Yesterday Helen Cramer turned 95. I picked Sharah up from the barn, where she'd been riding, and we met my folks and went to my grandmother's house. She was visiting with RW Williams, the family chaplain, I guess you could call him. When other ministers and pastors have dropped out of the family, or family members dropped out of churches, RW has hung in there with the Cramer family, performing ministerial duties because, well, I guess he either likes our family or feels like it's his ministry. Perhaps both.He's a nice guy and my dad likes him. He was just leaving after a birthday prayer with her.
We sat at the table in the kitchen at my grandmother's house. She was at the head of the table; tablet, mail, pens, pictures and the little brass calendar which was Aunt Edith's within reach (she often mentions that Aunt Edith always had the calendar set perfectly and never missed turning the little dials on time...a contrast she wants noted to my grandmother's focus on more warm, domestic and practical matters). Grandma explained that her beautiful new housedress was ordered on the internet by Carol. You can't find them in stores anymore... and it has a pocket; she likes to have a 'pockey'. She immediately extracted a tissue from it.
Grandma showed us her birthday cards and flower arrangement she had received from well-wishers - family, friends, various nieces, cousins and community members. We gave her our cards and I set out the cake I brought. It has special maple syrup frosting (combine 1 cup maple syrup, 2 egg whites, 1/8 t. salt, 1/8 t. cream of tartar, beat in a double boiler- over simmering water- until it soft peaks.) because I will ever think of my grandparents when I eat pancakes or anything resembling maple syrup, maple sugar, or see a maple tree. She dragged her finger across the side of the cake to taste the frosting. I love her for that!
We sang "Happy Birthday" and she blew out the five candles... good thing there weren't the other 90 on it, she said. I wish I knew what her wish was.
While we ate cake, Grandma told us stories about milking cows, driving a cutter and mentioned she didn't think it had ever been 65 degrees before on her birthday. There were peanuts and cashews, as usual, on the table. Dad and I munched on them. The stories were recorded on a little tape recorder. I would like to hear her sing "sweet Melinda" once more, but it's not necessary... it is ever etched in my mind. (She used to sing and dance a little jig as her father played the fiddle... "Sweet sweet Melinda, peekin' in the winda', Sweet sweet Melinda how I love to see her there..."
Dad washed the dishes in the sink. Sharah knelt down and asked her Great-grandma for her canned beet recipe. We took a few more pictures (I know she doesn't like her picture taken, but she is so gracious and thinks of us only and posterity, I suppose). She had several phone calls while we were there... Marie, Steve, Janet... and she told us many others had called including Stephanie... on her way back to Germany, and Sadie, from England.
Sharah and I talked about her next birthday... but if there isn't one, I know my Grandma is ready to go... she said it has been a good trip. She talked about my grandfather, who's been gone over 15 years... One time, they were bantering back and forth, and she said, "I'm not a-goin' anywhere! I'm a-stayin'!"
The hug she gave me when we left was strong, firm and I love you's whispered in each other's ears. I can't ask for any more than that. Happy Birthday, Grandma.