Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fried Hamburgers

It was 1986. I had just graduated from high school. In late Spring/early Summer, dad and I drove to Iowa for a family reunion. Just the two of us headed to Lone Rock.

When we got there, my cousin Wes showed up. He was in the middle of a cross-country motorcycle trip from California. He was starving, so grandma, my dad's mom, fried him up some hamburgers in one of her ancient caste-iron skillet.

It may indeed be the case that nothing burps like bacon, but I think it's pretty hard to top the smell of browning ground beef. It should be characterized as an endorphin.

Grandma died Wednesday afternoon. She was 98 years old. She would tell you that she had 90 real good years, 5 pretty good years, and 2 not-so-good years.

Born Verna Bates, she was a remarkable woman. She and her husband, Eldin, never had much. They didn't even own the land they farmed because Eldin's dad, Lemuel, son of Edward, was tight. They were essentially tenant farmers. Only if they were too sick to work did they go to the doctor, and paid him what he charged in cash right there. I suppose it was a much different time. People were tougher, more resilient, thrifty, proud. Resigned, I suppose you might even say, in their stoic way.

I blame the ever-vain baby-boomers.

Dad saw to it that they both were taken care of. It was nothing short of his duty, and he did it gladly because of all they had given him growing up, not least of which was a chance at a college education.

Verna Bates. Buried a baby boy. Buried her husband. Buried her youngest. Buried a son-in-law. Buried a daughter-in-law. May she rest in everlasting peace.

Thanks for the post. Sounds like something similar to what's happening in some Minnesota communities.

(I can't go. It's not that I'm busy. It's that I'm emotionally unequipped to deal with another trip to Iowa. It took everything I had to drive up there for mom. My sister understands, but I don't think my oldest brother will. I guess he'll just have to be mad at me. Which is fine, because I've been mad at me for quite some time.)


Schmutzie said...

If somebody hands me a piece of paper right now that guarantees me 98 years, but not a second more, I'm taking the deal. I'm signing gladly.

Sorry to read of her losses, and yours Swit, but man...what a life Verna must have led. Think of everything she witnessed.

Keifus said...

Oh man, that's so sad. But also what Schmutzie said. Jeez, my grandmother turns 92 in a week, doing her best to outlive her entire generation. (I sent the kids up to see her this summer--she's pretty great.)

Playing with fire, instigating the boomers like that. They're going to keep Medicare all to themselves now, and just see if they don't.

Also, onions frying in butter.

(Too bad.)


twif said...

condolances. my great-grandma turned 100 this year. my grandma turned 80. 98 is an impressive and damn fine run.

thirding schmultzie & keif. and i'll add: garlic, shallots & onions in butter (with a little olive oil). also, fresh baked bread.

fuck, now i'm all hungry.

artandsoul said...

Hey, I'm sorry to hear you lost your grandmother on Wednesday. Along we blithely go in our lives, unaware that people we care about are getting hit by another of life's changes.

I'm the 2nd of five and it seems there is always something to be mad about with one of my sibs ... but I will tell you this, the older I get the less important it is.

We all have our times to come to go to help to stay to talk to listen and even to stay home. I have done it too.

switters said...

Julie's driving up from Athens to meet Jess in Mt. Vernon. They're picking Al up in Mt. Gilead. Jack's driving over from Michigan.

It'll be a long drive. I almost bought a plane ticket yesterday afternoon, but I just couldn't muster the courage. Pathetic, I know.

A strong, strong woman, who loved my mom dearly. She had two daughters. At mom's memorial, one of them, Patsy, got up and said that of Verna's two daughters, my mom was her favorite. It was hilarious and indescribably sweet and touching.

Thanks, guys. I feel lousy.

artandsoul said...

Thinking of you this weekend. Hope you're doing okay.

Feeling lousy may just be in the air ... I've been feeling the same way.

Keifus said...

Hey speaking of feeling lousy...

I picked up Nick Cave's Murder Ballads cd yesterday, based more or less on your remembered enthusiasm for these guys. Understand the thing is based on a lot of traditional lyrics, but I made the mistake of opening the liner and reading them. Too much for me: I still haven't got myself to pop the thing in.

What's the music like? Inclined to make a case?