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Kathy Tofflemire, Published May 11 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Grand women recalled

I have been a grandma now for 11 years, and lately I’ve been thinking about my own grandmothers and my relationships with them.

My paternal grandmother was blind, the consequence of a bout of scarlet fever when she was young. She lived with my aunt and uncle on a farm in southern Nebraska – a farm that for many years was without indoor plumbing. She followed a rope tied from the back door to the wooden outhouse. That always amazed me.

We used to visit them almost every summer when I was a child, but one of my strongest memories of her was during a rare trip they made to my family’s home in Minot.

It was just before I entered first grade. I brought out my new school dresses, and she asked me to describe them to her as she slowly ran her hands over them.

My name is a shortened version of hers, but I’ve always wished that it really was Katherine.

My maternal grandmother lived with us for more than a dozen years and was my caregiver while my mother worked.

I can still picture her as she sat crocheting, creating delicate doilies, some of which I still have – and use.

She liked to travel by train to visit relatives, and when she returned, I loved to sit at her feet and listen to tales of her travels.

She was a natural-born storyteller, but there was one tale we never heard in its entirety. It had something to do with a windmill, but whenever Grandma tried to tell it, she would begin to laugh so hard that she was unable to finish. We would laugh, too, even though we never heard the “punch line.”

When she was in her late 70s, Lloyd came to visit. He was my grandfather’s best friend when they all were young. He was a fascinating old gentleman who wore beaded moccasins and a bolo tie.

I learned just a few years ago, upon reading a story written by my brother, that Lloyd had come all the way from Alaska to propose to my widowed grandmother. My brother was disappointed that she turned Lloyd down. I was obviously too young at the time to pick up on that romantic undercurrent.

I never knew my grandfathers. My paternal grandfather died before I was born. I’ve always been sorry that he never knew he had a granddaughter. He already had 10 grandsons.

My other grandfather died when I was a toddler.

I was always jealous of my brothers because they got to experience that relationship.

But I was able to watch my daughter as she wrapped both her grandfathers around her little finger.

Pardon the cliché, but it is the circle of life.


Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5514, or ktofflemire@forumcomm.com