My earliest memory of my grandmother must be when I was around 3 or 4. It was a wet, foggy morning, and both of my parents were still in bed when I woke up. So, I did the only thing a hungry boy could do. Still in my footed pajamas and with wooden toy shotgun in hand, I walked across the field to my grandparents’ house.

When I arrived, I found my grandmother busy making a breakfast of biscuits, eggs and bacon. When she asked me why I was there, I said the worst possible thing I could say (at least to my mother’s way of thinking). I said, “I’m hungry, and my mom won’t make me breakfast.”

My grandmother fussed over me and gave me as much food as I wanted. I had a wonderful morning, feeling loved and safe … until my frantic parents found out where I had been hiding. They weren’t very happy that I left the house without telling anyone, and my mother wasn’t too happy that I’d embarrassed her in front of her mother-in-law.

Still, with my words, I had ensured that my grandmother would keep a close eye on me to make sure I was being cared for properly. It was a task she has taken on ever since.

As I grew older, she cooked many more meals for me. My grandfather had a rule — whenever Grandmother said lunch or dinner was ready, all work stopped on the farm, and we ate.

On days when I was too sick to go to school, I spent them lying on her couch, as she kept a wet washcloth on my forehead, diligently monitored my temperature, and fed me soup. When I foolishly engaged in BB-gun wars with my friends, she pulled a BB out of my chest with tweezers. She didn’t even tell my father what I’d been up to so I could keep my BB gun.

Whenever I received a cut or scrape on the farm, she quickly treated it with the dreaded Merthiolate or Mercurochrome. She had some sort of medicine handy for wasp and bee stings, as well.

When I nearly passed out from heat in the fields, she was there with a cool glass of water and no judgements. When I had a ridiculously bad sunburn, she was there with a home remedy that worked much better than any store-bought lotions. (Milk mixed with ice water, if you’re curious.) When I broke my arm, she drove me to the hospital. When I broke my tooth, she drove me to the dentist. When I was dealing with my parents’ divorce, she was there to help me work through it. When I was stressed by my college classes, she was always ready to cook me a meal and do a load of laundry on the weekend.

She still cries every time I leave after a visit to the farm in Mississippi.

She’s 98 now. Time is finally catching up to her. I spoke with her via video chat last weekend, and she was most interested in hearing about the kids, making sure they were doing well. Despite her declining health, she’s still trying to take care of the family’s kids.

While my grandmother is the anchor for our family and she’s very special to us, she’s probably not unique among farm wives. The amount of love, care, worry and work they put into making sure their families are safe and cared for staggers my mind.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of those farm mothers or grandmothers looking out for you and your family, let her know how much you love and appreciate her while you still can.

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