“Yes, Beth. This is Kim. She’s my companion this week, helping me out at the antique shop. This girl is fearless. She walks up to all the customers. And smart as a whip! She shows them around, rings up their bills and even makes their change! I don’t know how I manage the store without her.”
After downing a heaping platter of chocolate chip pancakes and a large glass of tomato juice, I headed out to the truck with Grandma for a quick trip to the bank. Wherever we went, Grandma greeted everyone with a charming smile, a pleasant word of encouragement and two listening ears. It seemed like she knew everyone, and I was proud that this was my grandma.
On our drive back to the farm, she reminisced about all the good times she and my grandpa had enjoyed together, working the farm, raising children, singing duets at church. She shared with me about a gentleman friend who’d recently courted her, going so far as asking her to marry him, but that she just could never love anyone like she’d loved my grandpa.
Opening the backdoor of her antique shop, we were greeted by the smell of paint thinner and the jingle of bells hanging from the doorknob. Grandma, never one to sit still, set right to work caning an old chair she had bought at one of many auctions. I, too, kept myself busy admiring the countless knick–knacks covering every surface of the two-story converted barn, hoping for a customer to come in and make a purchase.
After our dinner trip to Perkins, Grandma and I made our way to the couch in her simple ranch-style home. We sat quietly side-by-side, my grandmother working on her latest cross-stitching project and me gazing at the walls covered with framed black-and-white photos of days gone by. My personal favorites were the 8 x 10 photos of my grandparents as two young lovebirds. I could’ve stood there for hours. Their eyes simply oozed with love for one another. I thought, “Someday, I want to love somebody like that.”
And one day, a dozen years later, I got to put into practice those lessons in friendliness my grandma had taught me. Needing directions to a nearby event, I walked right up to a handsome young man and introduced myself. Eight months later, when I married that special man who my eyes oozed with love for, my grandma pulled me aside and placed a framed cross-stitch in my arms. The words “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” were carefully handstitched next to a silhouetted bride and groom. Today, with our 25th wedding anniversary on the horizon, I’m thankful for a grandmother who taught me to be friendly to strangers and faithful to the one you love.
Dedicated to my grandma, Norma Myers. This story has been submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul with hopes for publication. You’re free to share it, but please link back here. You can read my last two stories about my Grandma Norma here and here.