Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 6, 2013

I think Grandma is Super Woman

By Lindsey Ziliak
Kokomo Tribune

---- — So I think Grandma is Super Woman.

My grandmother survived the Great Depression, raised 11 kids (nine of them boys) and helped manage the family farm after my grandfather died.

Over the years, she has collected some incredible stories – outrageous ones, beautiful ones and tragic ones.

She used to share these stories with me as we wandered to the front of church after Mass to light a candle or as she worked in her flower garden and chicken coop.

But as time passed, the details of those stories slipped away from me.

Fear not, though. My grandma has another super power. She writes.

She has spent decades sharing her life in poems and essays. Finally, a few years ago she decided to compile them all in a book. She gave copies to all of her children.

I had my mom bring our family’s copy to Kokomo when she came to visit for Thanksgiving. I needed to read the stories again, especially the one about how my grandparents met.

It was even better than I remembered. It involved a bike wreck, a dirt road, a bet and a case of beer.

My grandmother penned “Old Dirt Road” in 1993.

“I rode down the old dirt road one day, trying to think just what I’d say,” she wrote. “My thoughts were on a boy I met, if he’d remember me, or would he forget? A horn shrieked loud, and I fell down. My bike just tumbled to the ground. As I turned, there he stood. ‘Go out with me,’ he asked if I would.”

Of course she accepted his date. She always wondered, though, why he had asked her out when she was lying in the middle of that dirt road. She wouldn’t find out until later.

“My life had begun down that old dirt road,” she wrote. “I fell off my bike and looked like a toad. It didn’t matter for he made this bet, ‘a date with her is what he’d get.’ A case of beer – it was the deal. He didn’t even notice that I took that spill. Never was I to learn this until too late, just why this guy wanted this date. Love is what I think it’s called yet, what took over because of that bet. He’s never figured out whether he’s lost or won. Gambling, he never was very good on.”

That remains my favorite Grandma story, but as I flipped through her book, others caught my eye, too.

One was a poem called “This Old House.”

The poem is about the 1910 farm house that my grandpa grew up in and my grandma and grandpa moved into after marrying. It’s where my dad grew up. It’s also where I grew up.

It was made out of wood, trees cut from the farm. It cost $850 for the six-room house. No luxuries were included – no water, not even a piece of furniture.

It wasn’t fancy, but over the years, it became a place where memories were made. That made it irreplaceable.

“The transom was used for a basketball goal,” my grandma wrote. “The window got broke. They missed the hole. Teeth got broken from those that would tease, from doors slammed open, you forgot to say please. The marks on the walls where crayons made their way, by little ones too small to obey. Paint and papering have covered the many kicks and scuffs, but if these walls could talk they would tell you more stuff.”

They might tell you about the operation that took place on the kitchen table to remove an appendix or about the milk cans my grandpa clanged to wake the boys up for milking.

I could go on and on with these stories, but, alas, there is no more room. Still, I wanted to share these snippets from my grandma’s collection.

These stories are a reminder of where I got my knack for writing.

So if you find yourself enjoying the stories I write, say a little thank you to Mary Ellen — or as I like to call her, Super Woman.

-Lindsey Ziliak

[friday editor] / granddaughter of Super Woman