She was the first of seven children, born to Christian and Kathryn on August 21, 1908. The family spoke in German, although she did learn English at some point. Her parents farmed for a living. She told me she went to school through the seventh grade, then she quit to help take care of her younger siblings and work the land.
She married my grandfather, Fritz Jupe at the age of 20 in 1928 and had her only child, my father, Leonard in 1930. They were farmers also. During those days, my mamma would get up before sunup, cook breakfast, do dishes, and then go out and help my grandfather. She’d repeat the process at lunch and dinner. I don’t remember a lot from those days, but a memory that sticks in my mind was she was an animal lover and gave each cow and bull first names.
They didn’t own a phone or television. For phone calls, they drove to the local grocery and use a community telephone. Entertainment was sitting on the screened porch and watch the sunset. Then early bedtime.
My grandfather was a diabetic. He lost a leg and could no longer farm. My father taught Mamma to drive at the age of fifty-four so she and my grandfather could get around. The car was a stick shift. She never drove over 35 miles per hour, and she didn’t drive at night.
Four years after, my grandpa passed away. She was forced to work outside the home for the first time in her life. She got a job as a cook in a newly opened senior living facility.
My parents insisted she install a phone at home, which she utilized frequently. She retired from her job about ten years later. Sometime within that span, she bought a TV. Dallas became her favorite show. She was also something of a domino shark. Our family get togethers usually included rousing games and more often than not, she emerged as the winner.
I was her only grandchild. I spent a week with her during her vacation when she worked. During our times together, she taught me about Jesus and the Lord’s Prayer, which we’d say every night before we went to sleep. She told me I had a crown waiting for me in heaven. Whenever I did a good deed, Jesus would put a star in my crown so it would shine bright when it came time for me to wear it.
As I grew into my teens, the stay overs stopped, but I made regular trips to visit. Later, when I married, I moved an hour and a half away. I saw her whenever I came to town, and my parents brought her to see us. Several years later, my husband, children, and I relocated eight hours away. To visit us, she braved her first airplane ride at the age of 82. In between visits and monthly phone calls, we wrote weekly letters to keep in touch.
Years of physical work began to catch up with her, and in her mid-eighties, she fell frequently. It was decided she could no longer stay by herself in the big house in the country. She moved into the senior home where she’d worked years before.
There she thrived. She traded dominoes for bingo and never missed a game. The facility held beauty classes and for the first time, she wore makeup, had her nails done, and a trip to the in-house beauty salon became a weekly thing.
At 93 her memory started to fade and her body withered. In the end, she’d lost interest life, and she struggled to remember things, including the people she loved. The next year, she closed her eyes for the final time.
The priest who presided over her funeral told me not to be sad. My grandmother still lived and she lived through me. A comforting thought as is the idea she’s in heaven—wearing a bright and shiny crown filled with stars. I miss her, but I saved her letters. When I need my grandma, I still have her words.