“What were your grandparents like?”
It is the third question about my ancestors. First was one about my Mother, the second my Father, and now one about my Grandparents.
This one finally forced me to consider that I took my parents and grandparents for granted as a youngster. My grandparents were people we went to visit in the summer. My father was the man who came home for thirty days each year, and some years came on weekends as the Navy permitted. My mother was there every day caring for my siblings and me.
Life with them was special, not because of grand vacations or social events, but because of who they were. Unlike many others, my parents and grandparents were caring, loving, hard-working men and women. They weren’t college graduates, some not even graduating high school. Still, they provided down-to-earth examples of how to be soul-mates and parents.
These are the nuggets I dredged from my memory about my grandparents. The sparseness speaks to how much I took them for granted.
My maternal grandparents are Elizabeth Midkiff Harris and James Fredrick Harris.
Elizabeth was born on 16 Aug 1891 in Rome, Kentucky, and died 30 Apr 1962 in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Most of my recollections are from the short visits made to her house. My two brothers, one sister, and I slept on blanket pallets on one side of the kitchen.
My Grandmother always woke early to begin her daily routine. I, often, woke as she shuffled into the kitchen. I laid on the barely padded floor watching her move to an old, wood-burning, potbelly stove. She moved slowly, sometimes using a cane, as her lame leg permitted. I remember watching my Grandmother, a short, heavy-set woman, stoking the stove in preparation for making breakfast. All of our meals made using that stove.
James “Fred” was born 02 May 1890 in Owensboro, Kentucky, and died 04 Sep 1959 in Beverly Manor, Illinois. My Grandfather was tall to me, maybe six-foot, and slender in build. He, also, was an early riser, and by the time I got my lazy bones up, he was well through his daily chores. I would help with feeding the chickens and his dog.
I don’t remember any nuggets of conversation but things I do remember. My Grandmother would clean and cook the chicken my Grandfather killed Sunday morning. Her fried chicken was a treat.
Then there was the time a tornado came close to their farm while we were there. And the time their dog broke his chain the night we heard a large cat squalling
We spent many evenings gathered together around the radio listening to The Grand Ole Opry and The Shadow. There were other radio shows, but I can’t name them now. Prayers were said and to our pallets. Early to bed, early to rise.
They were godfearing, loving, down-to-earth people. I don’t remember either having a cross word for the other.
My paternal grandparents were Johanna Mae Elder and Hilary Oswald Knott.
Johanna was born in 1889 in Kentucky and died on 14 Oct 1967 in Daviess County, Kentucky.
My Grandmother was a widow when I became old enough to remember her. She was a white-headed, stately lady who lived on Clay Street in Owensboro, Kentucky.
She was an excellent cook, but the makings for her meals came from the local grocer, not from a garden.
I remember her displaying anger only once. It was after Cletus, my brother, and I peppered her porch with holes from metal darts. Otherwise, she was patient with her four rambunctious grandchildren, taking us shopping in big city stores and to nearby parks.
Hilary Oswald was born 28 Feb 1881 in Meade County, Kentucky, and died 22 Oct 1949 in Daviess County, Kentucky.
I don’t remember anything about my Grandfather. I was two years and twelve days old when he died. I can’t picture him, but I believe he was much like my Father—a loving, caring father.
If I had it to do-over.… How many times have those words been spoken or written? I wish I had a do-over, but life is as lived. People leave, and memories fade. Capture them while you can!