Remembering Elaine

If you knew Elaine McCollum, you are aware that she was one of the nicest, sweetest, most giving people in the world, and I’m not just saying this because she’s my grandma. If you haven’t been blessed with the opportunity to meet her, let me introduce you…

littleggMy grandma was born August 20, 1916, and died January 2, 2017. She reached the age of 100 (wow!). Her first name is Hazel, but she hated it. Her maiden name was Scott. She was born in North Dakota and her dad worked for the railroad. He was also a gambling man. This I know from my mom, Grandma didn’t talk about him much. She moved to Amelia, Ohio at a young age. Those are her basic stats but let me introduce you to the real Elaine McCollum…

This is my grandma: My parents live on a busy street. Waiting to turn into the driveway some lady slammed into my rear end, bending the frame and totaling the car (what they say is true: most accidents happen within 5 miles of your home). They had to use the jaws of life to cut me out. I almost passed out but was coherent enough to point to my parents’ house, but they weren’t there. Next on the list were my grandparents (thank God, somebody had a car phone. Come on, this was the mid-nineties!). Grandma, along with Grandpa, showed up within minutes. They followed the ambulance to the hospital and stayed with me through all the x-rays and stuff. (let me add that Anderson Twp firefighters and EMTs are hotties…of course, it could have been my head injury) What I’m getting at here is: she’s dependable. I could count on her to be there for me.

brownsvillegrandmaIn 2001, I was worried about my Grandpa Werner (my Dad’s dad) driving home alone from Brownsville, Texas to Cincinnati, Ohio. He was 85 (and a scary driver. lol). I was a stay-at-home mom at the time so I could fly down and drive back. The problem was, I had a nine-month-old baby to bring with me. The solution was to bring Grandma McCollum (my mom’s mom). She didn’t drive and loved my daughter. This was three months after my grandpa McCollum passed. We all agreed a change of scenery would be a good thing for her. I was so glad for the opportunity to spend the time with both my grandparents. She was a godsend on the flight down. I never knew how much of a backseat driver Grandma was until Grandpa started on the highway. Phew!

Here she is: Once we had a cat named Garfield. He climbed into the dryer and my unsuspecting mother turned it on. He didn’t live, and my mom became distraught. Grandma could hardly understand my mom when she called. Now my grandma didn’t drive, and my grandpa was at work, so Grandma walked the one and a half miles to see my mom. This doesn’t sound like a long distance, but the only road with a sidewalk was the street she lived on. She had to walk down Five Mile Road, a divided parkway, and then Clough Pike, a curving road without any berms. She took her life in her hands walking there. But she arrived safe and carrying a bouquet of daisies, my mom’s favorite flowers.

Grandma, along with my grandfather, would do anything and be there for anyone. I remember they helped at the nursing home pushing residents in wheelchairs around the halls (most of the residents had been younger than they’d been. lol)

Once when I was in a bad relationship, my grandma opened her home to me, and I lived with her for a few weeks until things were resolved. She didn’t judge or give advice only loved on me and listened. I experienced this unconditional love from her all the time. She was a wonderful example of how a Christian should be.

This is my gracowboyggndma: When she was ninety-five and still living in her house on her own, she had a list of names two pages long of people she prayed for (every day!). She kept it in in a daily devotional (one of several she read daily), which she kept next to her easy chair.

Typical Grandma: My grandma opened her home to everyone. My parents’, my brother’s and my friends too. We always trick-or-treated on her street. She lived in a subdivision and we didn’t. I don’t know how many people have gone with us over the years. We even took my daughter with her friends once. Every Christmas Eve we’d have shrimp cocktail and then have homemade lasagna. Anyone could come.

My grandmother had a garden. She was fabulous with flowers. If you were sick or going through something she’d pick a bouquet for you. Sometimes she’d make arrangements. She had a green thumb (unfortunately, I didn’t inherit this. I have a black thumb).

She was a stellar cook. She made scrumptious desserts like pecan and apple pie and all kinds of cookies. For years she and I would make chocolate bear cookies. I had the easy part of rolling the dough into balls. She had the hard part of mixing the dough which was labor intensive, but she did it without complaint. My daughter even got to do this with her. Her Swiss steak and just about anything she made was awesome. When my brother and I were little, we’d go over and stay at my grandparents for days. Grandma would freeze peach slices and my brother, and I would eat them while watching TV.

So Grandma: If you were sick or had a baby, moved or just because she wanted to show you she cared, you would receive a container of vegetable soup or a pie. If you’re lucky, you’ve experienced her rolls at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

She made many costumes (leopard cats, Indians, etc.)  for my brother and me. She hemmed all our clothes and sewed them when they needed a hole fixed.

She supported my brother and me. Any school concert, violin or choral, she attended (no matter how much we sucked. lol) She and grandpa came to most of my brother’s soccer or baseball games. They supported all our fundraising efforts- school or church. She was the first to order Girl Scout cookies or Boy Scout popcorn. Every graduation my grandparents attended.

Yes, that is an Angry Birds hat.

When I started Nanowrimo, she was excited and encouraged me as a writer. Grandma was an avid reader. She read romances, mystery, biographies and just about anything she’d get recommended or could get her hands on. I printed out a Novella and gave it to her for her birthday. I’ll never forget her reaction. She screamed and started crying (happy tears! I hope. lol.) She became my biggest fan and a beta reader too. It is because of her I have ten novels completed. In November, I would always write fifty thousand words for a story but would strive to complete the manuscript by December twenty-fifth. I would hurriedly print the thing, stick it in a binder (unedited-egads!) and wrap it. She loved receiving them and said they were good (but I’m sure she’s a bit biased). We had some great discussions about writing and different genres, some of them funny. Here are highlights from one such  conversation.  Warning: it might be about sex.

Grandma wasn’t made of money but that didn’t stop her from giving. She’d buy small gifts, like ornaments, for people especially children or her neighbors all the time.

She volunteered for the local American Legion Hall selling poppies and their other events like fish fry dinners and carnivals. She was also a Brownie leader.

Grandma was an active member of Clough United Methodist church. I attended the church the first twelve years of my life and remember wanting to sit in Grandma’s pew with my best friend. It was easier to giggle and draw next to Grandma. Plus she always had wintergreen Tic Tac mints or a roll of butter rum Lifesavers that helped sweeten the deal. She was there at all the missionary events and potluck dinners. However, Grandma wasn’t in the choir. This is because she couldn’t hold a tune and you might have caught her lip syncing a favorite hymn (lol).

Elaine & Howard

I can’t imagine the world events and technological wonders she’s seen. All the wars from WWI on. Geesh, how many presidents? The stock market crash and the great depression. The main mode of transportation shift from trains to personal cars. From Model T Fords to Teslas. Black & White movies, mostly silent to synchronized sound (pianos) to modern day  CGI and HD. Don’t forget TV and Radio too. And computers! Holy cow. People have gone to space and the moon, developed atomic and nuclear weapons and created vaccinations and cures for all sorts of diseases.

Grandma was married to the same man for sixty-five years. I don’t remember them arguing but I do remember her saying “Howard” sternly a few times. This was accompanied by the stink eye. I was present at the fiftieth and sixty-fifth wedding anniversaries. What an honor.

My grandma was an animal lover. When I was in high school, while waiting for the bus, I found a white kitten. She had a broken tail. I picked her up and ran back to my house and dropped her off. Grandma happened to be watching my brother and I while my parents were out of town. I shoved the kitten into my grandma’s arms then took off to catch the bus. She kept that kitten and named her Snow but later changed it to Lilly because Snow sounded too much like “No”. lol. My grandparents had cocker spaniels, a German Shepard and a black cat named Lucky. Growing up she had a pet groundhog. This was one of my favorite stories. I liked her to tell about “Brownie” the groundhog. He used to live under their back stoop. He became so domesticated that he let Grandma and her sister dress him up. They put him in the bread box like a doll house.

My grandparents were social and belonged so several groups, like the coffee Klatch. They went to parties and hosted parties all the time. My grandpa owned a wine store at one time and had a stocked bar in the basement. They enjoyed evening cocktails. Grandma’s regular was scotch on the rocks. She let me try it and it burned my nose hairs so I’ve never touched it again. She’d only drink one (but you’d figure she needed more after a long day of watching two rambunctious grandchildren–Who me? Never!). She never smoked and I never saw her drunk. Once, only once, did I ever see her order a beer at a restaurant. I remember that like it was yesterday. I’d been shocked. My grandma does not drink beer. No way.

Both she and Grandpa followed the Reds. We went to several games with and the American Legion. They both enjoyed big band music and would constantly listen to it.

I loved my gra100ggndma, and I’m grateful she was part of my life for so long. I wish I would have listened more (especially about cooking. lol.).  I did take the opportunity and interviewed her back when she lived at home. I’m happy to have that information.

So that’ s my grandma. Do you feel like you know her?  I hope so. She was a neat lady. Even after she lost her memory she was still polite, thanking the nurses and aides who cared for her. She might not have known who you were but she’d compliment you on your colorful shirt or shiny earrings. If she could see out the window she’d say, “look at the pretty sky.” She was kind and sweet to the very end. I want to be just like Grandma.


6 thoughts on “Remembering Elaine

  1. Beautiful, Gina! I learned some things I didn’t know but all described her perfectly! I remember “Christmas in July”. She was a beautiful woman and always had something for everyone! I moved many years ago but will never forget her or your grandpa! I know you and your family won’t either! The amazing thing is your Mom is exactly like her! I love her dearly!

  2. Her favorite flower was the Gerber daisy. She could be really stubborn too. When she was about she refused to get a hearing aid because “it was too much money” and she didn’t have “long to live”. Little did she know she’d live to the age of 100. lol.

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