Readers share best grandparent memories
To see a story on the winner and his essay, click here.
Here are four other essays that were finalists:
New York grandparents
I just turned 80 years old Sept. 17, but I'll always remember my German grandparents. When I was 4 years old, I went to live with them in one of the old brownstone apartment buildings, and I was there till I was about 8 years old. They never owned a car and went everywhere on the bus in New York. My Grama taught me how to iron, and she ironed everything - and I mean everything. My Grampa liked his beer, and he would sing and dance and rub his back on the door when it itched; and Grama had us eating smelly old limburger cheese, which was OK if you could get past the smell. Ha!
My Dad played the piano, and every Friday night was payday; we all had a gathering of love and music and fun. They have been gone for a very long time, but the memories will always be with me. The snow and the Christmas parties and unending love will be forever in my heart. Grandparents are very special people with big hearts and loving arms to hold you when you cry and tickle you to make you laugh when you are sad.
Pancakes for dinner
My grandparents were Don Jose and Lenora Del Prado. It was 1954, when on a family trip to visit relatives in Mathis, Texas that my father was killed when a drunk driver struck the car that he and my uncle were in. My father died at the scene and my uncle survived.
My brothers were 4 and 5, my sisters were 7 and 3 months, and I was 6. It was then that we went to live with my grandparents while a house was being built for us in Runge, Texas. Eventually the house was finished and we moved in and so did my grandmother who by this time was not doing well.
My grandfather would come over during the day and every evening. I would ask him if he was hungry and his answer was always yes.
I would ask what he wanted to eat and his answer was always pancakes. After he ate it was to the living room where he watched his favorite show "Gunsmoke."
He was a kind, loving, soft spoken man who never yelled at us. My grandmother had the same personality as my grandfather except for the fact that she was sick for a lot of years before she died. My mother became her sole provider.
It was rough for mom with five children to raise and a mother who needed as much attention as we did but do it she did.
The shaving routine
I called my grandfather Papa. One of my fondest memories of Papa was his shaving. His daily ritual started out with a shave in front of the bathroom sink and mirror.
As a child I was always fascinated by Papa shaving and would stand by his side on a small stool and watch his every move as he went about his shaving. While he was lathering up he would turn and lather me up too with his course bristled shaving brush. I would ape him as he shaved, scraping the soap from my face with the spine of a comb.
Papa shaved with a straight razor and cup soap that he applied with a brush. Papa would first take out his razor and give the edge a couple of quick passes over a slick Arkansas stone, he would then move the blade up and down on a thick leather strop with amazing speed that would make the strop slap.
Next he whipped his shaving soap up into thick foam with the brush and applied it to his face.
Now, deftly moving the razor over his face in a smooth sequence orchestrated by familiarity he would finish his shave.
After the shave he would dry his face, gaze into the mirror, run his hand over his chin to check for misses and then apply a generous splash of Bay Rum aftershave to his and my face and that's one reason why I loved him.
Rudolph "Papa" Senf - 1885-1972
A visit to my grandparents, Charles and Agnes (Zatopek) Zapalac's farm in the Praha/Moravia area, was always exciting. They had bee hives; if the bees started to swarm, everyone was instructed to run into the kitchen, grab a pot and spoon, and start "banging away." If we were lucky, the "noise" settled the bees down, and they were returned to their hives. In the early '50s, my grandparents still lived a very primitive lifestyle. Grandpa Charles still plowed his fields with a team of mules.
As a 5-year-old, my 7-year-old sister, Juanita, and I had the great opportunity to spend a three-day summer vacation at the farm. After lunch, everyone took a nap.
On day two, my Aunt Lilly came running into the bedroom screaming that the mules had "busted" into the garden.
To this day, I vividly remember my Grandma Agnes jumping up, running into the kitchen and grabbing a shotgun from above the fireplace mantel.
She ran out to the garden. I had never seen such a sight!
She was hollering and screaming at the top of her lungs, kicking and stomping with all of her might, all the while shooting that shot gun up in the air!
Within less than a minute, the team of mules escaped to the pasture, unfortunately, dragging all of the garden fence with them.
No one was happy about having to replace 20 to 30 yards of fence on a hot summer afternoon. But for me, an "Annie Oakley wanna-be," Grandma Agnes Zapalac was my hero.
That scene was better than anything I had ever seen in a Western movie.
Upon returning home, I would daily re-enact that scene. I would run out to the garden with my cork rifle and "go-off" into a hollering, screaming, stomping and kicking fit of rage, all the while shooting my gun in the air.
My Dad was rather amused, but my Mom was horrified. I spoke Czech fluently, as it was the primary language spoken in our home. However, I had obviously learned a few new words - cursing and obscenities. I did not know what they meant, but evidently I had mastered their pronunciation and emphasis. I was told that I could never again get an ice cream cone from the Cozy Caf if I continued the re-enactment and/or used "those words."
Grandparent essays, such as these, should feel warm and fuzzy. I do remember, and have photos of, my grandparents holding me in their arms. I well-remember how rough-skinned their hands felt. Being tenderly touched, by hands chafed from hard work, has given me love and comfort, as well as a direction in life. This is the best memory of my grandparents.
The following essays were also submitted for the contest:
A day at the circus
After more than six decades, the memories feel as though they happened just yesterday. My grandparents, Jasper Lazarin Sr. and Kate Ybarbo Lazarin, lived in McFaddin. My Grandma Kate would make special toast with real butter for me on the “comal” (griddle).
To this day I still like to make toast this way, but minus the butter.
My Grandpa Lazarin worked at the “Store,” the McFaddin Mercantile.
As a pre-schooler I remember, he would often give me a really small paper bag and would allow me to go to the candy counter at the Store and fill the bag with all the candy I wanted. What a treat!
But the special memory I have is the day my Grandpa Lazarin came to Victoria, picked me up early from school to take me to the circus. Imagine – a 6 year old, out of school early, going to the circus with my Grandpa.
These are a few of my heartfelt memories.
Submitted by: Cynthia Lazarin Carbajal, Victoria
I remember a day in June 2008. My husband Phillip had just graduated from college, and his parents threw him a celebratory backyard barbecue at their house. All of his extended family was in attendance, and some of mine too, including my grandma, Momo Berta.
My grandma loves parties and socializing, and she became instant friends with Phillip’s grandma, and the two spent the entire party talking on the couch.
And family was their topic of choice.
I was able to catch a small bit of their conversation. Two women, one almost 80-years-old, and one almost 90-years-old, and I listened to them take turns naming all their children and spouses, all their grandchildren and their significant others, and even all their great-grandchildren.
And I was taken aback for a second, mostly because in all my 20-something years on this planet, Momo had never once called me by the correct name the first time (it usually took her five times, as she would go through her three daughters’ names and my one older cousin), but also because she listed all of her descendants with so much genuine affection and with so much pride. She was beaming in that moment.
That is one of my most cherished memories of my Momo, and her love for her family is one of the many reasons she is so important to me.
Submitted by: Alyssa Gomez
Memories of my grandmother
I was lucky to have a grandmother while I was growing up.
I’m writing about my Daddy’s Mother: Hattie Marie Buckert. She was my “Nanny.”
I have so many memories of her...and of “me and her.” She lived in the country and I enjoyed visiting her in Victoria and having her come visit me in San Antonio. She was the best cook ever. I remember her delicious coffee cake, her sweet-rice, fresh vegetables from her garden and home-made bread.
I would get to help her gather eggs in the evening and feed the chickens. I watched her milk the Jersey cow. She loved to listen to polka music on her radio. She crocheted and knitted and taught me to embroider.
To this day, I have some quilts that she quilted and gave me, some shawls and throws that she knitted and crocheted. She was a very talented lady in so many ways. I wish I were more like her.
She loved me and I’ll never forget her. I treasure all my memories of her. Rest in peace, Nanny.
Submitted by: Marva Jeanne Hougen, Victoria
Memie the inspiration
In honor of Grandparent’s Day I would like to pay tribute to one of the strongest women I have ever known.
Although she is no longer with us she played a very important role in shaping me into the person I am today – my grandmother “Memie,” Edna P. Shannon.
This wonderful lady raised nine children of her own and welcomed many others into her home. She always had something prepared to eat, she never wanted anyone to leave her home hungry.
Out of her nine children 15 grandchildren were born. She loved her family very much, family meant everything to her. She always called me Angel and I can remember her telling me she gave me that name because she thought I was brought to her after her youngest child was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 16.
Eighteen months later she lost her husband of 40+ years. Despite these two incredibly tragic losses in her life my Memie stayed strong. She was able to see me marry and have two children of my own.
I will always cherish the memories I have of my precious Memie and all that she did for me.
She passed away at the age of 91, I was there to hold her hand until her last breath. May 10, 1996 was one of the saddest days of my life. She is now my guardian angel and I know she is watching over me and my family.
Memie you may be gone, but you will never ever be forgotten.
Submitted by: Wendy Marvin
My maternal grandmother has been a loving guide, my very compass, providing direction while giving voice to reason. She is a positive example of how an individual’s daily decisions and actions have consequences, not only for today, but also for the future.
Growing up in the Depression and World War II eras, she managed her family and finances with grace and elegance. Never giving in to despair over material gains not realized, she wanted what she had and had all she ever wanted. Contentment and joy are attributes always gracing her persona.
Hearing how she would tuck away $5 a day for the family’s future, she now enjoys full creature comforts in the twilight of her years.
The flowering bloom of her life has sown seeds in mine. Where the sun sets in one life, it also rises in another. This offers the dawning of a continued heritage.
Submitted by: Phillip Schwab
The word grandparents is really what it means, they are really “Grand.”
I don’t think kids repay them enough.
Grandparents are always there for you and they always love you so much. I have the best time with mine.
I spent a whole week with my grandparents. I have so much fun with them. I call my grandma, Poochie and my grandpa, Popcorn and my other grandparents Gan Gan and Papa.
My Papa makes the best milkshakes and my Gan Gan gives the best kisses.
My Poochie is so much fun to be around and my Popcorn is always there with me.
I love them all so much. I think God gives grandparents an extra big heart. I don’t know how I can repay them.
Every birthday they give me the most presents. Every kids needs to write a letter to their grandparents.
I love them so much. I know I have said that a lot but it is true. I love them so much and have the best memories with my grandparents. They have that special touch in them that makes everybody’s day.
Submitted by: Tara Werner, age 10
The great escape
Some of my sweetest childhood memories are those of summer visits with my Gramma and Grampa Clark.
There were five of us kids, and Gramma and Grampa would come and pick us up and take us home for two weeks each summer.
Sometimes they took two of us at a time, and there were the times that we would be the loner. We really looked forward to those weeks away. It was, for us, the “Great Escape.”
Grampa was a good, kind and very generous man, with a great sense of humor.
George Holiday Clark, and oh how fitting his name “Holiday” was.
Grampa had a few heart attacks, the first of those stopping him from his obsessive drinking, so I’ve been told. I heard stories of how Grampa would leave his gas station wide open to go drink more at the bar across the street.
After turning his life around, Grampa was still a business man, owning several laundromats over the years, and then a Tasty Freeze – like a Dairy Queen.
Ida Marie Bower, that was Gramma’s given name. She did not like “Ida,” and went by Marie.
Gramma was also good and giving, stern yet loving. Gramma was more of the disciplinary type, and she had to step into the role of doing the physical duties.
Gramma could make anything grow inside and out. I believe her thumbs and fingers were all green.
She was also very artistic, making and painting much of her own decor.
Gramma was deaf and wore the old buzzing and screeching hearing aid in a bag that hung with the wires to her chest. She was not a big talker and would just nod and smile much of the time.
Yet, even with the poor hearing aid, Gramma would play the organ. Grampa was often replacing her organ with a new and better one. (Gramma’s hearing loss was due to a fall that she took while roller skating when she was 12 years old.)
It just felt “so good” at Gramma and Grandpa’s. They had a nice two-story brick house. I loved the carpet and decor. There were pretty matching sheets and bedspreads, and beautiful walls of printed paper. I would rest so well there, after choosing which of the three bedrooms to stay in.
We would go out to eat several times during our visit. With five of us kids, and money not present, we knew nothing of eating out, except those times with Gramma and Grampa.
We had access to snacks of all kinds, also a daily trip to the Tasty Freeze. We could get anything we wanted. I would always choose a hot fudge sundae. Mmm…my favorite.
In the basement there was a juke box with lots of old records. The same quarter could be fed through over and over to hear the tunes. Also, there were a lot of old receipt books that we were allowed to play store with. It was all great fun.
Directly across from their brick house, Gramma and Grampa had a cottage on a lake. We got to go over and fish and swim. The cottage was equally stocked with snacks for us kids.
Gramma would give us chores and then give us a few dollars upon finishing. Gramma and Grampa would take us to shop with our money. It was only those times that we had a few bucks in our pockets, and “no” it did not stay there long.
Even though my brothers, sister and I did not always stay over at our grandparents at the same time, we all have the same most treasured memories.
We would sneak out of bed at night to the stairway. We would look through the rails, down into the livingroom, where Grampa would always be reading his Bible.
We would sit quietly, watching for awhile, and then go back to bed.
We would return to the stairway in what seemed to be hours later, and there Grampa would be, kneeling at his chair, praying. He was there in his prayer closet, as I am sure Gramma was off in their bedroom in hers.
When Gramma died, my Grampa gave her organ to the funeral home as payment. When Grampa died, Gramma’s organ played one last time for him at his funeral.
Oh, how I loved them, and I miss them so.
Upon growing up and “feeling on” those most lovely of memories of my grandparents, I realized:
It was not the feel of the nice carpet under my feet, or the nice crisp and pretty bedding or print or decor on the walls …
It was the peace that was there.
In loving memory of George and Marie Clark
Submitted by: Connie Williams