Wednesday, April 14, 2021

My Yaya - the Centenarian!

My Yaya (grandma in Greek) Lavonne, will turn 100 years old this April 28th. I cannot even imagine how much she has seen and experienced in her 100 years on this earth; how dramatically things have changed in that time. I feel like things have changed so much in my life and I've only been around half the amount of time!

My Yaya has: 
2 children
4 grandchildren
8 great-grandchildren
1 great-great-grandchild (and a step great-great-grandchild, and two more great-great-grandchildren on the way)

My fondest memories of my grandma are visiting her in South Whitley, Indiana where she lived when I was a kid. I remember playing on the big porch of the white house and roller skating on the sidewalks. My sister and I thought my grandparents had the coolest basement because the stairs that led to it were in the garage, and they had a pool table down there. When we were little kids, my sister and I liked to play what we dubbed "b ball" wherein we rolled the balls back and forth across the table to each other. B ball caused many a smashed finger! There was a storage room with a huge plastic Santa, and toys like Lincoln Logs, those little canisters that mooed when you turned them over, and Halsam Elgo American plastic bricks. I can still smell that basement when I think about it. 

When the fire siren went off at noon, we knew it was time for our grandpa to come home for lunch, and we'd watch for him to come walking down the street. And down that street there was a park where we loved to play. They had all that awesome old playground equipment like teeter totters, a huge metal slide that would burn a layer of skin off your thighs if you slid down in the summer, and a merry-go-round that would fling kids off with its centrifugal force, and it would cause others to throw up. Good times!

South Whitley, Indiana is known for its bed races. That's right, bed races. They race beds down the street. Now, that was a fun event that left an indelible impression! And when we visited, we went to the hardware store for ice cream! Ice cream in a hardware store! We're talking small-town-America.

One time, when it was storming and I was scared, I remember my grandma carrying me out to their big porch while soothing me and telling me that thunder and lightning were nothing to be scared of. We stayed out there watching the rain fall and listening to the crackle of thunder roll across the sky.

And even better than visiting them at the "white house" was visiting them at their cottage on the lake. My sister and I spent our days feeding ducks, swimming, and playing with these giant plastic fish. After playing in the sand at the water's edge, we had to check for, and salt the leeches that inevitably stuck to us. In the evening, we caught lightning bugs and kept them in mason jars with holes punched through the lids, as nightlights. I remember waking up from a dream once, and thinking all the lightning bugs had escaped and were flying around the room. 

On the fourth of July, there was a pancake breakfast on the lake. It was literally on the lake and we'd take the pontoon boat out, get some pancakes from the temporary floating restaurant and have breakfast while cruising around. We fished from the end of the pier with our grandpa, and begged for rides in the motorboat. We ate strawberries from their patch until we got sick, and we eagerly awaited, money from our grandparents in hand, for the ice cream truck to come singing down the lane. That was so exciting for us because we didn't have ice cream trucks at home. My sister and I put on shows for my grandparents who graciously endured them and applauded as if we were on Broadway.

We played with paper dolls, and the neighbor's dog SueSue. We gobbled up my grandma's homemade apple dumplings with ice cream in the evening. And we'll never forget the time a tornado came through. We all hunkered down in the bathroom as the sky turned green and it sounded like a freight train was barreling through the yard. My frightened little sister just kept thinking, What if someone actually has to go to the bathroom while we're in here?

And when my grandparents moved to Florida, we visited them in the winter and it was such a treat to wear shorts and swim and bask in the sunshine. We got sunburned every darn time we visited because, despite their warnings about reapplying sunscreen, we knew everything and didn't heed their advice. We rode their bikes around the park and sat on their screened-in lanai reading books while my parents and grandparents enjoyed their pre-dinner cocktail of whiskey and Coke. My grandma always got us pecan rolls for breakfast when we visited. To this day, I think of visiting them in Florida when I have pecan rolls. We went with them to Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachee to see the mermaids, and Epcot when it first opened.

And now my grandma is turning 100!

I would love, love, love it if you would consider sending my grandma, Lavonne a card. Yes, I know most of you don't actually know her, but if any of you are so inclined, she would be absolutely tickled to receive a bunch of birthday cards, especially since we can't have a big birthday bash for her because of Covid. In fact, she can only have two visitors, and next week they may have to quarantine again because of a positive case where she lives. If that happens, she'll be celebrating her 100th birthday alone.

The past year has been tough on all of us, but I think it has been particularly difficult for those in nursing homes/assisted/independent living situations. The residents have been so isolated. In an effort to keep them safe from infection, most places didn't allow visitors for a very long time, dining rooms and common areas were closed, and in cold areas (my grandma lives in Chicagoland) they couldn't even go outside for a walk and some fresh air. 

My grandma has macular degeneration which has impaired her eyesight greatly. This woman who inspected gas masks during WWII, who knitted and crocheted blankets for all of us grandkids and great-grandkids, and who made handcrafted Christmas ornaments for everyone, every single year from 1980 until 2015 has a hard time seeing the numbers on a clock now, so even watching TV isn't the entertainment it once was. It has been a very long year for her.

If you'd be so kind as to send her a card (I mean, 100 years is quite an accomplishment, right?!) please send it in care of my mom so she can bring them/read them to my grandma who can't see well enough to read them herself anymore. I would love to see her wall decorated with a bunch of birthday cards!

Lavonne Verkade
c/o Diana Damalas
12694 Golf View Dr.
Huntley, IL 60142

And here, in honor of her 100th birthday, is a little slideshow I put together. It's a few minutes long so don't feel obligated, but please feel free to watch if you're so inclined. It took a lot of hours and help from my mom and sis to get these pictures in chronological order! And unfortunately, I don't have pictures of her with her son and his family, or with her nieces and nephews, or other relatives. But I had fun looking at all these old pictures anyway!

My Smilebox Creation



Bonnie said...

What wonderful memories of your grandma! Grandmas are the best. Great slide show. (Is it weird that I love family photos even when I don't know the people?) Best wishes for your Yaya on her 100th birthday!

Dawn said...

I do too, Bonnie!
Thank you!

amerileira said...

I am mailing one tomorrow!

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