My Grandma Abbie died February 18, 1999. At the time, a couple of my Strange-Webber cousins were publishing a family newsletter. The edition after Abbie’s death was to highlight memories of her. I wrote the following for the newsletter, but in my typical procrastinator style, I didn’t get it in on time. So I’ll use it here as a way to introduce Abbie Elizabeth Webber Smith Brender. (Sorry if the beginning sounds a little familiar. I wrote the 1st blog entry and this memory years apart!)
Memories of Grandma Abbie
As a child, I didn’t dream of growing up to be a teacher, a nurse, or a movie star. I wanted to be a Grandmother. You see, I had two wonderful grandmothers with soft arms for hugging, work for us to do together, time for playing, and infinite love.
I spent many weekends at the Hedrick Y. Dad, of course, was busy working at the Cycle Ranch during the day. Grandma and Grandpa were busy working, too, but it was easy to spend most of my time hanging out where the food was! And that was Grandma’s and Grandpa’s gas station/grocery store/cafe. In this wonderful place, I could help pump gas, serve customers, wash dishes, listen to the “town talk”, and eat the daily special. On Saturday mornings, I had a reserved seat for
viewing Mighty Mouse and other favorite TV shows. My seat was on a shelf by the loaves of bread – up close, out of the way, and inconspicuous. During the busy breakfast and lunch times, Grandma was busy cooking and serving hot coffee and a good meal. She did this while keeping up lively conversations with her friends (customers), always creating a friendly place for neighbors and travelers to eat a meal or take a break.
Grandma collected plates. She had plates from cites, states, and tourist attractions across the country that she had purchased when she traveled or that friends and relatives brought back for her from their trips. When I was about 6 years old (I don’t think I was any older), Grandma said that I could wash her collection. I was carefully and happily washing away when one of her friends came in. This woman immediately questioned what I was doing because she couldn’t imagine that Abbie would let a little girl handle her dishes this way. Grandma walked in and overheard the conversation and promptly let the woman know that I was competent and trusted to do the job.
When business would slow down or she wasn’t working, Grandma would spend time with me alone. She taught me how to cross stitch and whatever craft or handwork she was interested in or working on at the time. We sometimes had tea parties and I dressed up in Grandma’s dresses, hats, gloves and shoes. She would pretend right along with me. Grandma also made sure that I memorized Psalm 23 and she gave me one of her Bibles. Our bedtime routine included sitting on her bed to read the daily Bible passage and pray. I always enjoyed whatever we did together because she liked being with me and she was playful and fun as well as serious.
Grandma eventually moved back to Iowa City and when I came for my summer visits, I would always stay with her for a few days. I mostly remember the duplex she shared with Lottie. I thought Grandma was pretty cool. She served me my first tamales – from a can, ordered pizza delivery (I thought that was so great o those many years ago), and had her ears pierced. We would go shopping, make things, and stay up and watch old movies. Sometimes we did things with Lottie, who could drive us places. Of course, when Grandma married Gust, I was very happy for her.
A very special memory for me is Grandma’s attendance at my wedding. She traveled from Iowa City to Waco, Texas by bus. This is a really long bus ride for anyone, but Grandma was just days away from her 75th birthday. She stayed with me in my apartment. Our wedding was put together on a shoestring budget and much was “homemade”. Grandma stayed up helping my roommates and me make final adjustments to dresses (thank goodness we had someone who knew what she was doing!) and putting together flowers for the bridesmaids to carry. We all enjoyed her company that night. It was unbelievable to me that she would make such a trip to be with me on my wedding day.
My first baby, Angela, was born when Grandma was 85. We were talking about her over the phone one day and Grandma gave me this advice: always lock the back door and make sure that the screen door is locked, too. …..Advice from her tragic experience of losing her first child when he wandered out of the house and drowned in a well.
I have always been inspired by Grandma because she lived her life joyfully. She lived through her share of heartbreak and sorrow, but always came through with her love of life, her sense of humor, and her faith in God intact. She always loved to laugh and enjoyed a good joke – even if it was on her. I heard that Belinda’s dog attended the memorial service. I’m sure Grandma was chuckling about that!