Tag Archives: grandparents

aging

I heard an NPR episode the other day about aging adults in America – those over 65.  The episode explored what happens when their children or grandchildren realize they cannot live by themselves anymore.  The story was very apropos – my paternal grandparents are in this exact situation.  We (my mother, really) finally got them to accept the fact that they could not live by themselves anymore without full time help.  They said they were ready to move to an assisted living situation.

This is a pretty huge decision and it has been a few years getting to this point.  I encouraged them to move into a senior living community 2 or 3 years ago.  At the time, they were interested and toured a few places near me.  However,  they would not let me join them on the tours or allow me to talk to the marketing person at the communities.  They wouldn’t let me drive them, though they did not know the area well and were not used to the type of traffic or highways/bypasses around here.  The trip was a disaster.  My grandfather (who should not have been driving) got into an accident, luckily a very minor one.  They were unnerved and upset, and as a result hated everything that had to do with the trip, including the senior living community.  I felt guilty and sad.  Why couldn’t I help them?  Why wouldn’t they let me?  If my father was alive, he would have driven them around.  I’m the only relative that lives near them (still 1.5 hours away) and I was willing to help – to do what my dad would have done.  William offered good advice at that time, just let them do what they want to do – it is their life, their home, their choices.

But, my mother realized this month, after some hospitalizations, that they should not live on their own – and they agreed.  They’ve asked me to took at a few places nearby again.  I hope I can find what they are looking for – a place they will enjoy and be comfortable in for the last years of their life.  I feel better about being able to help.

Then, all the thinking about those last-years-of-your-life decisions, made me think about death.  We are all in a beautiful, sometimes tragic, dance toward death.  But, we rarely talk about it.  We do not make it part of our daily living, because it is sad and scary.  I read a great article about death by Caitlin Doughty (I cannot find the article on-line, though, but it was terrific).  She challenges us to look at death differently, and I really identified with that – to acknowledge death and meet it with grace and dignity.  Maybe because I was acquainted with death at a young age, I don’t mind talking about it as much as some.   William does not like talking about death, but I always felt we needed to, if just to know what the other wanted at their funeral or what to do with their remains.  We don’t know when or how we will die, but to be prepared mentally, spiritually, and practically, is a good thing.  We should try to make it easier on those left to grieve.  We should try to know what our spouse or our parents (or grandparents) want in or after death.  But, it is so hard – those conversations can be too difficult.

William and I took years to make a will, even though we knew we really needed to have one.  But, discussing and answering those questions, like what happens to our children or our home, was hard and we didn’t even want to consider the possibility.  We finally did it, though (and made a living will).  Even when we are thinking and talking about it, death is still scary and sad.  My hope and faith helps and the knowledge that the world continues on, that we are all part of the cycle, is awe-inspiring.

Whew, that was a serious post!  I’ll lighten up with some fun and beautiful things very soon!

Mom-mom and Dado: Dado

I am continuing the theme of family this Sunday (late as it is) and I am going to start with my maternal grandparents (and specifically, my grandfather).

These were the grandparents I grew up with. They lived close to us and we visited with them often, went to church together, spent holidays together—all in our small town. They usually kept us after school, and during the summer at their beach cottage, when my mother worked.

My grandfather’s name was Hythe Addison Reid. He was named after both his grandfathers, but the grandfather whose name was not picked as the first moniker gave him the nickname “Pete” which stuck with him all his life. He grew up within walking distance of that grandfather and a short wagon ride from his other grandfather, on a farm in Nixonton (near Elizabeth City), NC. Everyone in his family lived on a farm, and all his ancestors had been farming in the area since the late 1600s.

Dado, as we called him, was a little larger-than-life. He was opinionated and stubborn, kind and fun and he loved a good debate (as long as he won!). He always had a story to tell—of his golf game, of friends from long ago or of those he saw yesterday, of his family. He was a farmer and a philosopher (actually, I don’t think you can be a farmer without being a bit of a philosopher), and he had some radical ideas. He inspired my interest in agriculture, honed my love of the beach, and shaped my liberal political leanings.

These “family moments”, for me, are becoming a time for me to reflect and appreciate the influence my family has had on me.

Thanks!

Dado
Dado at the farm (by the grain bins)

Bake on Tuesday: Angel Biscuits

image

For the first week of re-creating my great grandmother’s (Nana’s) recipes, I was looking for something fairly quick and easy to make for supper and my eyes fell on Angel Biscuits. I’ve always wanted to try to make Angel Biscuits because they sounded light and delicious (they have angel in the name!) and were not complicated to make. Also, they are one of those foods you can mix together now but cook later which is always helpful in our household of busy, hungry children. It is a basic biscuit recipe with a little less instant leavening and with the addition of yeast. Since you don’t cut and cook them right away, they take on a little different texture and flavor than regular biscuits.

You can mix these up before going to bed and roll out and cook them the next morning, or do as I did and mix in the morning after breakfast, cook at night for supper. This recipe also makes a large number of biscuits–also great for our household–so we had biscuits for breakfast the next day as well. You can bake some or all of the biscuits at one time. You can have fresh biscuits for a few days if you just take out a little dough each day to roll, cut, and bake.

These biscuits were light (though not flakey) and delicious and had a slight yeast-y flavor which I loved.

You will like them too!

Mix dry ingredients

biscuit dough

roll and cut

bake

eat

I am putting these recipes in as Nana had written them, but I have my own notes in brackets

Angel Biscuits

5 cups flour
¾ cup vegetable shortening [I used butter and lard, but all butter would be great too]
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3 tsp. B. Powder
3 TBlspn. sugar
1 cake yeast dissolved in ½ cup water [I used a little less than 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast]
2 cups buttermilk, warm [Barely heat the buttermilk or it will curdle. I forgot about it on the stove and ended up with cheese. The second time, I warmed it up for a very short time.]

Sift dry ingredients together, cut in shortening, add warm buttermilk and yeast mixture. Stir until all flour is moistened. Cover bowl, put in refrigerator until ready to use. Take out as needed. Bake 450 deg.

Sundays and grandparents

Sunday in the South was a time for family when I was growing up. It was the day we went to church, sat in the pew with my grandparents, and ate Sunday dinner (which is the mid-day meal) afterwards. Sunday dinner was always a bigger affair than “lunch”. My mother or grandmother would start cooking first thing in the morning—preparing a roast or chicken, peeling and cutting potatoes, snapping beans. Usually the roast would cook while we were at church and the rest would wait until we came home. Sometimes it would be our little family, other times it would include aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes we would have company over. Often it was a slow day, a time with family and friends to eat, talk, work, play, and be silent together.

The tradition eroded over time and as we grew up. There were more out-of-home activities and busier schedules. But I still think of Sunday as family day. A day to reconnect before starting a busy week of school and work. These days I don’t usually cook a big dinner, but we spend Sundays at church, then playing and working together in the afternoon. And, often the afternoon includes visits to or from family or friends.

I am going to try to write about my grandparents (and sometimes other family) here on Sundays. A way to remember family and reconnect. There are important connections, and I want to honor them.

So, an introduction to my grandparents and their role in my life . . . .

Since my father was not around much when I was very young, my grandparents stepped up their support of my mom and their role in my brother’s and my life. My maternal grandparents (Mom-mom and Dado), who lived in our same town, often took care of us after school. They also kept us for many weeks during the summer—often at their beach cottage in Kitty Hawk. My grandfather’s mother, Grammy, lived a few houses down from us and also took care of me a lot. I stayed with her many days when I did not have preschool.

Dado and Mommom
Dado and Mommom at their 60th wedding anniversary party

My paternal grandparents (BJ and Granddaddy) came to visit often when we were very small and then had us come stay with them for a few weeks in the summer and winter each year. They provided a place of fun and respite in the mountains of NC and we loved our visits with them so much.

BJ and Granddaddy
BJ, me, Granddaddy at the Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain (when I was in high school).

I admired my grandparents and, now especially, I appreciate what they did for us. They helped fill in a hole in our lives. I learned my initial sewing, cooking, and canning lessons from them. I learned family history, appreciation of the land and what it can provide, conservative and liberal politics, and unconditional love.

This blog was started to remember and explore the legacy they, and other family, left within me, and to honor who they are and were.

Thanks.

Baking Tuesday (and new series)

I’ve always liked that old adage, Ma Ingles said in Little House in the Big Woods:
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”

I wish I could follow a schedule like that—maybe my house would be cleaner and more organized. But, a career and extracurriculars limit what I can do. Plus, I have a natural inclination toward household chaos. I am not an instinctively good housekeeper.

But, Tuesdays have become my baking day. Tuesday is the one day of the week I am home all day focusing on little 3 children in my home and getting some house work done. I (usually) have time to bake! We go through a lot of bread in our house. I don’t like grocery store bread, and Asheville is rich with great bakeries, but at the rate we go through bread, it gets far too expensive to buy.

bread

I try to make a 4-loaf batch of bread—3 regular loaves and one with I shape into buns, rolls, or cinnamon swirl bread. I sometimes also make tortillas or granola—some standard foods our family eats a lot of.

making swirl bread

My grandmother baked bread at least once a week when I was growing up. She made a sweet sourdough bread that my grandfather loved. She brought the starter from Oregon, from her family, and kept it going for something like 40 years. I remember her bread—sweet, white, soft, with a slight sourness to it. It was such a special treat to have warm fresh slice shortly after the bread came out of the oven. I tried to make bread for a few years with her starter when I was in college, but I was not a regular-enough baker to keep it alive.

rising bread

My grandmother, and her mother, and her grandmothers, were excellent bakers. Their recipes have been handed down for generations, and a few years ago I transcribed all my great-grandmother’s recipes. I am going to try a series here on this blog, baking each Tuesday from one of the recipes. I will post pictures and the recipe. It should be fun. I have always wanted to try them all, and this will give me a goal.

I feel good about Baking Day. I am accomplishing something domestic and making healthy food for my family—a good feeling indeed.

bread ready for oven

I’ll start the great-grandmother recipe series next week. This week, the bread recipe I use:

Large batch of Bread (adapted from Ken Haedrich’s Country Baking)

1 ½ quarts warm water
1 ½ cup old-fashioned oats (but I used millet or oat bran or other whole grains for part of all of this. I think you could use leftover oatmeal, cooked brown rice, etc.)
1/3 cup honey
1 ½ T yeast (or 2 packets).
Mix all this together and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Add 6-7 cups whole wheat flour and stir vigorously for 1 minute.

Cover and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Stir in 1/3 cup oil or melted butter and 2 T of salt

Then, stir in a cup or 2 of whole wheat flour. Keep stirring in flour till you can’t anymore, and turn out on counter and knead—adding more flour as needed. I start using white bread flour (unbleached) at this point, but you can use whole wheat. In total add about 11 cups of flour. I like King Arthur. Knead for 10 minutes, if you can last that long!

Shape into a large ball and put into the bowl you turned it out of. Most bread making recipes say to oil the bowl first, but I just sprinkle flour into the bowl that it came out of. No problems with sticking and no extra bowls or oily hands to clean.

Let rise for about 1 hour. Shape into loaves or buns/rolls, put into oiled pans/trays. Let rise for about 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees till done (about 30-45 minutes depending on size of bread and shape of pan). Bread is done when browned a little and it sounds hollow when taken out the pan and tapped on the bottom. I usually bake them in 2 batches because of limited room in the oven and that seems fine.

Those who came before

Today (MLKJ Day), I have been thinking about those who came before us and paved the way for the freedoms and rights that Americans, particularly African-Americans, have today. I have been thinking, in especially, about those who saw injustice and spoke out and worked against it–who changed this country for the better during the Civil Rights Movement. They made physical change happen (reduced violence against African Americans, integrated schools, buses, workplace, voting, etc.), but they also changed the soul of America for the better.

My (maternal) grandfather influenced my beliefs and values, especially regarding social and environmental issues. He was quite liberal  (for a white man in the rural South) and despite conventional wisdom, he got more liberal as he got older. He was on the county Board of Education when Brown v. Board went through (in 1954) and he immediately campaigned for integrated schools in the county. This was met with a lot of resistance–there was even a cross burned in his yard. But, he stuck with his ideals. He told me later that not only did he think the county Board should have obeyed the highest court in the country, but that it was “just the right thing to do”. However, the high school in our county did not fully integrate until 1970. I think because he could not make the change he wanted, and he was farming full time, he did not run for Board of Education again (maybe he also knew he would not get re-elected!), but he continued to speak out against unjust political policies.

So, here’s to those to came before, who spoke out in the cities of the South and endured violence, and who were heard on the national stage and changed the country . . . and to those in small towns across the country who made a stand and were not heard, but who still influenced, for the better, those who came after.

Dado
My grandfather, Hythe ‘Pete’ Reid, at his farm (2000).