Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Equal Time For Grandma

Grandma was a saint. She had to be to live all those years with Grandpa. As I have said before, he was a firebrand, and not afraid to show it. He once wrote a pamphlet entitled, "This is Democracy?". And, when they lived in Florida, after they retired, he spent most Sundays in a local park stating his views, on a soap box that had been built for exactly that purpose. All those seniors were invited to say what they wanted, for, I suppose, a specified length of time. His beef was with the Pompano Beach garbage pickup. He even wrote letters to then Governor LeRoy Collins on the subject, and Gov. Collins always wrote back, very respectfully. Nice guy.

When Grandpa was diagnosed with Cancer, he and Grandma moved back to Little Rock, and in with my mother and me. I was mostly out of the house by then, in college, but I was there occasionally on weekends and all holidays and summers.

Grandpa died a year or so later, just as I was beginning to appreciate him. We enjoyed writing letters and he challenged me when he caught an error in grammar or spelling. Then, he was gone.

But, this is about Grandma. She was Catherine Loy, born in Middlesborough, in England, and was working as a companion to an elderly lady on a cruise to the West Indies when she met Grandpa. By the time the cruise was over, she had promised to meet him in America and marry him. She was scheduled to make the crossing on the Lusitania, in 1915, but a torpedo hit and sank it, so she had to wait for a berth on another liner.

When she got off the boat, Grandpa was there to meet her, and had to leave his pocket watch with the Customs agent to guarantee that his intentions were honorable. He was able to get his watch back when he presented the Customs agent with their marriage license.

When I brought D.J. home, and told her he was "the one", she fell in love with him, too.

One day, after I was married and living in Yellville, I broke the news that I was pregnant. She and mother were so excited, but Grandma had her doubts about her great-grandchild being raised in Yellville. She worried about me being there, too, because to her, it was the last outpost on the edge of the civilized world. When I was pregnant with my Kelley, she told me she knew the sex of the baby, and wrote it down and sealed it in an envelope. Ok, ok, so it was a fifty-fifty chance, but, she was right! She had claimed for years that she was psychic, and I guess she really was - not that she channeled Bridey Murphy, or anything that spectacular. But, we had seen enought evidence of it to believe her when she claimed to know the sex or my baby. Then, when I was pregnant with my Jay, she informed me that she didn't see herself in connection with that baby, and, sure enough, she died three months before he was born. Spooky, huh?

Before Kelley was a year old, I talked Grandma into coming to Yellville for a two-week visit. She must have been nervous abut the trip, because she talked non-stop from Little Rock to Yellville. When we got there, she was astonished to see a supermarket and even a shoe store. I said, "Yes, and we have indoor plumbing, too."

When she unpacked, I realized how convinced she had been that she was heading into the unknown. She packed the warmest robe she could find, and a pair of warm, muffy slippers. And, she brought her own tea. Her tea! She hadn't been at all sure that we could buy her tea in such a small, remote village. When we explained that the heat radiated from the ceiling, she couldn't believe how warm the floors were. She finally settled down and enjoyed her visit.

We spent our days playing with the baby and she taught me how to make plum jam from wild plums that we gathered from my mother-in-law's tree. We had a great time. The night before we were to take her home, D.J. told her that if she ever wanted to come live with us, she was welcome. It really pleased her, but she was used to Little Rock, and ready to go home.

Whenever I think of her, all sorts of images pop into my mind. Mostly, though, I think I remember sitting on the big swing on her front porch in Little Rock, when I was about three and hearing her sing, "Mairsi dotes and dosie dotes and little lambs eadivy. A Kid'lleat ivy, too, wouldn't you?" And, I even hear my own voice saying, "No, no, grandma! It's Mares-eat-oats-and-Does-eat-oats and little-lambs-eat-ivy." And, she say, "Oh, OK, Mairsie doats and dosie doats.........."


saz said...

Do you still have that pocket watch? What a charming story. Any pictures of either of them? And as far as the song goes - I heard it like you grandmother sang it - this is the first time I knew the actual words!

saz said...

Sorry Betty - Just read the comments to the previous post and see you might NOT have pictures - still hoping you can dig some up cuz now we all feel like we know them both - just need a picture to cement them in our minds!

Betty said...

Saz, I do still have the pocket watch. I also have a pocket watch from my dad's father and from my dad. I'm just so old, I can't remember, now, which is which.

Mari Meehan said...

What wonderful, heartwarming stories and so beautifully told. And I too remember Mairsi dotes and dosie dotes. I always wondered what the "wooden shoe" had to do with it!

Kell said...

Huh. You mean it's not "Mairsi dotes and dosie dotes" Go figure.

I wish I had known both of them.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I'd love to see a photo of your grandparents.

Maya's Granny said...

The song, as my father sang it to me, was:
Mairzi doats and dozie doats and liddle lamdsi divie
A kiddle dedivy too, wooden shoe.
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear,then take is slow and (I've forgotten the words/line here)
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy,
A kid will eat ivy too, wouldn't you?

My father was in a band in the 30s, so I suspect he knew. Also, there were a lot of songs about then that played those kinds of verbal tricks. The three liddle fiddies in the itty bitty pool and Hotsot ralston on the rivah rah and all of those. My father sang them to me as lullabyes.