Thursday, January 27th, marked the birth of my grandmother, Tina Mae Martin Sifers... and no... that isn't pronounced TEENA... that is a LONG I sound... TIIIINA Mae. Or, if you were an "old timer" you would have said "Tiny Mae". She was born in 1910, and a few weeks after her 80th birthday she passed away. And I am pretty sure not a day goes by that I don't think of her in some way.
When I came along in January of 1959, I was welcomed by a "big sister", who turned 3 after I was born. 1959 also ushered in the birth of my brother in December. Yes... you read that right... we were both born in 1959. So my mom had three children 3 and under... and yes... it is okay to shudder at this point... I'm sure she did! This made my mom one busy lady!! I'm not sure how she managed!
For the first 5 years of my life we lived on Main Street in Pekin... a tiny town then... a tiny town now. To one side of our home lived my Great-grandmother, Mamaw Pearl and behind our home lived my grandparents, Mae and Pap... yes... we called her Mae. She was much to young to be called Mamaw or Grandma or any other grandparent type name... or so she said. So my brother, sister and I all called her by her first name... Mae.
Mae and Pap had a trailer, that in my "child's mind" seems forever away from our home... but when I look at the lot that held our home and their trailer today, I wonder how they both fit! Both their home, and Mamaw's were surrounded by flowers of all kinds: roses, tulips, daffodils and iris to name a few. To this day, an Iris remains my favorite flower... especially a purple bearded iris, there were tons of those in the flower beds. Mae and Mamaw spent a ton of time in those beds caring for them. I have such vivid memories of those beds!
I spent a lot of time with Mae and Pap when I was little. I loved to go to their house. I thought it was kind of cool that they lived in a trailer. I thought the fact that it had an addition to it was pretty neat as well. I thought that the shelving that seperated the living room from the eat in kitchen was "upscale" with all of the little knick knacks that were on the shelves. I actually have the two roosters that sat on those shelves!
I found it amazing that Mae NEVER used her oven...that's right... she kept it filled with candy. I am not sure that it was ever turned on. All of their meals were prepared on the stove top or in an electric skillet that always set out. When we spent the night we were given foods such as canned salisbury steak and instant mashed potatoes to eat... I thought they were wonderful. (I must confess that as an adult I've "tried" those again, just to have that memory, and they AREN'T that great!) My grandmother would poach us eggs for breakfast, and I still remember just how the egg poacher looked. She also kept her fridge stocked with small glass bottles of Coca Cola!!!
On Christmas Eve we would gather at their home with aunts and uncles and great grandparents to open gifts. There would be a dish with orange slices on the table, chocolate cremes too, and Mae would make rice krispie treats in the electric skillet, sitting them out on the porch to cool. All the while we would be sitting in front of the TV watching for Santa's approach to our area. And her amazing silver tinsel tree, with a rotating colored light, would be sitting off to the side, glowing first one color then another as we opened our gifts.
After the passing of my grandfather, Mae remained in the trailer for a time, but eventually moved in with my parents on the farm where we had moved. She spent the next 11 years with them there. For a portion of that time, I lived right next door. I don't believe there was a day that went by that I didn't talk to her, if only on the phone. (I still remember her number!) She would call me to tell me the "news" that she had just read in the National Enquirer, always certain that it was,without a doubt, the truth. I would call to let her know what new thing one of the kids was doing, or how my work was going.
For awhile, she would take me to appointments when i didn't have a car. Soon, I was the one taking her to appointments when my mom wasn't available to do so. She was no longer able to drive, and was on oxygen full time. Soon she would begin to have bouts of pneumonia, and each one was harder that the last to recover from.
I watched as she taught my children, and my sister's children to "sew". She always kept needles and thread at the ready, along with scraps of material, for them to sew when they asked. They would sit for what seemed like hours pushing a needle through fabric, back and forth, until they had created "something". My sister and I had done the same thing as children. She would sit by watching, always ready to help if needed.
There finally came a time when decided that she wanted to go to a nursing home. So my mom and dad got all of her affairs in order, and off she went. Every week we took the kids in to see her, and they actually enjoyed playing bingo with the residents there. I know that she looked forward to those visits, and I do believe that she was learning to enjoy the freedom that came from not being worried about her medicenes. A few short weeks into her stay she once again became sick with pneumonia, heading into the hospital, and unable to shake it's grip, she went to be with Jesus.
My sister and I had been sitting at the hosptial all day, making sure that our parents had been able to leave to get some rest. I remember when she kept repeating over and over again, "closed crackers"... and wondering what in the world she meant, until we realized that she was saying "closed casket". She knew... she realized that she was not going back to the nursing home. In fact, she was in conversation with people we couldn't see, but I believe they were there just the same, telling her it was all right to "come home". We all made a point of letting her know that it was all right to let go, that something so much better was waiting for her on the other side.
When I finally came home to shower and rest my phone rang. I hadn't been gone more than 30 minutes, and she had taken her final breath, letting go of this world and grabbing hold of the hand of Jesus. I couldn't help but wonder if she had waited until I was gone, not wanting to cause me pain. I was happy that her suffering had come to an end, but I made my way into the shower, and I cried like a baby. I had not only lost my grandmother that day, but one of my best friends.
This February 18th she will have been gone for 21 years, and I miss her still today. But I know that one day, as I prepare to draw my final breath, Mae will be there waiting to greet me, along with all of the other loved ones that I miss... Pap Sifers, Grandma Re, Pap Cullison, Aunt Wanda and so many more... and they will be in the company of my Savior, who I long to see.
Happy Birthday Mae... I love you!