Grandma Anna was quite different from my other Grandma. She seemed fragile. She lived a long life despite the tragedies she endured. The death of a toddler daughter and the death of her youngest son 30 years later broke her spirit and forever changed her and the family dynamics. My dad and younger sister were there to help pick up the pieces but sometimes when things break, they cannot be fixed.
Grandma Anna was a gifted artist in many ways. She could sketch and paint, she could play the piano beautifully, and she had an eye for the beauty that surrounded her in her simple farm life. Most of her sketches and paintings were completed on what was available to her. Not canvas or specialty papers. She painted on burlap, on shoe box tops, on the inserts from nylon hose, and any cardboard or heavy paper that she could find. Her subjects were often wildlife; bunnies, birds, fish, and other small animals were some of her favorites. She also had a knack for drawing kittens, giving them human characteristics. Later in life encouraged by her daughter, she made quilts and pillowtops from quilted patterns. Grandma Anna was adept at writing letters and sharing her days with others. Her twin sister, Martha, has some of the same skills. That is another story.
I had a special connection with Grandma Anna, too because her name was my middle name. It was from her that I was encouraged to play the piano. Like Grandma Thomas, she had an old upright piano that I was allowed to play. We often played duets together as I became more skilled. No visit to her house was complete without me sitting down to play a song for her or with her. She was my first audience.
In the corner of her bedroom was a collection of things to play with when we visited. There were board games like Chutes and Ladders, card games like Go Fish and Old Maid, and checkers and dominoes. There was also an old stereoscope tucked away in her bedroom bureau that we were sometimes allowed to use and view 3D scenes that she had collected. She had a Jenny Lind bed in her bedroom, various arrangements of dried flowers, herbs, and weeds in coffee cans in her kitchen, a small dish of mints in the middle of the kitchen table, and an unusual collection of wishbones in the kitchen window.
A walk to the woods was another shared activity as the weather permitted, picking up acorns and hickory nuts, colored leaves, and visiting the sugar camp in the late winter. She loved the wildflowers and collected and dried all types of weeds to make stunning arrangements. She grew beautiful roses in the front yard.
I was 47 when she passed, almost the age she was when I was born. It was hard to lose her but it was time: she was unable to walk and see very well at the end and she often talked about wanting it to be over. She and her twin Martha lived almost 97 years, dying just a few months apart.