Me, with my Grandma Bean and my baby sister, Eydie
Grandma Mary Elizabeth Faudree Bean
June 03, 1898 - January 01, 1975
Some of my fondest memories are of my Grandma Bean. Here she is holding me, and my baby sister. I was about 24 months here, because Eydie doesn't look to be more than a month or so old. (We were born 22 months apart.)
I can remember going to visit Grandma when I was very little. (She came to live with us when I was only five.)
I would get to sleep in the front parlor, in Grandma's bed with her. There was a big old warm morning stove in there, so in the winter time we stayed toasty warm. Eydie slept upstairs in an attic bedroom with Mom and Dad, and there wasn't any heat up there! Brrr!
When I was about 2, not long after Eydie was born, my cousin, Johnny, and I were playing in the front parlor. And as things happen with little ones, I ended up catching myself on the hot woodstove. My right palm literally burnt to the stove. (They tell me that my Dad had to scrape my palm off the stove with a pocket knife afterward.) I ripped my hand away, and the pain was unbearable! I can remember it hurt so bad that I peed my pants. Now, mind you, I was only about 24 months old, but I was most upset about my peeing my pants than the burn! I cried over that. I remember the pain being so bad, and crying out loudly, 'Mommy, Daddy help me! Anybody help me!' over and over again.)Then I can remember Mommy holding me in the car, while Daddy drove us to Union, to Dr. Guy's. He took us right in. I can still see the place in my memories, and even smell the alcohol antiseptic smell.
Dr. Guy put Silvadene on my hand, and of course, the pain stopped instantly. He bandaged my hand. I remember that the only thing showing was the tip of my thumb, and he told me, "You'll have to get your Mommy to knit a cap for your thumb so it doesn't get cold!" (To this day, my right hand is significantly smaller than the left.)
I remember how fluffy Grandma's bed was. It had a feather tick mattress on it. Daddy would pick me up and toss me into the softness. He'd kiss me goodnight and tell me to scootch all the way over to the far side of the bed (against the wall) so that Grandma would have room to get in when she came to bed.
I remember the living room suite that Grandpa had bought Grandma when they were married. It sat in that front parlor. It was a heavy, dark mahogany color, with chocolate brown horse hair cushions. They weren't soft, but scratchy! Years later Mommy took the set and refinished them, and made all new cushions for them. After I had children, she gave me the set, and I was young and stupid and gave it away. How I wish I still had it!
Grandma would come and snuggle up to me when she came to bed after I did. She would tell me stories, and we would giggle until one or the other of us fell asleep. She was always the first up.
She had a very tiny kitchen by today's standards, but for the time period when the house was built, about 1800, it was large enough. There was room for a wood cook stove, and a small refrigerator, and a work table, and a small standing cabinet. Grandma could make the best biscuits and gravy! And there was nothing that made me happier than when she taught me to bake homemade baked custard! Oh, it was so good!
Grandma didn't have running water. Instead, there was a galvanized pail, and we would walk to the little mountain spring that ran near the house, and where the water bubbled up, we would dip the bucket into the pool of water and carry it back to the house. A metal ladle hung on the side of the bucket once in the house. When you wanted a drink, you simply took the ladle and dipped the water from the bucket and drank from the ladle. The water was always ice cold when it was fresh from the spring. And I remember it had a slight iron taste to it. Not bad, but mineral rich. It was so good!
In what would have been the dining room was another big bed. Here was where my Uncle slept. When he wasn't there, then Mommy and Daddy would sleep there because it had a big stove in that room. Grandma had a big long plank table. My sister still has it today. There was a long bench across the back to sit at the table. And in the front and on the ends were chairs. Grandma kept an oil cloth on the table. Better than any vinyl tablecloth you can buy today! Oilcloth was heavy and lasted a long time. (My Mommy once made me a 'sit-upon' for Girl Scouts using oilcloth and a thin cushion. Everyone was envious of me, because unlike theirs I could tie mine around my waist and never be without a dry, soft seat in the woods.)
In the dining room wall, just above the bed, were three drawers built into the wall. About 24-inches wide, and about 12-inches deep. Perfect for table linens and such. My sister is at this moment having her kitchen remodeled. And she is putting those three drawers into her kitchen wall. I almost cried when she told me that. I didn't even know that they still existed! A small legacy added to her kitchen!
When I was five, my Grandma Bean came to live with us. She wasn't particularly elderly. Well, not by my standards today! Born in 1898, she was 66 when she moved in. We were thrilled to have her!
In the spring, she and I would go out into the lawn and pick dandelion greens. I would still do it today, but I have a dog. So, believe me it's not an option! But today, I always manage to get spring mixed greens that have dandelion in it. For years I made dandelion wine. It was more of a fermented fruit punch, and had to be watered down due to the sweetness. But once it was fermented, it could pack a punch! But that was made with the flowers, and not the leaves.
I can remember Grandma always wearing white canvas sneakers. And they were always spotless. ALWAYS! I learned that she took baby powder and sprinkled it onto the canvas shoes and would rub it in with her powder puff.
She always smelled so good! She wore White Shoulders perfume. I can't smell it now without thinking of her.
She rolled her hair by simply making little rolled up curls around her finger, and then using bobby pins she would pin the curls to her head. Her hair was very fine and thin.
She had the best jewelry ever! Large beaded necklaces, and clip on earrings. Brooches that were so pretty! And when she passed, I received her wedding band. I wore it until 2005, when my niece was getting married, and I passed it on to her. Now she has a daughter who will one day get her great-great-grandmother's wedding band!
I can remember as a little girl asking my Grandma how come she didn't have a Grandpa for me? I remember she touched my face and told me that Grandpa went to heaven before I was even born. I knew about Heaven, and about Hell, by that age. But I couldn't understand why he didn't wait around to meet me or my little sister. Grandma said 'Jesus needed him more.' And with that I was satisfied. (My Grandpa Bean died 5 years before I was born.)
Grandma had once taught a little girl who didn't speak. So she had learned sign language. She tried to teach me, but I was impatient and wouldn't sit still long enough to learn it. Of course, now I wish I had!
Grandma loved to sing with others. One of my favorite memories are of her, and my Grandma and Grandpa Dreher all sitting in the den in our house in Virginia, singing hymns together. I was simply enthralled! Grandpa had a baritone voice, and my two Grandma's were these sweet soprano voices. It was like Heaven opened up for me and I was listening to angels sing! Daddy audio taped it. But eventually the tape disintegrated. I would have loved to have a copy today!
Grandma began to go down pretty fast when we moved back to West Virginia. She was so excited to get here. And when she saw her beloved Peter's Mountain, she knew she was home. We lived half-way between where she grew up, and where she lived with her own family. Mommy and Daddy couldn't have picked a better place.
Then Grandma began to get sick. Her mind began to slip. I was 14 when it started. She would sit for hours on end, and not say a word. The doctors told us she had "hardening of the arteries". They didn't have medication then to combat this. Today, when plaque begins to build in the arteries, your doctor will put you on statins to lower your cholesterol, and usually a lower dose aspirin, if not a blood thinner. But the technology just wasn't there.
Bless my Mommy. When Grandma got down and in the bed, Mommy did everything for her. She couldn't have shown more love if it had been one of her children, rather than her mother-in-law.
One day, Grandma was more lucid than others. She asked to have help to get up. Mommy got her dressed and brought her out into the dining room, where she sat and talked so coherently! She asked Mommy if she would "shingle" her hair. Mommy cut her hair into the many layers she wanted. And while Mommy was cutting her hair, Grandma told of us of a time when she asked my Grandpa to cut her hair. (There was a good difference in their ages, and Grandma always called him 'Mr. Bean' or 'Daddy'.) She said that Grandpa had been clipping away at her hair, at a rather fast pace, when suddenly the scissors dipped and he clipped off the very top of her ear. Well, of course we thought she didn't know what she was saying. But we looked, and sure enough, just the very tip of her right ear had been gone! But she laughed about that. Telling us how worried he was that he had really harmed her.
Because she was so alert that day, Mommy asked her what she would like to eat. Mommy told her to pick anything in the world that she wanted. Grandma said simply "I'd like some popcorn." So, of course, the popcorn popper came out (remember the old electric kettle that you put oil into and popped corn?). Mommy popped a huge large bowl of popcorn. And Grandma ate and ate!
Mommy then asked her if she'd like to call her sister, Aunt Veda, who was the only sibling left of the family at the time. And Grandma got to talk to her sister for the last time. It was October.
That night Grandma went to bed early, as she always did. And we talked about what a wonderful day it had been! When the next morning came around, Grandma didn't know any of us, except for my sister, Eydie.
She was bedfast again. And she gradually grew worse, until in December she was hospitalized twice. On the last time, it was the day after Christmas that she had to be put back in the hospital. We all gathered around her bed. And on December 31st, Mommy asked her if she knew any of us. She knew us all by name, except for my uncle. But she especially knew my sister, who she called her 'baby doll'.
Late that night we left her to go home for a few hours. Not even remembering it was New Year's Eve. And within the first hour of the New Year, the telephone rang. It was the hospital telling us that Grandma had passed peacefully. I think we all regretted we hadn't stayed with her, instead of coming home.
On the 3rd of January 1975, it was bitter cold. The ground couldn't be dug, and they used dynamite to blast a hole open to get to soft enough earth to dig her grave.
Our Pastor, Joe Larue, preached her funeral. It was a beautiful sermon. We cried. But when we stood by the graveside, my sister and I just fell apart. I was 15 then. My Grandma had been part of my life for 10 years, and I didn't want her to go. Even knowing Heaven would be so much sweeter with her there, wasn't a consolation for me then. Mommy and Daddy were busy comforting my sister, and I started to run away from the graveside. I simply couldn't bear the loss. I didn't get far, when dear, dear friends caught me and let me sob in their arms. (They are gone now, too.)
It was hard the first few years when New Year's Day rolled around. Grandma was the first thing I associated with New Year's Day. But many years have passed. I still remember her on New Year's Day, of course, but the memories I have of her throughout the rest of the year are such happy ones, that the sadness is gone.
I've tried to instill in my children the sweet, sweet spirit that my Grandma had. She never spoke badly of a single person. At least not where I ever heard! And others have told me the same thing.
She fiercely loved her family. And she loved God.
I hope that others can say the same of me one day, for that is a spirit to aspire for.