Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Amazing Woman

My Grandmother turned 99 this week. Amazing a fact as that is, she also still quilts. Sews every stitch by hand. Then I put the quilt in a frame for her, and she will quilt an entire king sized quilt in two to three weeks. The afternoon that she takes it out of the frame, she sits down and hems it! The woman is amazing. I have always thought so, but I had a conversation while having fabric cut for her at the fabric store that I can't stop thinking about. I had eight or maybe ten pieces to cut, so the clerk, oh a woman of 55 years, roughly, was making conversation, she asked me what I was doing with all of that fabric. "Oh, it's a birthday gift for my Grandmother."

"Wow! How old is she?"


"Wow! I sure won't be able to do stuff like this if I live to be her age. My hands . . . I'm already having trouble feeling things."

"Grandma has carpal tunnel in both hands. She says she can't feel anything with either hand. But it's inoperable. Well, they could operate, but they won't. At her age, they're afraid the surgery itself would kill her."

"But my hands hurt. How does she work like that?"

"Well, Grandma hurts for sure, and her fingers are all gnarled, but she says she would go straight up if she ever stopped quilting. She just pushes the needle through the fabric, then she picks up a pair of pliers and pulls the needle through."

"Wow", she said, kind of awed. And I think it was her countenance as much as the conversation, that causes me to keep going over this in my mind.

Wow, indeed! The woman is amazing! Her hands are painful, her neck hurts, she has to use a walker to climb down the steps before she works her way across 50 feet or so of uneven sod to the little old one room house, with corrugated tin siding, that she once lived in, where she now quilts. I do believe she is happier in that one room house when she is quilting than she is anywhere else on Earth. Once she gets to the little house, she switches to a motorized wheelchair to help her maneuver around the quilt which is suspended from the ceiling. When she has sewn as far as she can reach, she rolls that thing! By herself! If she's feeling up to it, she takes it out of the frame when she's finished. Only a couple of times has she asked me to.

She has buried three of her five children, all too soon, and her husband. She was a child in the horse and buggy days. She survived the flu pandemic in 1918. At 16 she married a man twice her age, and as she tells it, "I married for better or worse, it was worse, but I stuck with it." She worked in laundries and picked cotton. She thinned peaches and pruned them standing on a three legged ladder all winter long. She has fished for food, and trapped for fur. She would have a garden now if they would let her. She set up housekeeping with eight quilts, which she had made herself.

She calls me every day. We giggle like school girls, and I am her quilting buddy.

So my amazing Grandmother, 99 years old, with painful joints, fingers without sensation, sits on the edge of her bed, and works that little tiny needle back and forth, back and forth, through hundreds of little tiny pieces of fabric, until they come together to form something magical and beautiful. It doesn't matter that it is very difficult mobility wise, for her to get from point A to point B. She is not deterred by the fact that everything hurts, I mean everything. It doesn't matter that her fingers are gnarled, or that she has arthritis. It doesn't make a bit of difference that she can't hear a clap of thunder {Her words, not mine.} She doesn't even need a can-do attitude. Whether or not it can be done, is not a question. It's not even a consideration. If there is a difficulty in her way, she just figures out how to work around it. That's all there is to it; matter-of-fact and lets-get-this-thing-done. And she does it! Still!

Wow! She really is amazing.

Happy 99th Birthday Grandma! I love you, you amazing woman you!


  1. Wow, when you spell it out like that you can tell just how amazing she is!

  2. Oh my gosh Debbi! I love that you posted this. She is wonder woman! I just love wise people who have experienced so much and continue to live life to what extent they can. It's so amazing. Thank you for sharing and give her a big kiss for me. I'm not kidding!

  3. I love your blog.Your grandmother is quite a woman! A will of iron! Here in southeast PA, we are heavily influenced by the German work ethic- a farmer's ethic, if you will. You just keep working and do it. There are lots of Amish and Mennonite quilters around too.I love that you talk to her every day. Mine are gone, and still missed every day.

    My step-sister has RP too. Her's is a strange case, where she lost her central vision first, and it worked it's way out to her peripheral vision. She has been completely blind for a number of years now.

    Each one of your posts is wonderful- the mouse story cracks me up. Thanks for stopping by my blog- Lee

  4. Thank you for posting this wonderful story about Grandma. She truly is EXTREMELY remarkable! I love the way you tell it.


  5. What a loving and strong grandmother you have been blessed with! Wow, 99 years old, amazing!!! I almost feel like I know her after reading your words about her. Such a sweet tribute!
    Happy 99th Birthday Grandma!!!
    Milli (sashagirl on flickr)