From the age of four to eight, I lived with my grandparents. Due to a divorce, my brother, sister, and I were separated. My mother left the area and my stepfather took my brother, and my sister was raised by an aunt and uncle on my stepfather’s side.
My grandma worked during the day, but Gramps was on disability due to a work-related accident where he lost his eye. Gramps and I were buddies. He had a bleach route and a card route, where he delivered products to homes. I had the privilege of riding along with him. He was Gramps and I was Kidlet. That’s how he introduced me when he took me to a local diner for a chocolate malt. We sat on the stools at the counter and I felt so grown up.
Every morning he’d take Grandma to work and in the afternoons, he and I would go to pick her up. First, we’d sit next to the Illinois River and watch the barges go by. We also watched trains loading up at Corn Products (where he used to work). Life as a young girl was full of adventure.
I had a best friend who lived across the street, named Sandy, and her family was like a second family to me. We played during the daytime, making up stories, and playacting. Sometimes we just made mud pies in the back yard. Sometimes we sat in my back yard and watched Gramps weeding the garden.
Gramps made the very best potato soup. It must have been good because that’s the only lunch I remember him making! I didn’t starve, so I’m sure there was other food on the table. Isn’t it funny that I don’t remember any meals except for Sunday dinner which was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and either peas or corn. My grandparents raised chickens and if you’ve never seen a tiny woman wring a chicken’s neck…well, I won’t even describe it. The smell of hot feathers still comes to mind as I picture her plucking that chicken clean.
In later years, they changed from raising chickens to raising rabbits. I never did acquire a taste for the fried rabbit on Sundays. Much too easy to make friends with rabbits than chickens.
My grandparents bought me my first bicycle and Gramps taught me how to ride. He held the back end of the bike at the top of the hill on our street and would run behind me, letting go when the bike took off. I wasn’t a quick learner, but I remember the thrill when I mastered it! I was too short to sit on the seat and peddle, but I loved sailing down that hill with the wind blowing through my hair.
When my mom married again and I moved away, I missed my Gramps a lot. But he wrote me letters all the time. I wish I still had them. He always began his letter with writing across the top of the page, Pekin, Illinois. The next line was, Hi Kidlet. Every summer I’d return to my grandparents house to spend two weeks. I looked forward to those summers!
I was very blessed by having such great grandparents. Gramps died when I was in my early twenties of a bleeding ulcer, which looking back is no surprise. Gramps always had a cigarette in his hand and a cup of black coffee next to him.