Life has a way of getting in the way of all the things we want to do and we get to them later in life. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. My Grandmother Esther was elderly when it became a priority to see her and get to know her better. I did not get to know her as well as I would have liked but as my kids became older and needed hours on their driving temps to get their license, the trip to Ravenswood West Virginia from Cleveland, Ohio became more common.
Ravenswood is a charming community in norther West Virginia. It has an older, vintage, small town feel. Grandma Esther lived at a small retirement home and, as often happens in the elderly, her world does not sync up perfectly with the rest of us, but that’s OK. When we visited, she was always sweet and happy to see us. She always recognized me as family and as a Holland, though you were never sure which Holland. Usually I was Darrell, which narrows it down to my brother or my father, rarely Paul. Sometimes she got my name right but regardless, she was my grandma. Also, I believe it was good for my kids to see and know their great grandmother.
Mary, my wife at the time is really the star of this story. One weekend we headed for Ravenswood with our two boys to visit grandma Esther. We picked her up from the retirement community and took her to Mom’s diner; seriously, the diner was called Mom’s and it was just like stepping back into 1960. My diminutive sweet grandma could still eat a good bit. She was so tiny but she could eat with the best of them. She ordered early dinner special, meatloaf, and we had a delightful dinner.
After dinner I asked her if she wanted to go to the Dairy Queen, which is a family tradition, and get some ice cream, one of our favorite treats, of course she said yes. As we sat at the Dairy Queen and I realized the evening was winding down, considering we had a four-hour drive ahead of us. I asked Gram if there was anything she needed before we left and she said, “Well, I really could use some items from the department store,” which was across the way. Of course, that was not a problem so we hopped into the car and off we went to the department store. Walking into the department store, I asked Gram what she needed and she said, “Well, I could use some stockings, some hankies, and some “unmentionables.”
Mary quickly became the most important part of this story, since the rest of us downshifted into helpless male with no clue. As she put her arm around Gram and led her off to the store. I asked Mare to “get her anything she wanted.” Mare, to her credit, outfitted her with everything she asked for that evening. It was no big deal; things are not that expensive at small department stores in rural America so, we left feeling like we had done a good thing. We dropped Gram off at her home and we headed back to Cleveland.
End of story, right? Uh uh, her comes the hook! Several days later I had dinner with my dad and he asked, “How was your visit with your grandmother?” I shared some of the details but when I got to
the department store portion of the store, he grabbed my arm and said, “Oh God, Paul, you didn’t buy her anything did you?” I replied, “Of course I did. Those did not seem unreasonable requests, even if they were a tad unusual.” “Oh, Paul,” he said, “she didn’t need those things, the ladies play cards and when they gamble, that’s their currency!”
Let it be known, that for quite some period of time, grandma Esther could raise the stakes whenever she wanted!