Sunday, July 21, 2013

Remembering Grandma Orr

I was out in my garden yesterday in between the rain falls, and it reminded me of my Grandma Orr.  She loved to garden and loved plants.  When I was in university I would take the bus down to Wawota in the fall and help her bring her gardens in.  She had three gardens; a large one taking over the double lot in their back yard in town; and then two farm gardens - one at the Husband's and one at the Weatherall's.  There was a fair bit of work involved in doing that much gardening, but Grandma considered it to be one way that she could provide for those in need without much cost.  She had so much produce that she rented locker space at the butcher's in town.  I remember one year that had been a good year for cucumbers.  We did over 40 quarts of dill pickles as well as I don't know how many quarts of bread-and-butter pickles (and as Grandpa couldn't eat them, they were solely to be given away).  In addition, anyone who came to the door for any reason whatsoever was given a bag of cucumbers, and I was sent home with three or four bags of them on the bus.

Grandma also had lots of plants in the house.  When she was away for awhile, she gave me careful instructions on how to water all of them (this one only gets one tablespoon every day; don't water this one until the soil is dry - about every third day, etc.).  She kept rain water and snow water for her house plants, and it generally took one to two ice cream pails to water everything.  She kept a special plant "hospital" in the basement for plants that were sickly or had bugs that she didn't want to infect the rest of the house.

I lived with Grandma for six months when I got my first teaching position.  It was the year after Grandpa, Aunt Rose and Grandma Husband all died and she was living alone. I got a teaching position in the next town over.  It was good for both of us.  I was blessed with the benefit of her years and years of teaching experience and this was the first year she was alone. I think I got the better part of the deal, but we both enjoyed each other.  I brought a quilt with me that needed quilting and we set it up on a frame in the basement and would visit as we quilted it.  I got to know Grandma a lot better when I was living with her, and to appreciate her wisdom and experience.

Grandma had a good sense of humour.  She liked to tell stories of how she got the best of Grandpa (who also enjoyed a good joke); such as the story of the chick starter muffins.  She also enjoyed a good joke on herself.

It's hard for me to believe that Grandma had been unwell most of her life.  The Grandma I knew was always slightly hyperactive; seldom sat down - and although she would set a plate for herself at the table for meals; generally wouldn't sit and eat with us - she was too busy bustling.  However, when her children were young, she had been an invalid.  She had an undiagnosed thyroid condition and was usually too exhausted to do much.  In addition, she had hepatitis as a teen and had difficulty eating foods with much fat, as her liver couldn't handle it.  By the time I knew Grandma, her thyroid condition was treated with medication and she seldom slowed down.

Grandma was a person of action.  Other people would talk about something that needed to be done; Grandma would go and do it.  The year I lived with her, she was excitedly making plans to go to New Guinea.  She explained that she had always been tied to home.  In the last few years it was an old folk's home, with Grandpa an invalid; Aunt Verna Husband, who was very frail and couldn't be left alone; and Aunt Rose, who needed care for even the most basic things.  However, now that they were no longer with her, she could go on to new adventures.  She queried me, "do you think I could help the work over there?"

Unfortunately, my children didn't get to know Grandma.  By the time they were old enough to visit her, she was in a nursing home and had a stroke and couldn't talk.  I am hopeful that my memories will help her seem more real to them.


Ian said...

Thanks for sharing. Just you remember which year it was that she went to PNG?

May's Musings said...

I'd have to double check with Leslie, but I think she went in 1987 or 88. I boarded with her in the spring of 87, and she was having a year of mourning and refinding her centre before taking off there.

Nancy said...

Thank you, May. Lots of memories for me too.