Things Grandma Kept’s namesake was a small woman, but only in height. She said she was 5’2”, but I’m certain that was measured while she was wearing heels. Despite her looking up at me, I always felt I was standing in the presence of power and strength.
Born in Minnesota, the daughter of a railroad carman and a housekeeper, she met and married my grandfather shortly after her 18th birthday on Christmas Eve, 1941. He was a corpsman in the Army and she kept house for the famous Kellogg family in Chicago. After the war, they moved their small family of four out to Washington State.
My grandfather worked for the railroad until 1967 when he tragically fell from an icy railroad car, severing his spine and leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Staying at the hospital day and night, she served as advocate, nurse, housekeeper and friend. The first night they said he would die before morning. The next day they said he wouldn’t last the week. After the first month they stopped making predictions. I suspect it was her stubbornness as much as his that kept him going.
For the next 30 years, she faithfully took care of his every need, while doing the housekeeping, yardwork, repairs and cooking. Except when she broke her arm chopping down trees and had to wear a cast, he never had a private nurse. She cared for him in a home they had built to be wheelchair friendly and they welcomed grandchildren, friends and family to share it with them.
Grandma was a collector and historian at heart. In what spare time she had, she grew the collection of salt and pepper shaker sets she’d had since childhood, and added plates, figurines, and many more items. She kept her mother’s china, her father’s welding glasses and photographs from four generations on both sides. From her stories I learned to value family, friends and history. Watching her taught me hard work and dedication. I saw what true sacrifice was and what it took to serve others.
Despite an incredibly tough life, my grandmother lived up to her own high standards and expected the same of others. She went to bed at midnight and was up at eight every morning. I saw her return an extra $20 bill given to her in error in her change at the grocery store. She repaid debts to the penny (I once loaned her a stamp and received exactly .29 cents back the next week). She didn’t tolerate lying, stealing or swearing, and she believed in consequences.
When I started Things Grandma Kept, I knew I would continue to meet Grandma’s expectations in my business practices. Our values of honesty, integrity, hard work and value all come from what she taught me and we continue to do business just like she would have.