Homeschooled by Homeschooling

A Tribute to Grandparents
3/11/2017 8:08:00 AM by: Susan Lyttek

I was originally going to include two grandparents in the March birthday blog, but since half of the grandparents I loved were born in March, and that would be 2/3 of the post (and I know a lot of March people) I decided to write one that focused on just my ancestors first and how they touched me. (How’s that for an amazing run-on sentence?)

This weekend my maternal Grandpa, Martin Wallentine, would have turned 117. Since he was born in 1900, it was always easy for me to know how old he was. When I was little, I thought him tall, strong and a bit gruff. He mellowed as I grew up, or my opinion of him did. He worked hard and retired from Montgomery Elevator after working there over 50 years. That kind of longevity is unheard of today. I loved to listen to his stories of the jobs he took with Montgomery during the Depression. To keep working, he went wherever they would send him—pretty much all over the country. He loved to have pretzels on hand in the house—probably why I love that treat way too much.

My paternal Grandpa, Folke Johnson, had a July birthday. He came to the U.S. as a young man from Sweden. Based on his old pictures and the stories my Aunt Hildur used to tell me, young Folke was a real heartbreaker and amazingly handsome. But the Grandpa I knew the best was the heartbroken one. The death of my grandma in 1976 changed him, softened all the rough edges. I felt his pain as many of his friends died and he outlived them all. He missed his one hundredth birthday by only a few months. He loved bowling, pinochle, good pumpernickel, and long walks. In fact, just a couple of weeks before he passed away, the boys and I went on a two mile walk with him—and we kept struggling to keep up!

My maternal Grandma, Lillian Wallentine, had an amazing life. She was the youngest of her family and a bit spoiled which might be why she got to do so many things. She graduated from college in the 20s, dressed like a flapper, and went by the name ‘Bill’ with her friends. Her strong will and independent spirit upheld her during the long months when her husband worked somewhere else. She could do it all from making a dress from scraps to killing and prepping a chicken. I’m still trying to recreate her icebox cookies… Yum!

My paternal Grandma, Edith Johnson, was also born this month. I remember thinking that her birthday celebrated the arrival of spring. In my memories, she was two distinct people. I remember her before and after she was attacked. Before, she was a large woman who always wanted to take a child on her lap and sing to them. If you felt the least bit off, Grandma’s snuggle would take the discomfort away. Afterwards, though, she was sad most of the time. That’s when she came down with diabetes, too. She never really recovered emotionally from having been violated on the streets of the neighborhood she loved. They moved twice, but she remained wounded. I understand that now and wish I could give my grandma a hug or find some way to comfort her. As a kid, I felt betrayed because she stopped trying to find joy. The following poem was written about her.

Celebrating Grandma

Cool sweetness

drips down my chin.

Relive the ritual of past Sundays

with Grandma.

The Good Humor bell would ring,

Grandma and her pocket of change

would race us to the white gold,

calling us out of crevices

with the sound of her movement.

Panting,

we reached Heaven

And Grandma would buy us a round.

 

Is there white gold in your Heaven, Grandma?


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