Saturday, August 1, 2015

Adult Reflections of Life with Grandma Katie

I only knew one of my grandparents, Grandma Katie, my mom's mother. 

Her husband was Jacob B. Hofer. Yes, my mom was a Hofer before she married my dad—and they were not related. And those middle initials were just that, initials. Usually given for a parent's name. 

Grandma Katie, Aunt Bina, Grandpa Jacob
Grandma Katie lived with us when I was in lower elementary school. We did not get along one bit. She was an old lady who had a rough life and mainly spoke German in the Hutterisch dialect. 

She'd race me to the one bathroom in the house and get mad when I beat her to it, slurp her food, and leave pee droplets on the toilet that she rarely flushed.

And me? I was a cantankerous snot.

Dad enjoys telling the story of me throwing a fit one time at the dinner table. I got down on the floor, laid on my back, shook my fists and legs in the air and screamed. Grandma Katie said to him, "Hit her on the ass."

Dad said he thought he heard her wrong, so he asked her what she said and she repeated it. Then he scolded her, "Grandma, we don't use such language in this house." 

He said that Grandma shrugged her shoulders and put her hands up and innocently replied, "Doesn't seem so bad to me. She got a ass."

Bad grammar and all. That's how she responded.

Katie & Jacob, my mom's parents
And it was true. We didn't use language like that, and I did I need a good spanking.

Maybe that's why I irritated Grandma Katie so much. She thought I needed more discipline. But my parents did believe in spanking (one time I threw Dad's watch and boy did I get it).

I do have a couple of fond memories of Grandma Katie though. She would share her dried fruit with me that she got on birthdays and at Christmas.

I guess that's the reason I eat like a little old lady, for I enjoy tasty prunes, dates, and dried apricots, dried cherries, and the like.

One time I was home alone with Grandma in the evening. I watched her count her money in her coin purse. She would often go in her room in the middle of the day and close the door. Mom said she was counting her money. 

Then she told me a tornado story. She claimed they had to shut a rooftop door, certainly not a sky light window but something like that, and they saw the twister up in the sky.

I don't remember enough of the details to say she was fictionalizing this for my young ears or if it really happened.

That is the fondest memory I have of my Grandma Katie. In fact, it's the only conversation I remember having with her. 

Grandma Katie laughing with Mom
When I shared that with my students this school year, one of the boys said, "I feel sorry for you." I assured him that I had three aunts that spoiled me to make up for not having a grandma who made me chocolate chip cookies.

Maybe that's why being an aunt has always been a big deal to me.

I never saw Grandma Katie in a pair of pants; she always wore dresses. Always covered her head with a scarf when in church. And she wore bloomers. Real bloomers. 

She had her quirks too. The night before a trip to town, she'd set out her coat with her purse all ready to go. My mom was similar, a planner. I can't say that I am not like that. Young eyes are impressionable.

She enjoyed sitting outside with a flyswatter and killing any bugger that got close enough.

She'd yell at the television when her soap opera characters were stupid. She'd say, "He'll get his." Can't say that I don't do the same thing. I do talk to the TV whether it's the characters, politicians, or basketball players. Young ears are impressionable.

Grandma Katie's maiden name was Kleinsasser, and she was her husband's second wife. Jacob B. Hofer had been married before, to Katie's sister, but she'd died.

Grandpa passed away when my mom was nearly 15-years-old. Grandma had an auction and sold all they owned. And when she paid all their debts, all she had left was $40.

Forty Dollars.

Forty Dollars to your name. In 1940.

Probably why she always counted the money in that coin purse of hers. That'd be only $670 in 2015 according to That would barely pay one month's rent in some places today.

Aunt Bina, Aunt Grace, & my mom Stella with their mother
So Katie moved from the country into Doland with daughters Bina and Stella, my mom. Read more about my mom here.

Aunt Grace, her other daughter, was already married. Aunt Bina worked at the Red Owl grocery story, and while in high school, my mom worked at the cafe.

Grandma Katie picked turkey and geese for Walt Hofer of Doland who owned a produce company. She didn't have a car, so people would have to take her to work. She also painted and shocked bundles.

Dad said people in those days would take a jug of water and sew a gunnysack tightly around it to insulate it. After one shock was bundled, they'd set the jug inside to keep it out of the sun. After a hard day of work, Grandma told Dad she would say, "My feet didn't carry me home. I had to drag 'em home." 

Later, after Aunt Bina married Jean Board, Grandma lived with them for many years. In her later years, Mom agreed to take her in, for Aunt Grace had taken care of her mother-in-law, so my mom only thought it was fair to take her turn looking after an aging parent.

Dad's office moved to an upstairs room and my parents made a bedroom for Grandma downstairs. She had her privacy on the west side of the house. Thus began the days of me annoying Grandma, for I remember her often saying in plain English, "Quit looking at me" when my little eyes would stare at the old woman in front of me.

Grandma Katie with five of her great-grandkids:
Jessica, Evelynn, Michael, Colleen & Suzanne
The Huron Nursing Home was her residence for her last ten years or so. Mom visited her mother each Saturday when we went in for piano lessons. She'd take her sugarless candy, for she had diabetes, and dried fruit. Sometimes Grandma would get a second visit that week if we'd be in town on Sunday after church.

When I see pictures of Grandma Katie and a picture of me where I'm pretty intense and not smiling, I look just like her. I inherited her long face and her pouty, down-turned lips.

She lived to a ripe age of 92 and died the spring of my senior year in 1984. She would have been 124-years-old this July 29, 2015. Oh, how the world has changed since her passing 31 years ago, let alone her birth in 1891.

I'm sure she'd say I still need a good swattin' because I do a pretty good job of carrying her disposition sometimes, and when that happens, I'm known to say, "I'm grumpy."

I'm thankful I got to watch my mother faithfully take care of her mother in those later years. What an example of love that was, for I never heard Mom complain or send an angry word her way. Never.

Have you ever had a cantankerous relative to deal with? Or maybe it was you? Any fond memories of old people you barely remember?


  1. I loved this Melodie! I wonder about your grandpa marrying Katie ... after her sister died. Was he given the choice? Or did they fall in love? He was handsome, wasn't he?! I wonder if they got along. :) And yes, I've had to deal with a cantankerous person ... it seems a horrid burden at times, but you just brought a little light to my situation. :)

    1. I'm glad my experience could help you reflect on yours, Shelli. About why Jacob married his deceased wife's sister? I don't know. I sure wish I would have asked Mom these questions about her parents! Maybe they flipped the verse around about a man marrying a widow when Katie married her sister's husband, the widower.

  2. Hi Melodie. I so enjoyed your story about your Grandma Katie. I was blessed to have a wonderful, young at heart maternal grandmother, but my paternal grandmother, who lived with us for a while, was more the "old lady" grandma.

    She was extremely religious, and i can still remember her reading her Bible in her room and spouting scripture to all of us when we committed what she considered to be some infraction of the Christian life. I always got along with her well, but she and my mom often crossed swords.

    I remember I would go visit her in her room and she was very thin with almost see-through skin. She would show me an area on her wrist where the veins formed what appeared to be a letter "H." She would trace it out and say, "Maybe that stands for heaven." I never had the nerve to tell her the other place also starts with an "H!"

    Thank you for bringing back so many memories with your post. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    1. Oh Patti, that 'H" business made me laugh! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Grandma Katie had paper thin skin too. Just typing that reminded me of more of her physical traits. She shuffled her feet, and once she got to walking, you better get out of her way, or she'd run you over! I'm glad I found a reader who could relate to such a unique relationship with a grandmother. Thank you for commenting.