Happy Birthday Myrtle Louise
My grandmother Louise turned 91 in August and if you ask me - 91 years old is sure worth celebrating. She's half of the foundation that makes up Frances and Louise so I thought I'd sit down and reflect on my 10 most favorite things about her. Since genealogy is her passion and a big reason as to why I'm here, I'm going to add some excerpts from her autobiography along the way.
My grandma wasn't expected to live past adulthood but has outlived everyone in her family. She was very ill as a child and my great-grandmother (her mother) went to the ends of the earth to get her proper medical care when she was younger. The health complications she suffered as a child inspired her own career as a nurse. From her autobiography:
"My early childhood followed a rather rocky road. A age 11 months, I contracted a case of infantile paralysis. This left me with a very weak left ankle. For several years, all my shoes were high topped with a brace extending to just below the knee. Then in a few years after the polio, I developed a kidney ailment of some sort. I do not know the exact nature of the condition, but it did stunt my growth and development considerably. My mother made many trips by train or bus, taking me back and forth to a specialist in Calgary, 100 miles away. I was not permitted to start school until I was 7, and then I was only allowed to go 3 days a week. I remember, just shortly after I was 9, the Thanksgiving turkey gobbler and I weighed exactly the same - 36 pounds."
A synonym for the word resilience is tough - and that's just what she is. Even about a year ago when she fell and broke her hip at the age of 90, the doctors were shocked at how quickly and well she recovered. I hope I have half of her grit when I'm older.
The beloved meals that come from a grandmother's kitchen are unmatched. I can remember growing up, she'd spend all day cooking in the kitchen. As soon as she cleaned up lunch, she was on to making dinner or cooking a pie. Some of my favorite meals of hers are brisket, caramel pecan pie, cucumber salad, homemade pickles, homemade jelly and her homemade spicy mustard. She was always the last to sit down to eat, always making sure everyone got a full plate before she sat down and ate her own meal. Last year for her 90th birthday party (photo below is from that day. I almost can't even bear how precious she is) we made her favorite food, fried shrimp.
#3 Love of travel
I'd be content if I traveled half as much as she and my grandpa did. They collected spoons and coins from all their travels and have them on display in their house. She hitch hiked in Italy, panned for gold in Alaska, and ate salmon with Eskimos, just to name a few. Her and my grandpa have been to (or through) all of the continental United States. She recalled some of her travels in her autobiography:
"We toured, saw the sights, and visited relatives in England, Scotland and Ireland. The climax came when we returned to London to be amongst the millions watching the parade for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The day was dreary, but we had excellent seats about 2 blocks from Buckingham palace."
#4 Her love story
The meeting of my grandma and grandpa is one of my favorite stories. She took a nursing job in Bermuda which is where she met my grandpa, as she wrote in her autobiography:
"We were met at the airport by a representative of the King Edward Hospital. She took us to the hospital where we were to work, and to our new lodgings. We had an upstairs room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs. Our hospital work was quite routine. We had plenty of time for enjoying the Holiday atmosphere of the island, this included alot of swimming, bike riding and our share of night life. There was both a U.S. Air Force and Navy base on the island, so there was no shortage of dates."
One of the dates was a blind date on the beach with a gentlemen in the Air Force who was nicknamed "Sandy." 6 months later they were married and this year they celebrated 64 years of marriage.
#5 Love of history
I can't take credit for alot of the stories I talk about, because the only reason I know them is because of my grandma. She's always loved history and tracing lineages as far back as she can. She made a binder for each of her kids (4) that has coordinating color tabs for each last name lineage in their family. From there, she has autobiographies, photos of headstones and obituaries for just about everyone. She typed them all on her typewriter and still keeps her records up to date as much as she can. Saying I'm grateful for the work she put into preserving our family history is the world's biggest understatement.
#6 Living Simply
I'm 28 years old, which means I've been going to my grandparent's house for 28 years. And not a single thing about it has changed. Same furniture, same blanket on the back of the couch, same everything. It's something that's brought so much comfort to me, because every time we went to Grandma and Grandpa's, nothing ever changed. Some of my favorite things that always remain are the bowl of mints right when you walk in the door, the squeaky front screen door and a jar of peanuts on the coffee table.
#7 Her faith
My grandma is a woman of faith, and then some. We'd always pack a pair of church clothes every time we went to Missouri in anticipation of going to church on Sunday. I was actually baptized in Missouri in the church that she and my grandpa still go to. I vividly remember Sunday mornings driving down the hilly gravel roads on our way to Sunday service with them. And despite Covid, they still do their drive-thru communion every Sunday. One of my favorite memories growing up is when she'd be standing at her dresser and putting on her jewelry which usually coordinated with her Sunday best. Typically earrings and and a brooch to match. Because of health issues she couldn't make it to our wedding in 2018, but this is her string of pearls that I used that day to drape over my wedding bouquet.
#8 Her phone calls
My grandma and grandpa still call regularly, maybe 1-2x/month, just to see how life is and talk about the weather. There's nothing like hearing 'love you sugar' on the other end of the line. When she first held me after I was born, she commented on how I had 'wee little lips."
#9 Nursing career
Pursuing a career as a nurse is not an easy path. The school is hard, your patients are hurting and so many people depend on you. My grandma's career as a nurse was inspired by the difficulties she had faced with medical issues she endured as a child. When you grow up with hardship, especially hardships that affect you physically - you have the choice to become bitter or become better. She used this experience to better herself and eventually it led her down the path to a career that she loved.
"In January 1952, I graduated from nursing school. It was finally a dream come true. I had my heart set on the goal ever since I was a small child. The sad part was that my mother had not lived to see me attain that goal. I think she was the only one other than myself that had faith that I could do it. Everyone said my health would not stand up to it, especially with a slightly crippled leg. I'm sure she knew though, that we had won."
Last but certainly not least - I can't complete this list without including the immeasurable amount of love that this woman has for her family. With 4 kids, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, that's a lot of love to go around - but she does it, and then some. Standing in their doorway when we'd get ready to leave from a trip spent at their farm, there was nothing like the goodbye hug that she'd give us. Despite being under 5 feet tall, it's still some of the best and biggest hugs I've gotten. I knew it wouldn't be long after Erik and I got married before she'd be asking when great grandbaby #14 would be coming along. And when I told her, she responded with "about time." Every time I see her she acts like it's the first time she's seen me in 10 years, and it never gets old.
Grandma, you are loved beyond measure.