Since returning to BC, about three months ago, I've been doing a lot of visiting with my elderly Grandma. Today's the day I'd like to wish her a very Happy 80th Birthday. So, even though I'm back in Alberta, that's exactly what I did. I've got a few funny Grandma stories from over the years... Also a few that helped shape the family story & history while aiding in everything making sense... Grandma is my only surviving grandparent, so today I am entirely grateful that I was able to speak with her, as opposed to speaking solely of her.
Eating a cookie (or pretty much ANYTHING else sweet) with one hand and armed with a back up in the other - my Diabetic Grandmother will deny her sweet tooth... I think it's more like three, but good luck getting her to admit one! I'm not sure if that stems from Grandma being a Swiss girl at heart - the Swiss are renown for their chocolate you know! Or if it has anything to do with the fact that she was a girl raised in the Dirty Thirties.... It could've stemmed from being in Switzerland when WWII was rumbling and rationing came into the mix of everyday life. Grandma's told me numerous times that she used to stock pile her sugar and use it to barter with her own Mum. (She'd give my Great Grandmother her hoarded sugar ration so Great Grandma could use it for baking. Grandma was no fool - fresh baking is super sweet... Especially when you can load it with butter - another of Grandma's favorites that she may deny as she's loading her bread with it! LOL!)
Grandma is the only one of my Grandparents not born on Canadian soil. She was born in Switzerland and immigrated to Canada when she was around 6 or 7. I remember having to do an art project in grade 11 or so and the subject was Family History related. I went to Grandma and wracked her brain for something I could draw out. She told me of her boat ride over to Canada when she was small. She remembered that they came across a Soldier - before boarding the ship- who clicked his heels and expected her father to give the Nazi Salute. He was reluctant at first but eventually gave in. She vividly told me of people getting sea sick and puking off the side of the boat. She remembered Swastikas on the rain barrels of a male relative they briefly stayed with upon their arrival in Canada.... I've come into Grandma's kitchen a time or two and managed to witness her yodelling quietly to herself - a trait learned of her own Mother. (Some of her siblings have been caught doing the same.) Every so often, you'll catch Grandma mumble something in Swiss-German under her breathe - it's usually a swear though. Grandma and my Mum have made the trek back to Switzerland since. I think a more recent trip back is in the back of her mind as well.
Grandma made it to the eighth grade before dropping out to join the work force. After moving across Canada from Dryden, Ontario to Vernon, BC, Grandma was employed in various places - usually as a Machine Worker/Machinist. While my Grandpa was away working for the Department of Highways, Grandma worked on the Machinist lines of the Canadian Club Distillery (Hyram Walker) in Winfield, BC. She was home every night to keep her four kids in line - the oldest of those four being my Mum. I remember Grandma retiring in 1989 after many years of service.
I remember many summers in Grandma's backyard - which was equipped with an above ground pool. (This is where I learned how to do a flip into a pool or appropriate sized/depth body of water.) It was always great to be able to go to Grandma's for a sleep over - especially when one of the cousins was sleeping over with you! I remember one such sleep over.... My cousin, Jessica, always had the flare for drama, singing and just down right entertainment. She got an idea in her head that we could basically do our own variety show kinda deal. We'd play songs popular in the late '80's and we'd dance around and lip sync. Grandma had a video camera and offered to film it.... We even did a "Weight Watchers" commercial and stuffed a pillow up the front of our shirts for the before shot... I'm not sure where that video is in Grandma's pile of stuff... But if it ever turned up, I'd be mortified! Grandma was always good for that though. She was always doing something creative... I've seen pictures where she dressed her own kids up!
Grandma's house was always the centered point of any family get together - whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas. All my cousins (as Grandma's got 10 grand kids and 1 great grand kid now) would come and aunts and uncles would congregate at Grandma's. (I remember when Grandma and Grandpa moved out of the house I'd known as theirs for the first 15 years of my life... I was pretty sad - the cousins and I would hunt Salamanders in the basement... Where I had numerous tea parties with the special tea sets Grandma kept in her cupboards for us... I still want to buy that house one day.)
A couple summers ago, I had come home from Edmonton for a week or so vacation... I spent a sunny afternoon at the peanut pool with one of my baby, baby cousins Syd and my Grandma. After packing up for the day, then dropping Sydney off at home (which was just up the street from Grandma's), I stayed at Grandma's for dinner. Grandma had decided to make spaghetti but was in a panic for a vegetable to serve with dinner. I laughed my head off and asked if the tomato sauce wasn't good enough to consider a veggie. She replied no and continued making dinner. I laughed even harder when she called me for dinner and served broccoli with spaghetti. I'll never forget that evening, so long as I live!
So, on this day all those years ago, my Grandma was born in Switzerland 6 weeks or so premature. The doctor told my Great Grandfather not to worry about registering his 5 pound daughter, because she probably wouldn't make it. Naming her was optional as well, for the same reasoning. I'm glad that Great Grandpa Gysler registered her as little Rena Gysler because Grandma proved that doctor wrong... Here it is 80 years later, and she's still alive and kicking and I'm proud to call her Grandma!
HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY GRANDMA!!!!