Sunday, November 19, 2006

Grandma Morris: she was one in a million

Her name was Dorothy May Morris.

She was born on October 16, 1914.  She died in the spring of ‘97, and not a day goes by that I don‘t think of her and miss her very much.  After all this time, when I get to thinking about her, my throat still hurts.  I‘m sure there‘s millions of people out there that loved their grandparents just as much, but it doesn’t make mine any less special.

I always felt a bit closer to her than the other kids...I’m not sure why.  I know she loved all of us, but she always made me feel like we were special buddies.  She had a terrific sense of humor, and was smart as a whip--she loved math and crossword puzzles, gameshows, and travel.  She had a gambling streak in her (Las Vegas was her favorite vacation spot and playing bingo and the lottery were her hobbies!) but this wasn’t until pretty late in her life, after she was on her own.  She was a terrific cook, and her specialties were the things you want your grandma to be good at; she baked her own bread & pies, picked berries in the woods, made her own jellies, shelled beans and canned all her fruits and vegetables. (But she had a weakness for snack crackers!)

I never heard her say a single negative word about anyone, and she had the best laugh in the world.  When I was a kid, the times I looked forward to most was spending the weekend with her and on Christmas, when she spent the night with us Christmas Eve.


Dad & Grandma, Christmas 1971

I know I’ve been blessed in life to be loved by family and friends, but it always seemed like she was the one who loved me so unconditionally.  Not as a son, or brother, or was like we were kindred spirits, and understood each other.  I felt completely at ease telling her anything, and loved her stories about her life.  Her dreams of being a nurse when she was young, the hard times raising 5 kids with no money (yet she must’ve done something right--my dad, uncles and aunts loved her fiercely).  Not once did I ever see her raise her voice, or get angry.  She diffused everything with love and humor.

I never understood her relationship with Grandpap (though I barely knew Dad’s dad). They separated when I was very little, and for a long time she lived on her own, but talked about “Ace” all the time, as if he were just gone for the weekend.  It was a big thing when her & Grandpap decided to live together again in the mid-1970s, and we enjoyed a lot of family get-togethers at their place (before Grandpap died in 1982).

 Grandpap & Grandma Morris, Great Uncle Kenneth & Aunt Ruth, a family picnic July 1972

But my fondest memories were of the years she had her own place, like her mobile home near the college or her apartment on Washington Street.  On Wednesday nights, Mom would drop my older brother Duke & I off in town for Boy Scout meetings, and we’d have dinner at Grandma’s, or go to where she worked at the Waynesburg Restaurant and have dinner there, and wait for her shift to end. 

Eventually Duke quit the scouts, and I did a few years after...but we still did those Wednesday evenings together at Grandma’s place.

One of my funniest memories of her was when I was in college.  I was dating a girl named Charlotte, and one night we went to visit Grandma & Grandpap.  Grandma asked Charlotte what kind of music she liked, and when Charlotte shrugged her shoulders, Grandma said “I bet you like the Rolling Stones!“ and grabbed the pole lamp by Grandpap’s chair and started pretending she was Mick Jagger with his mike.  Grandpap sat there staring at her and finally said “May, I was using that to read my paper...“ and she yelled “Then stick your finger in your eye and make starlight!“

Dorothy May Morris, 1968

Grandma was also the only one that was always so concerned that I was still single, right up until she died.  She always asked me what I was doing about it, and I’d say I wasn’t using the right bait, and she’d say “McDougal, you have the right bait but you’re not going fishing!“

If I ever do meet the right person and get married someday, I’m going to regret them not having the chance to know one another.

Well, I know this sounds corny but...she loved my dad so much, and he worshipped her.  I hope that in some way they’re together again...I miss my old buddy Grandma very much.

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