Monday, January 19, 2009
Today was a special day. It is my Grandmother's 95th birthday. We wanted to make this a special day for her, so Chris & I decided to drive the 100 miles down to Portsmouth (our home town on the Ohio River) and take my Grandmother out to lunch. I had called Sunday night just to make sure she was going to be home. Yes, she still lives by herself and wouldn't have it any other way. She very independent and has passed this on to me & my siblings. She was all dressed & ready to go when we got to her house. Her neighbor's home health assistant had swept the snow from her steps & given her a birthday card. She had a pile of birthday greetings sitting on the old television cabinet along with the tin of Cheryl's Cookies from my sister Cheryl. But I know that for us to drive down & spend the afternoon with her was special. There aren't very many good restaurants in Portsmouth (that we know of) left since it has lost more than half of its population in the past 20 years. So we decided to take her to Bob Evans. As we were walking in the door a group of 6 people were coming out. The one man held the door open & said "I'll help out this young lady". Grandma laughed as did I. I told the man that it was great that he held the door for her as it was her birthday. Happy birthday greetings from everyone & then the questions she always gets & loves to answer. "How old are you?" "Ninety-five" she answers and nods to me. I tell the group that she is indeed 95. Then she enjoyed telling everyone in the restaurant her age. People were amazed.
We'd take Grandma to Costco right after Christmas & everyone smiled at her. Just think about it. How many times have you been out shopping or to a restaurant and saw someone really old shopping for groceries, eating a good meal, laughing, or just enjoying life. I think it really inspires people to see someone like my Grandmother who is loves to live. I asked her what special gift she wanted for her birthday. She told me every single day that she wakes up & is still alive is a special day. Amen, you've got to agree with that. We all ate a big lunch, and then I had the waitress bring out cake and ice cream just for Grandma. Chris didn't think she could eat it, but she ate everything with such joy. She said that if it didn't get up and walk away, she'd eat it. Gotta love that.
Then we did the tour of Portsmouth. We looked for all the houses that had burnt down or were torn down. Drove by Spartan Stadium where all the football games from PHS were held (I think they still are, but I haven't been down there awhile to know if they are). Drove by the place where our old high school stood until last year. Yes, Grandma went to PHS also. It is sad to see an empty lot where all those hidden memories that are the stimulus of dreams, but today there were bulldozers moving the dirt around. Possibly a new gymnasium is going to stand there where all our pictures from yearbooks were staged? Don't know. We drove by & found out this big old building was once the ice house in Portsmouth, and she told us near it was the old city jail. Yep, still standing with the bars exposed and trees growing out of the middle, but it is still there. We drove downtown Portsmouth where the streets use to be filled with shoppers, but alas the only shopper that I noticed was some rude blond girl who yelled at me because I didn't stop when she jaywalked across the street with a cigarette in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Grandma saw this girl and shook her head. I don't know if it was because she was ashamed of this girl's rude behavior, or because downtown was such a ghost town. This was once a beautiful river city with a proud heritage and proud people. My family were the founders of this town as were Chris' family. The flood wall has lovely painted pictures of the history of this once thriving town. They are worth while to drive down there to see, but the town itself is a shell of what it once was. I've traveled across country and have seen similar pictures from one end of the US to the other. Small towns are virtually becoming extinct. Here and there are remains of the past greatness, but unfortunately for our families' home town, that is not true. It tries to clothe itself in gaudy lights, but all the life is slowing draining out of it.
Is it fair that I feel this way about my family's home town? I never liked living there. I was 14 when my parents took me there. I wanted to leave from the first moment, and I did leave as soon as possible. I don't think that I can tell a true story of this town. The people who live there should be those that do that. I wish that girl hadn't shown me such contempt when I didn't stop so she could have her way. I wonder if that is why small towns like Portsmouth are in such dire circumstances. Is it because so many of the people are selfish? Can it be that they have lost the pride of such a fierce and noble people that settled the Ohio River valley? Or could it be that they are just ignorant of what it means to be proud of their homes? I don't know. I hope that someday that town will re reborn, and it will once again become a beautiful River Town with strong, courageous, and proud people.
Oh goodness, here I am wanting to share a wonderful day that I had with my Grandmother, and I've written about my disappointment in the town that my family came from. I wish that the dreams that my family had when they came to that point on the Ohio and the Scioto River to make a home for their children and grandchildren would still come true. It may. I hope it does. I hope that like my Grandmother saying that every day when she wakes up is a special day can be true for our home town. I just hope that the people of Portsmouth will wake up to see that every day is special and to embrace the past and live as true and as proud as our forefathers. Everyday is special. Every single day.
Grandma wants to be 100. I told her that when she is 100 & I'm 60, we will go up in an airplane. Originally we talked about parachuting out of the plane, but I think I'd be the chicken. I KNOW she'd do it. She has the spark and the fortitude of a once extremely proud and stubborn people. I have a feeling that she might be the one making me jump out of an airplane just because it will be one more special thing done on another special day. I love her.