Thursday, December 27, 2007

Helen Celebrates a Life

On November 23, 1906 newspaper headlines read:

Roosevelt Becomes the First US President to Visit a Foreign Country (It was Panama.)
London Selected to Host the 1908 Olympics
China Prohibits Opium Trade
Joseph Smith, Leader of the Mormon Church, Convicted of Polygamy
Lillian Victoria Anderson is born!!

Well, that last one wasn’t a significant happening to the rest of the world, but it would eventually mean something to me. My Grandma Lillian was born 101 years ago this past November. She saw the world change in ways I can only imagine, so I did a little research hoping to put her world into perspective for me.

The year my grandma was born bread was 5 cents a loaf, milk was 29 cents a gallon, the average car cost about $500, and the average house about $4,500. It cost 2 cents to mail a letter, and the average person’s annual income was about $880.

She may have played with one of the top three toys of the time, Crayola crayons, Lionel Trains or teddy bears. A couple of the top songs of 1906 were Anchors Aweigh by A.H. Miles and Moonbeams by Henry Blossom. A few of the top books of 1906 were The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and Up From Slavery by Booker T.Washington.

Per Wikipedia, a lot of interesting things happened in 1906.

An earthquake registering 7.8 hit San Francisco, killing at least 3,000, leaving up to 300,000 homeless and causing $350 million in damages and virtually destroying the city.
A typhoon with tsunami killed an estimated 10,000 people in Hong Kong.
And Mount Vesuvius erupted, devastating Naples, Italy.

Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, authorizing the President to restrict the use of certain parcels of public land with historic or conservation value, and he declared Devils Tower the nation’s first National Monument.
San Francisco public school board sparked a diplomatic crisis with Japan by ordering all Japanese students to be taught in racially segregated schools.
Grand Duchy of Finland became the first nation to adopt universal suffrage, giving women the right to vote.

Rolls-Royce became a registered car maker.
The RMS Lusitania, the world’s largest ship at the time, was launched in Glasgow.
The first ever Victrola was manufactured.
Brandbury Robinson threw the first legal forward pass in an American football game.
SOS became an international distress signal.
The world’s first submarine, the Unterseeboot 1, enters the German navy.
Reginald Fessenden mad the first radio broadcast: a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
The world’s first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was released.
Richard Oldham argued that the earth has a molten interior.
The muffuleta sandwich was invented in New Orleans, Louisiana.

All this, just in the year my grandmother was born. No doubt, she saw and lived through many historic, magical, and sometimes tragic events. And around midnight this Christmas she passed away.

Please don’t bum out. In so many ways this was a blessed event. Her wish was granted, and she died peacefully in her sleep.

I've blogged about Grandma several times in the past, so some of you might remember that my whole family got together in Chicago last year to celebrate her 100 birthday. She was relatively healthy, content, except for missing her husband, and mentally as sharp as a tack. At the ripe old age of 99, she even read my first book when it was released. Until about three weeks ago Grandma was still walking around powered by her own steam and steadied with a walker. She had only recently started to need help with her personal care. After watching her husband, all of her co-workers, card and bingo friends and an entire generation of her relatives leave her, Grandma was ready to move on herself.

Her own life was relatively peaceful and happy. She was married for seventy-six years (yes, to the same man) and gave birth to two children. She had an office job she loved at a “dry goods” store, and, though she came to visit every summer in Minnesota when I was a child, she and Grandpa were fortunate to have traveled throughout the U.S. Her favorite destination was Las Vegas! And I can guarantee you it wasn’t for the shows.

I'll miss her, so will my kids, but I know she's happy finally being back with Grandpa. I'm picturing them together again in that big Keno game in the sky, and I'm smiling through the tears.


Betina Krahn said...

Oh, Helen, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma. She was clearly an inspiration for you and for all she knew.

But you're right that she's probably more content and happy now that she's moved on and is no longer bound to a life she had basically already completed. Now she's free to be with those she loved and to explore what lies beyond human life.

The important thing to remember is. . . love never ends. It crosses all barriers of time and space. . . even the final barrier of death. Now her presence can be with you wherever, whenever you need her.

Grace and Peace.


Michele Hauf said...

Great way to remember a great woman, Helen!

Playground Monitor said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma but what a beautiful tribute to her and her life. And how interesting to see what the world was like 101 years ago. My late grandfather was born in 1903 and at his 90th birthday party he told everyone that he and Harley Davidson were the same age. He too died peacefully in his sleep about three years later. After watching my grandma suffer from cancer it was a blessing for him to go as he did.

Hugs to you and your family on your loss.


Helen Brenna said...

Thanks guys!

Cute, Marilyn, about your grandfather being the same age as Harley Davidson!

Cindy Gerard said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother Helen. She sounds like a wonderful person!
I'm sure you'll all miss her. Hugs all around.
(BTW: I've posted twice now. wonder if there is a problem with blogger)

Liza said...

What an awesome tribute to your grandmother. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I've lost 1 grandmother and 1 grandfather in my lifetime, and just treasure the time I had with them. My family(one from each side) talked about them all day on Christmas. It was fun to remember the funny things each did when we would see them.

Christie Ridgway said...

What a fantastic birth year and a fantastic woman. I'm glad to know about her, Helen, and hope she is enjoying some eggnog with Grandpa and Keno.

A life well-lived and well-enjoyed is a beautiful thing.

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- What a lovely tribute to a well-lived life.

flchen1 said...

Just echoing everyone's comments, Helen--I really enjoyed reading about your grandmother, and what a rich life she had. She leaves you all with such wonderful and special memories!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks for reading and caring, everyone!

I thought about actually talking about a lot of my memories, but that would've had be bawling.

Some of my favorites memories, though , are fishing and playing cards at the lake during their summer visit. Grandma always wore this big, floppy hat 'cause she burned so easily. Cold beer and Sunnies as big as a frying pan.

Those were the days!