Remembering Her Giving Spirit

By Karen Bil Ratzlaff

My grandmother knitted and crocheted. She quilted. She canned pickles. She loved card and board games. She was a dab hand at making pies and cakes. She had all the grandmotherly skills you would expect from a woman born in 1906. But it wasn’t until I was much older that I fully appreciated her: her generosity, her thoughtfulness, her beauty and her liveliness.

Gram-20sPhotos from the ‘20s and ‘30s show a lithe woman with bobbed hair, beautiful skin and plenty of style.  An independent single gal, Marian worked as a bookkeeper and later a quality inspector at a factory, and enjoyed a wide circle of friends.  Photos show her among guys and girls at beach parties and standing shakily on skies in winter. Photos show her laughing a lot. Someone who loved life.

Later she would marry my grandfather Henry. Among her many beaus, I often wondered why she had chosen him.  What spark had there been? By the time I came along, he was a grumpy man with ill-fitting false teeth widely known for his frugality.  When he died, I didn’t see her grieve, though I’m sure she must have. Her first order of business was to redecorate the living room replacing the threadbare rug and worn chairs; the second, to start traveling.

She never remarried (one marriage had been enough, thank you), but she certainly put more fun back in her life and filled it with giving to others—from playing endless games of Yahtzee and Sorry with her grandchildren to spending hours (and hours) knitting us beautiful sweaters. (Much appreciated during winters in upstate New York.)  Her generosity of time and spirit also extended to the community where she volunteered for decades delivering meals to house-bound seniors and helping out tirelessly at her church.

My grandmother died in 2000 in her own apartment just three weeks shy of her 95th birthday—an independent single gal with beautiful skin (still!) who loved life and gave to others in abundance. She is ever in my heart and I am still learning from her example.