Today is one of those days that it is in my and the community’s best interest to stay home. I am having a massive misfiring of nerves, and can’t even walk across a room without bouncing off something, or falling into a wall. If I were to attempt to venture out of the house, I would need to be in a Redman suit to keep from getting hurt. I’ve worn those things in the past, and they are not the most comfortable.
Since I have decided to ensconce myself, I thought it an opportune time to share some more about that wonderful collection of people that I have called family. Like any family, there are members of the familial-social structure that, while related to one portion are not, by blood or marriage, related to the rest. But we give them honorific titles such as “Uncle” “Aunt” and perhaps the highest honor – “Grandma” or “Grandpa.”
Those honorific aunts and uncles are, many times, the most fun. They are the ones that regale the young ones with tales of wild adventures and mis-adventures; bring strange gifts to family gatherings; sneak copious amounts of candy to little ones and never really have to face the music that a blood relative might have to face for what they have said or done.
Then there are the honorific grandparents. They might be the blood grandparents of your cousins, or have joined the family later when a widowed grandmother decides at 70 to remarry. As a child growing up I had several of these “grandparents” and as I look back I have some very strong and fond memories.
One such “grandma” was Grandma Gercken. She was my Aunt Gloria’s mother-in-law, and as I remember a very sweet woman. The thing that always sticks in my mind about her was cheesecake. It is funny the things we remember, or at least hope we remember correctly, from our youth. When I think of this woman, and truthfully I don’t think I ever knew her first name, other than “Grandma,” I always associate her with cheesecake. I think that is why I have such a love for that particular meal, I mean dessert. It is one of those items that I have over the years learned to make for myself. I did one last week, and it was, in my opinion, wonderful. Graham cracker crust with cheesecake filling and topped with caramel and chocolate with a sprinkle of crushed pecans. The problem I have when I do make a cheesecake is that I always have more filling than crust. To alleviate this problem I have now started to take the extra filling and make cheesecake stuffed muffins and cupcakes. Chocolate of course.
Another memory of her is times that she babysat me when I was sick. She would never nap, but simply “rest her eyes” while sitting in a chair or on a couch. I never knew that resting your eyes could cause so much nasal distress, as the sounds she would make while resting were like those of buzz saw. But she would make tomato soup for me, and put in a big glob of butter that would melt away in a sea of red. I would smoosh up crackers and have my lunch. I still eat tomato soup this way, and it is one of my “comfort” foods.
Another “Grandma” that I remember was Grandma Wegener. She was my Aunt Rene’s mother-in-law, and I remember her as being soft-spoken, with a bit of feistiness mixed in. The thing I remember most about her was that when she was in her late sixties, perhaps even seventy, she remarried. By then I was old enough to think that it was either very cute and wonderful, or “how gross” that “old people” would get married at that age. Now, in retrospect, I have settled on how wonderful. She married “Grandpa” Knapik, and the one thing I remember of him was his love of woodworking. He seemed to spend hours in his little workshop, turning out a variety of handmade toys and furniture. He had given several pieces to my late mother, and I “inherited” them when she passed several years ago. I daily use the footstool he made, although I have had to recover it more than once over the past few years. And a step stool he made is now a mini-table in my bathroom.
Family can sometimes be defined in such narrow ways; direct relatives; in-laws; out-laws; step this or that. But, I am learning that family is more than just the blood that flows through our veins, it is the people who have surrounded us through out our lives that have had a lasting influence. The people who taught us to love cheesecake or gave us footstools are just as much a part of family as those we share common DNA. Looking back with the hindsight of many years I really have been blessed to have had so many “Grandmas” “Grandpas” and the like. To all of them that have touched my life, thank you.