I miss my Grandma Gerstberger, my dad’s mom, very much. She passed away when I was eighteen, but I think about her frequently.
As I was growing up, my grandma lived in Palisade, CO until my grandpa passed away (I was still very young). After that, she spent part of each year in Palisade and the other part in my hometown, Leoti, KS.
Visiting my grandma in Colorado meant helping water her flowers, especially her rose bushes, climbing the big tree in her yard, bowls of fresh peaches with cream, riding our bikes up and down the road by her house, and spending lots of quality time with her.
Her time in Leoti was even better, though, because we got to see her almost every day. I loved going to Grandma’s house after school and on the weekends. She always had something yummy to eat, and she wouldn’t listen to you if you said you weren’t hungry. When I was younger, we would play catch and whiffle ball outside. As I grew older, we loved to watch Jeopardy together and try to answer all the questions. Brutally honest, you could count on Grandma to tell you the truth. I remember joining band in fifth grade and arriving at her house with my flute, so excited. She commented, “I never really liked the flute,” yet she listened to me play and encouraged me to practice. If we got sick at school, we would go to Grandma’s house and sleep and watch TV while she took care of us; some days I wanted to fake sick just to spend the day at her house.
I spent at least one night a week with my grandma from 7th-12th grades, during the months she was in town, because of my church’s Wednesday evening classes. By the time class was over, it was silly to drive all the way home (I lived on a farm out of town) and then get up early to come back for school. I also stayed the night with her when I had other reasons I had to be at school super early: band trips, Saturday wrestling meets after Friday night basketball games, etc.
No matter how early I had to be up, she was up before me making a full breakfast. I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, but you just couldn’t tell Grandma that! Eggs, bacon or sausage, and toast were all piping hot and ready for me to eat before I left.
My grandma was a farm wife and mother all her life, and she knew how to do so many things. She could cook, bake, sew, crochet, embroider, and more. She was also a wonderful artist, and I’m so thankful to still have some cards she drew for me.
I wish I had learned more from her when she was still here. I learned some things, or at least kind of learned, when I was younger. For instance, one summer she taught my sister and I how to embroider; I remember stitching the tea towel I was working on to my shorts, by accident. My sister was always so much better at things like that, so I just let her learn and I did other things. I know that I can still learn these things, but it isn’t the same as learning from my grandma would have been. I wish I had learned from her when I had the chance.
Grandma and I did have a few things in common, though. One thing was our love of reading. I have some very special memories of her reading to me when I was small; when I was older, we would give each other book suggestions. In fact, the week she died, I was supposed to go read to her. She had a stroke and was in the hospital, but the doctors were amazed by how quickly she was making progress in her recovery. I had been to visit her and told her I would be back to read to her later that week. She passed away before I got a chance to go back, and I will forever be sad about that.
I wish so much that she could have met my husband and my children; I just know she would love them. So often it is something small that makes me think of her: the ribbon candy she put out around Christmas, a box of chocolates, getting a letter in the mail (oh, how Grandma loved to get mail!), books – especially the James Herriot books, an episode of Jeopardy or The Price is Right, attempting to bake one of her recipes, or reading I Was Walking Down the Road, one of my favorite books to read with her when I was little, the very copy we read together so often, to my babies.
At some point growing up, my grandma gave all of her daughters and daughters-in-law a large Bluebird of Happiness and all of her granddaughters a smaller one. I still have mine, and it perches in my kitchen windowsill, since I so often think of my grandma when I’m cooking or baking (even though my culinary skills don’t hold a candle to hers).
How very appropriate her gift, given several years ago, still is.