There are relationships that left me feeling slighted, throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten. She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.
Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else. I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello. She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.
Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me. Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs. I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch. Sometimes we would sew.. Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk. She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini. When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans. I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top. She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place. It was an anchor. She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.
In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours. When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts. There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table. We had conversation.
The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding. It was an outrage; our small community was aghast. I ran for the protection of my grandma. I told her what I had done and we talked about love. I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be. Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.
“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”
In other words, love was my grandma.
Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals. The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay. She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian. I have googled it.) I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad. Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.