Monday, December 31, 2007

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

Olive Grilley Fordham 1913-2005
My Gramma passed away two years ago this past fall, but she is with me always. I strive to emulate her country-bred humor, grace and dignity.

"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..." We used to sing this on trips to Gramma's, although it was more like "over the highway and through the (trailer) park" to her house. Cookies and tea awaited us, and when I was older, quiet time and family reminiscing on stopovers on my way to somewhere new.

Olive loved her filly Beauty, and living on a lake in northern Minnesota where her family ran a fishing and hunting resort in the 1920's. I think she went there often in her imagination. She was a wonderful cookie-maker, had a positively beatific smile, and liked her nip of gin or brandy.

Grandpa Fordy and Olive clowning around
She did not say love honor and obey in her wedding vows, firmly omitting that last ridiculous word, with a girlish laugh. Although she was unhappy in her marriage, she had two baby girls, my aunt and mother, and poured out her great love and loyalty to them, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout her long life.

Olive began working as a secretary in her teens, when she was just out of high school, and ended up working for NASA for over a decade in what is now the Silicon Valley, CA. She won awards for her work on the Apollo space missions.

at the ball park...
In her tiny apartment in her last years, she "gave in to the chair", as an older friend of mine says, dreaming the remnants of her life away. I would wake her up on my visits, taking her wild strawberries, and lavender from our garden.

As I tucked her into bed she'd say "Nice girl" and more forcefully, blue eyes shining brightly, "I love you!"

Olive's final resting place, in Big Sur.

"Let me live in a house by the side of the road, where the race of man go by. The men who are good and the men who are bad, as good or as bad as I. I would not sit in a scorner's seat, or hurl a cynic's ban. Let me live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend of man."

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