Monday, March 9, 2015

Remembering Grandma Hirschy

Four generations
Thirty years ago today my grandmother--Esther Sprunger Hirschy, left this earth. She was almost 97 years old.
Cousin Kae Hirschy Kirkwood graciously gave me permission to share her memories of Grandma.

A Lifetime Ago

I remember it was on a Saturday she died, 30 years ago today. I was 25 years old, single then, and working in the Admissions Office at Geneva College. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I still remember...

I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Grandma throughout those 25 years, since we lived so close and went to church together. I was blessed in ways some of the other cousins were not, because they were far away in other countries or states, so it truly was a privilege to live less than a mile from Grandma. It would be an unusual day that I did not see her, at least briefly. (I’m glad to say that my son now has a similar opportunity to visit my parents almost daily, as well.)

So many things we did together! We read aloud to each other all through my life—her to me when I was a little girl, and me to her when she was an old lady. Almost every Friday night for a number of years I would spend the night with her. We read books, books, and more books! The Little Colonel Series, Anne of Green Gables and sequels, books about George Washington Carver and other famous Christians and missionaries… (Books we re-read when I was reading to her many years later!) On those Friday nights she used to make her wonderful popcorn for me and give me ice water: I ate and drank and she told me that I was going to get bloated. I probably did! She also let me sit at her desk and cut things out of the Ideals Magazine and glue them onto paper, and she let me type on her electric typewriter. I would watch her comb out her hair and braid it for the night, and take out her dentures and put them in the cup in her bathroom. Then we would crawl into her double bed and listen to Ed and Wendy King’s “Party Line” program on the radio. We loved to try and figure out “the Party Pretzel” question that was announced at 11:00 p.m. and the answer given just before midnight.

It was a special treat for me as a child when Grandma needed to go over into “the big part” of the house—I loved to see all of those missionary trinkets from foreign lands, and the books that belonged mostly to the deRosset family on the old shelves there. I remember Grandma ironing her sheets in the big kitchen on that side of the house. I loved the neat wooden rocker there, and the walk-through coat closet in the living room. It always smelled like ferns in that room, because of the lovely potted fern that grew so well in the window facing the driveway. I loved to go upstairs to the room that had been my dad’s when he was a boy, and to think about him building his crystal set radio and using it in that room. I thought the claw-foot tub in the upstairs bathroom was so cool! I loved the basement, too, where Grandpa Hirschy’s grinding wheel was still attached to the work bench.
Other things….Grandma let me play dress-up in some of her dresses. We played Chinese Checkers; picked strawberries, sweet peas, and nasturtiums; walked to church together, and to the P.O. and to “the A-P Store” (she never called it the A & P like everyone else did, it was always “the A-P Store”). She taught me how to take sermon notes. She let me pray (on my knees) with her and the other senior citizen ladies (also on their knees) at Wednesday night prayer meeting. She would come to our house on Thursday evenings to watch “The Waltons” with us—I guess she didn’t have a TV at that time. Grandma was a favorite with my dog, Nicki, even though Grandma had a fondness for her own big old cat, Mittens.

We took Grandma on trips to Berne and other places with us—it always made the trips more fun and interesting. We played games in the car, finding things that started with each letter of the alphabet. She knew everyone in Berne, and could show us all around the points of interest.

Her Sunday dinners were so special. I would usually walk home from church with her to help get things on the table before the others arrived. Her apartment always smelled absolutely delicious when we opened that door… She taught me how to make dressing for lettuce salad, and how to wash dishes—the drinking glasses first, pots last.

When I was much older, I used to sometimes stay with Grandma at night because she was not well. I remember vividly sleeping on the couch in her apartment living room and being blasted awake at 6:00 a.m. when Grandma tuned in to “McGee” on the Christian radio station! And hearing her “do her laps around the bed” above me.

I could go on and on with the memories. Suffice it to say that Grandma was very important and special to me, and the loss of her was probably the hardest thing I had experienced up to that point in my life. I have now lived without her in my life longer than I lived with her, and yet I believe her influence impacts me every day, even though I may not realize it.

We’ll never meet again this side of Heaven, as the song says, but I am so glad to know that I will meet her on that beautiful shore….
March 9, 2015

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
~George Matheson

In loving memory of Esther “Grandma” Hirschy
July 7, 1888 – March 9, 1985

Thank you for sharing, Kae! That was beautiful!
You're right, you were very privileged to live close to Grandma. And we are all so blessed by your memories.
We had only been back from the ship less than two years when she passed away. I wonder if our children have memories of her and going to her funeral? By then her offspring and spouses, the whole family, numbered 100, I believe. Her legacy lives on.
Attached--a four-generation photo with Grandma Hirschy from 1973 that came to my attention this week. I am also entering the comments of many who joined the email exchange begun by cousin Kae.


rita said...

Thanks for the beautifully penned memories. She was an incredibly special human being. I especially loved the "human" side of her that enveloped us when Grandpa was a bit harsh on us. For instance, Grandpa insisted we wear skirts on a hayride. She felt, as we did, that pants would be a better choice, so she 'ran gun' for us through the open- ended closet while Grandpa was busy at his desk.

rita said...

Oh, that is too funny! She was the one that some of the teens in the church went to, to ask if it would be ok to put up a Christmas tree in the sanctuary. She was not the pastor’s wife at that point, and had not been for years, but they felt that if she said it was ok, it was ok. Sort of like the matriarch of the church, I guess. She said it was ok, so….the tree went up.

rita said...

I remember her eucalyptus scented hankies, the lovely smell of the kitchen when she cooked and her very human side juxtaposed to Grandpa's strict side. After Sunday night service we would rush home for her 7Up floats with crackers and Brick cheese. She would sometimes scold me but she would laugh with her gruff voice and give me a hug. I loved her very much.

rita said...

Yes, you are right, Carol. I still have a bottle of eucalyptus in my cabinet.

Grandma always had a leaf or two stuck in some water in a salt cellar. She rooted every broken leaf (African violets in particular) that ever was or will be. I do the same thing, though I don't do it on a big scale. She seemed to want to rescue every leaf. Memories. Memories.


rita said...

I have so enjoyed reading Kae’s memories of Grandma Hirschy and wanted to share some of my favorite memories of Grandma as well. When we left to go to Indonesia in 1973, Grandma was already in her 80’s. Although she seemed in good health, 4 years is a long time. I remember weeping in the airplane on the way to Indonesia, wondering if I would ever see Grandma again. When we arrived home on furlough, one of the incredible blessings was to live in the missionary home, right next door to Grandma. It was one of the happiest years of my life. After being so far from home for 4 years, everything about America and my home town seemed wonderful. I was pregnant with Jimmy. Jim had a part time job to help make ends meet and after he left in the morning, I would walk Seth and Shane to Evans City elementary, and then walk home and stop in at Grandma’s. We would have a cup of 8 o’clock coffee together, and chat for a while. Whenever the cousins came to visit Grandma, I got in on the blessings of spending time with them. Seth and Shane loved to visit Grandma after school and she always had a piece of candy for them. The horehound drops were one of our favorites. I remember the day that Jimmy was born, Grandma was weeding her strawberry plants, and I went out to help her and then for good measure, weeded some of the ground cover along the side of the missionary home as well.
Grandma only had one speed and that was fast. My parents usually picked her up to take her down to the church for prayer meeting or Sunday services. If they were just a little tiny bit late getting there, Grandma would be on her way down the hill on her own. My mom especially remembers how Grandma made sweet rolls on Saturday afternoons. I believe she was in her 90’s before she stopped that delightful tradition. She would usually send a pan of sweet rolls out to my parent’s house. Sometimes she would put crushed pineapple in them.
As children, we loved to play Chinese checkers at Grandma’s house. I have the good fortune to have the container of marbles and the Chinese checker board that we all wrote on names on. When Jim and I got married, she was going through the receiving line at the back of the old church and she told Jim to be patient with me because I was very young. Grandma inspired me with the importance of memorizing scripture. I remember her saying when she woke up early in the morning and couldn’t sleep; she would go through all of the Bible verses that she had memorized over the years.
In the years since Grandma has been in heaven, I have gotten to know more about her through reading excerpts from her journals. She was so dedicated to keeping a record of each day’s activities. I have attached one small section from 1974.
I think God for the incredible blessing of having Esther Sprunger Hirschy as my grandma.

rita said...

Thank you for the memories of my adopted grandma. I loved the old house so much. Such an adventure in every inch of it. She taught me how to love ironing - even pressing leaves and flowers. Her blue delft dishes enchanted me. She encouraged me to read my new Bible and rebound the spine 4 years later. It's a treasure. My love for the Word comes from her encouragement. May each of her grands, greats, and great-greats love it, too.
Love, Celia

rita said...

This is a date I could not forget. Jack had planned a trip to California for us and his parents on Amtrak. About two or three months before our departure, which was to be our spring break at Bryan, I told him I had an uneasy feeling about going. He always thinks he needs to listen to my uneasy feelings about things, so he canceled it. We left Dayton for Emporia, just the same. We planned to spend spring break there, which was March 8 -17. We arrived there just in time to get the news of Grandma's death. So, we turned right around an made our way to Indiana for the funeral.

We have wonderful memories of Grandma. She was a wonderful Grandma to all of us.


rita said...

Oh, my. Yes, I lived with Grandma and Grandpa from the time I was 11, and the rules were strict. I could tell you stories, but we really had a wonderful grandmother. She ran interference a number of times for me.


Kimberly Hoyt said...

Beth's mention of Grandma's sweet rolls made my mouth water! Her house smelled so good on baking day! We lived in the missionary home next door for about 7-8 months in 1982/83 and were the grateful recipient of her wonderful sweet rolls each week.

I also remember her careful compilation of the "family letter". Even though her children and grandchilren were scattered all over the world, Grandma kept them connected through those letters. What an amazing woman!

rita said...

Thank you, Beth, for sharing these memories. I remember the candy, her 8 o'clock coffee, the rolls, and so much more. And, yes, her speed was fast. She could not wait for a ride. Off she went to church. These and many more are our sweet memories of a wonderful Grandma.