- -to my sweet Grandma Doris. (it's birthday week for the Gulsvig girls!)
My grandmother (my mom's mom) turns 88 today. She has never been very interested in celebrating her birthday, as on her fiftieth birthday she was at a class reunion with her husband. Archie had just gone up to the band and asked them to play Happy Birthday to his wife. He returned to his bar stool, and collapsed from a heart attack, and never woke up.
So you can see why her birthday does not exactly bring fond memories for her. Her husband was taken from her far too early, and she was left on her own. Not long after that, she battled colon cancer, and won. She has buried infant twin daughters, lost her mother when she was just a teenager, and cared for my mom while her husband was off saving the world from tyranny in WWII.
Being a good Scandinavian, she has never been one to be emotionally expressive, but her wonderful letters and birthday cards to me over the years have become increasingly sentimental. I gather her in my arms, on the occasions when we get to visit, and squeeze her tightly. She has learned to accept my effusive hugs with quiet grace.
She cleaned homes for people in Bemidji for years, always baking them treats to deliver on cleaning day. When her arthritis got the best of her, she retired from cleaning, and still lives in the tiny house where she and Archie raised their children. She has developed diabetes, and lost sight in one of her eyes more than 10 years ago, and struggles daily with arthritis, but she still uses a wringer washing machine located in her basement, and hangs her clothes outside on the line as "they smell better that way". She still adheres to the a schedule found on those days of the week dishtowels: Monday is for Washing, Tuesday is for Ironing, etc. Her house is impeccably tidy, and you would never find an old item in her cupboard or refrigerator (clearly, I did not inherit that gene...). I am pretty sure she still irons her sheets. She has finally given up driving, and lets her grandchildren mow her lawn. We can count on her to bring decoratively sliced carrot sticks and white chocolate covered pretzels to Thanksgiving dinner, and she makes the world's best date cookies at Christmas time. (This photo was taken the last time we were able to be in Bemidji to celebrate Christmas, circa 2003-four generations!)
While she has never had much money, she still found a way to send me small bits of cash, tucked into loving letters while I was putting myself through college. Even today, the sight of her perfect penmanship on a letter addressed to Mrs. Kristi Pohl warms my heart.
Happy Birthday dear Grandma, even though you will never see this post (as you were quite reluctant to give up your rotary dial wall phone), I hope you know how much I love and admire you, for everything you have been, and are today. Perhaps I will go sit down and write you a letter, telling you so.