Monday, January 7, 2008

The End of an Era

Grandma Ruth passed way on December 11th, 2007, at the ripe old age of 95. And with her comes the end of an era for the Flynn family.

I realize that you readers must be thinking by now, "Good God. How many more posts about death can we take?" Well, I can assure you two things. First, I am wondering the same thing. And second, I promise to keep this one light.

In fact, it is pretty hard to be all glum and gloomy while reflecting on my Grandma's impact on our lives and Irish Grove.

Born Ruth Doty, she came from a relatively prominent family in Pecatonica, and was the youngest of 6 children. We didn't hear tons of stories about her life as a child, but she did talk about riding to school in a horse-drawn carriage, and about the different chores they had to do during the Great Depression.

When Grandma married Grandpa Lowell, she became part of Irish Grove history. But she didn't see the value in looking back much, and would only reluctantly throw us a few nuggets about life on the farm. Things like how the Spelman's would come over to play cards, and the kids would run wild, blissfully unattended. Or how she hated it when the kids rough-housed. She'd tell me about her large garden South of the house that she loved to dig around in, and would suggest I move my garden there immediately. "It has the best soil of the farm." She was right, by the way, and that was precisely the reason my Dad didn't let me put my garden there. And she'd talk about her flock of laying hens and how she sold the eggs, just like we do.

On second thought, she did enjoy telling us how tight Grandpa was with his money...so tight, in fact, that Grandma would hide her egg money from him and use it to secretly buy things she needed or wanted. She also enjoyed rolling her eyes at Grandpa's "hair-brained ideas" that were going to make he and his brother Donald "a million bucks". Ideas like planting a Christmas tree farm across the road from the house, or building the machine shed that was going to be used to store grain for the government.

When I asked her if they'd made any money, she'd quickly say "Lord no!!" in her gravely voice, and she'd raised her eyebrows and wave her hand at you. She had a certain "stick-it-to-ya" attitude that I always admired, one that has successfully been passed down the generational line. In fact, Grandma's crusty attitude might be her most enduring legacy. (Remember what I said about crusty farmers and getting a kick in the pants?) A Flynn family get together can often turn into a competition to see who's best at flinging barbs, and the fastest to duck-and-run.

But her sense of humour and crusty attitude were her most colorful characteristics, and ones that served her well throughout her life. You see, Grandpa Lowell decided to check out early, dying from a heart attack at 48 no less, and he left Grandma with 3 kids and a farm to manage. No small feat for anyone, much less for the Doty child who was "spoiled and used to getting her own way", according to her older sister Dorothy (who died three short weeks after Grandma Ruth, at the even riper old age of 103!!).

Grandma persevered, and wisely turned the farm over to the Brown family until Farmer Don retired in the 1990's. She also put her mark on Pecatonica with her many moves and home rehab jobs, earned the respect of the community, gambled in one-cent increments during her weekly penny-poker reunion with friends, and became the center-piece to en ever-growing family of 3 children, 10 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and counting. All of us Flynn's, all of us benefiting from Grandma's strength and love and stick-it-to-ya attitude, all descendants of Irish Grove....Lord help us all.

We will greatly miss her. Grandma, there is no way you could ever be replaced. Now go shake 'em up in heaven. I'm sure there's any number of high-falutin' souls that could use a good kick in the pants.

2 comments:

PamB said...

Jackie,
I love hearing your tales about Grandma Flynn. I knew somewhat of her "crusty" exterior, but also had a glimpse of her real self. You are following in her steps. Oh, not the crusty exterior part, but running the farm the way you do with that great guy of yours. Also, love the darling pictures of the children. Keep up the good work and remember good old Uncle Bill's intentions are good ones. He is just following Gram with his "crusty" exterior. Love, Pam

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

wow-- it is ironic how similar our lives were. isn't family, heritage and tradition wonderful? I feel so connected to you. I hope God's best for you and your family