Wednesday, January 09, 2008

97 is the new 79

My maternal grandmother, Verna Pauline Oswald Taylor, is 97 years old today. She was born in 1911 to Ludwig Friederich Oswald and Mary Christine Klingler Oswald in Idaho. These are her parents:

She is a wonderful woman and I am so glad she is still with us. She complains of lots of aches and pains, but she can still get all dolled up in her hip clothes and pretty jewels (always has had great style, which I did not inherit), and go out to lunch or shopping with one of her daughters (she loves Stein Mart). She looks 15 years younger than she is. Who else can say that? She still lives alone (near my parents) since Grandpa died (at 96) a couple of years ago, and was still out working in her garden all last summer in the heat (good for the arthritis, bad because 115 degrees outside). She was still growing veggies and making us pickles until just a couple years ago. She only stopped the pickles because she said the heat made the cucumbers tough, and why work so hard on something if it didn't turn out just right? Which is nothing but the truth, Grandma. Still, I miss the pickles.

Grandma (and Grandpa, too) has come to see us every Christmas for almost as long as I can remember (maybe only slightly less reliably than Santa Claus). First to LA, then here to Arizona. They brought us presents from their world travels, and rock jewelry Grandpa made us. Grandma would crochet us things to wear, which didn't seem so cool in the 80s, but now I think I should hunt up some of those granny square vests and make my kids wear them. They would be so 70s retro chic. I have three afghans she made. And I have like 30 cousins, so do the math on the afghans. (Photo above taken at cousin Melanie's wedding. Jen, Verna, Don, Me. I look like an Amazon, don't I?).

Don and Verna moved down here a few years ago from Cody, Wyoming, looking for warmer winters and knowing they would need more help in the coming years. Grandpa also decided that he was getting too old for the ice fishing. Most people decide that before they turn 90. I have been so happy to have them here to see my children born (not actually invited into labor and delivery room, just to be clear.) My kids have been really lucky to know three of their Great Grandmas: Verna, Lavada Layton (lives in Central, Arizona near Safford), and Mary Binger (lives in Lincoln, Nebraska and reads my blog. Very tech-savvy.)

Grandma says it is hard to get so seriously old because you feel like the only one left. I believe it. Sure, there are a few other 97-year-olds around, but what are the chances they are your friends or family? She has no living brothers or sisters (out of something like nine). This makes her a celebrity at the Oswald Reunion in Idaho Falls, where nieces and nephews (mostly all senior citizens themselves) fawn all over her. Her eldest son is over 70.

Grandpa liked to tell us that when he was little, shoes weren't yet made for right and left feet (surely somewhere there were some. Sounds like the blisters would be horrendous.), and that his family got the first car in Lehi, Utah. I have Grandma's engagement ring to some feller other than Grandpa. I know she met grandpa at a dance and I've seen pictures. Grandpa was a real looker. Probably wasn't the first engagement he helped to bust up, but let's hope it was the last. (That's Grandpa Don Taylor, below).

Verna and I share a mildy irrational, some might say unhealthy, love of dishware. China, crystal, silver. She collected bells (finally quit growing the collection a few years ago), I collect pressed glass snack trays (I have about 50, if you would like to borrow them for your next baby/bridal shower). I like to scour Ebay for great deals on Towle Candlelight flatware (Grandma's wedding silver).

Today we are going to her birthday lunch at Benihana (brand new over at Chandler mall, no longer need to schlep to North Scottsdale), because Grandma is a serious fan of the Tepanyaki. Something else we have in common.

(Above is Grandma at her birthday party last year, with her three daughters: Mareen (my Mom), Ardith, and Sherry. She also has two sons, Lynn and Ralph, and 25 grandchildren, more than 60 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild)


P&M CLAN said...

I can see you and your sister in your grandmother. She was stunning (and still is)! So are you and your sister. Happy Birthday to her.

melanie said...

"Asian Hooters" for Gramma's birthday? (wow -- I hope that wasn't seriously inappropriate for this blog entry)

Happy Birthday, Grandma! Those pictures are beautiful. Thanks, Kelly, for the great post.

Gini said...

Good post Kelly.. nice pix.. you have a great family.. we should all live so long!!

Jake said...

Yay Grandma!
Happy Birthday!

Hailey said...

Grandma and Grandpa were both stunning! She still is! Happy Birthday to an amazing lady!

Jenni said...

What a great tribute to Grandma (and grandpa too)...she was an absolutely gorgeous chick---and is always stylin even now! SO fun to see all this! Thanks!

Rachel Z said...

(Sorry, I know I'm not family but I wanted to comment anyway..)

My favorite part of the story is how she got to live into her old age WITH her husband! You rarely hear that, often the husband dies a good 20 years before the wife. I love imagining living with and loving someone for over 70 years. Oh what a real part of you that person would become. Thanks for sharing. :-)