Family genealogy: red lipstick, a price sticker, some humor, and passing on a family story

Today I drove past 486 So. Hamline Avenue in Saint Paul and smiled up at the corner apartment. I had to do that today because it’s Grandma’s birthday. Great Grandma Gert, Dirty Gerty, Granny Grapefruit, and just Grandma. Those were all names of love. More on her names another time.

She would have been 118 years old today. She lived to 98.5 years old. That’s some feat! Speaking of feet, one of my favorite stories about her is one she told on herself. She was widowed at age 67 and lived alone for almost 32 years. She lived in a second-floor apartment with no elevator and steep stairs until a nursing home became a necessity. After Grandpa Mike died, she lived only on Social Security and the help of her daughters and grandchildren. She never learned to drive a car and took the city bus to do some of her shopping for many years.

The feet story is related to a pair of shoes. She purchased a pair of shoes at a thrift store and wore them to church. She attended Holy Spirit Catholic Church and this was still a time when those receiving communion would kneel at the communion rail. She came home from church and was putting her “new” dress-up shoes away and noticed that the price sticker was still on the bottom. She was mortified to know that she knelt for communion and let everyone see the price on her cheap shoes. But she laughed and so did I. We had many more good laughs about this over the years.

This was a woman who was born into money, lived well, but then her father lost everything. Her accountant husband didn’t do a great job with their finances either. She raised her daughters in a one-bedroom apartment. She had bad arthritis and other aches and pains. She never really complained. I wish I could hug her today. Instead, I am wearing red lipstick as I write this. She always reminded her daughters and granddaughters to wear red lipstick.

© 2018, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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