by Amy WallaceCircle of Life
Growing up, I had fun with my Graber cousins because we were near the same age. Life has taken us down various paths and to different states, so we don't get together as often anymore. But recently we were together and shared stories and remembered.
|1977: Cousins Clark & Wendy, me, & their brother Chad|
Our Grandpa Phil was known for his quiet demeanor, outstanding singing voice, and Juicy Fruit in his pocket.
His musical talents served him well throughout his life. In 1942 he joined the Army Air Force.
Part of this time was spent in Special Forces Entertainment. Phil’s love of music and natural singing abilities were to put use entertaining troops.
Bing Crosby had come to entertain the troops and somehow Grandpa Phil got called up on stage to sing with him.
Throughout his life Grandpa sang in barbershop quartets entertaining audiences and providing music for special occasions.
Phil passed this love and talent for music onto his children and grandchildren. The Juicy Fruit tradition was passed down from his Dad, Ben B, who also always had the treat on hand and passed it out sparingly.
|Grandpa Phil holds my brother Jake ~ around 1981.|
Grandpa Phil was frugal. But I still remember clearly the time he got a new red International combine that had a cab with air conditioning.
His allergies and asthma forced him to do it, but I sure enjoyed riding with him after that.
Raised with a strong faith, Grandpa didn’t believe in working on Sundays. Even during harvest time he observed the Sabbath as a day of rest.
Grandma Lola was an amazing cook. My cousin Wendy reminded me that it didn’t matter what time you showed up at Grandma’s, she could suddenly whip up a multi-course meal. And she only went to the grocery store once a week. We had multiple courses and dessert. In fact, I can hardly remember a time I was at her house that she wasn’t in the kitchen.
When it came to eating, Grandma rarely sat at the table. She sat off to the side, so she could get up and tend to everyone else’s needs. She always had extra mouths to feed around her table from farmhands to family members.
I never remember Grandma wearing pants—always a dress—until she was in her 80s. A favorite chore at Grandma's was collecting the eggs. It was exciting to venture into the hen house and see how many I could find.
Grandma believed Vicks VapoRub could cure anything. I was at her house one time and had an upset stomach. She slathered me up with Vicks. I don’t remember if it helped or not.
Grandma was famous for her cherry pie. Once a married adult, my dad encouraged me to have her teach me this art. Although I was reluctant at the time, I cherish this memory. As we were making the pie, I furiously tried to match her “little bits" with an actual measure. She didn’t need a recipe. The recipe card from that day is now stained with cherry juice from my multiple attempts to perfect her masterpiece.
|Cousin Chad sits the chair with my brother Jake behind him.|
Cousin Clark stands nearby. Seated are my cousins Karen and her
sister Wendy. I'm in the red T-shirt.
Holidays at the Grandma and Grandpa's were a treat. We sat around one huge table. My cousin Wendy and I shared the piano bench at the end.
We cousins had contests to see who could make the tallest mountain of mashed potatoes, and then we added gravy and corn. That combination must be the most delicious creation on earth!
Cousin Chad swears that Grandma’s cinnamon apples were the best.
One time all of us older kids were teasing the youngest cousin, Karen. Her brother Chad exclaimed, “Karen! That’s like your seventh piece of chocolate cake!”
She replied, “No, it isn’t. It’s my sixth!”
I remember real candy canes being hung like ornaments on her tree. And on her piano, she hung a stocking for all the grandkids. We could count on finding a notepad and a snow globe inside the stocking each year.
As we got older, our adventures during holiday visits took us outside. We all remembered heading to a pond near the house one time. It was about half frozen with some sort of beaver bobbing its head above water. We'd all gotten cameras for Christmas, so we all snapped about 40 shots each of this animal. As the film was developed (at a great expense), we all got in trouble for wasting so much film.
That same day, we were playing “Tarzan” on some branches. Cousin Clark speculated on how cold the water would be if anyone fell. Well, Wendy was the lucky one as the branch broke and she got soaked.
|I hang out with Wendy at our grandparents' in the late 80s.|
A rite of passage in the family was to play Pitch. As soon as you were old enough to learn, you played cards. And it wasn’t just casual playing—these games were were highly competitive and serious!
In the spring of 1991, Cousin Wendy and I sang “Grandpa” by the Judds at the annual talent show at the high school. The recording of that song played at his funeral in 1997. All of the grandkids have musical talent, something inherited from Grandpa Phil and our ads.
As we got older we would have concerts—oldest Chad on the piano with the rest of us singing. I imagine a highlight of Grandma and Grandpa’s life was in April of 1995. All the singers in the family (including the grandkids) worked up a couple of Grandpa’s favorite songs and sang them in church. We sang “Inside the Gate” and “Hide Me Rock of Ages.”
In January of 1997, during one of the coldest winters on record, Grandpa Phil passed away from a heart attack.
That spring an auction was held and Grandma moved off the farm and into Kingman. The last photo I have of all of us cousins was taken that day on the farm. See below. Tragically in May of 1998, Cousin Clark was killed in a car accident.
|Left to right: my brother Jake, Cousins Chad, Karen, Wendy, me. Behind me, Cousin Clark; beside me, husband Sean.|
We continued to sing as a family a few times for Grandma’s birthday and other occasions. She loved that.
When we got together for family meals at Christmas, in addition to a prayer before the meal, she'd request that we sing “Silent Night.” We sang it a cappella with parts—the only way to make real music.
As the Circle of Life goes, in 1998 she was able to experience great-grandparenthood. Before her passing in 2008, there were five great grandchildren born. As of this writing, there are seven. See below, the four generation picture from 1998.
|I hold daughter Macy beside Grandma Lola and Jim, my dad.|
Macy and I were able to sing together a couple of times for Grandma before she passed away. She left this life knowing that the passion and talent for music would carry on.
Remembering the lyrics to the song we sang as a family that was near and dear to Grandma and Grandpa's heart, my cousins and I find peace in knowing that those who've gone before us are celebrating together "Just Inside the Gate." Click here to hear our family sing that song.
What triggers memories of your loved ones that have passed on? Are there any special talents or traditions your grandparents passed on to you?
This is Amy's third Circle of Life segment
for the blog. To learn more about this
professional woman, wife, mother of three, and the
1995 Miss Kansas Runner-Up, read her