Remembering Grandma—Anna Matilda Adams 1915 – 2010

Circa 1917—Katherine Roecker Adams holding my grandmother Anna behind Raymond, Harold, and Florence and beside Harrison Myron Adams and two horses.

The Life of Anna Adams Lemmon

As I Remember It

Monday, April 30, 1996

Part 1 

I was born August 3 – 1915 in a log house in the country between Piqua Ohio and Covington Ohio back a lane off of the Rake straw road.  The house that I was born in is still there.  Our house was the first house on the lane and farther east was another house on the same lane.  The people that lived in that house by the name of Franks. 

The house we lived in had only 3 rooms down stairs and one room up stairs.  The kitchen was big and we used it for not only a kitchen but a bed room where my mother & dad slept.  There were four of us kids and we slept up stairs in the one room. 

The kitchen was the only room that had a cook stove in.  And in the winter the other rooms was shut off so that the kitchen could stay warm.  We had a pump where we got our water and an out side toilet.  I can remember the winters back then were a lot colder and a lot more snow then we have today.  We also had a pretty big apple orchard so we always had plenty of apples in the fall when apples were ripe. (Anna Adams Lemmon)

At my mother’s urgings, my grandmother wrote the story of her life in 1996 when she was 80 years old. She wrote it by hand on lined notebook paper and requested that no grammatical edits or corrections be made.

 I started to school when we lived there when I was 5 or 6 years old. The school house was and the building is still there on Route 36.  A one room school house.  It had eight grades not to many children.  We would walk to school every day but it wasn’t very far from were we lived.  It was heated with a big pot belly stove so they called it then.  My mother would buy us one pair of shoes at the beginning of the school term and they had to last us all year.  I remember mine wore out before school was out and I walked barefooted to school.  One day I can remember it snowed and we walked home bare-footed in the snow.  Our teacher in that school was Miss Strenrod.  She was a good teacher, she was pretty stricked with the boys. . .

My grandmother on the left with some of her younger siblings and maybe cousins.

Each one of us kids had chores to do it wasn’t very easy living on the farm.  We didn’t have much time to play.  We had to pump water to the barn for the cows and horses to drink.  We would take turns about pumping the water.  There was a big tank down at the barn and the pump house was up at the house which was a pretty long ways.  Of course we kids would get into some pretty big arguments about who pumped the most.  But Dad always settled that in a a hurry. . .

In the summer when the rasberries and strawberries were ripe Florence my sister and I would pick berries for a neigbor who had a berrie patch and sold his berries.  We would get a penny a qt. We would work almost all day for .25 and we thought we was rich.  That was not an easy job, we had to wear old socks on are arms so we wouldn’t get all scratched up.  And a big straw hat because the sun would be awful hot.  (Anna Adams Lemmon)

I typed my grandmother’s hand-written story honoring her request not to edit. It is 20 double-spaced typed pages and largely portays details of her childhood and life on the farm with her family. It is one of my most-valued treasures.

My grandmother died in a nursing home at the age of 94 early in 2010. She no longer could see or hear very well. She suffered from dementia and often didn’t know who my mom was. She died less than a year after my sister Annie, and my parents were still reeling from the loss of their precious daughter.

As my Grandma slowly deteriorated with dementia my mom tried desperately to find things that Grandma could do to occupy her time, to be able to make and receive phone calls, to maintain some amount of independence and quality of life.

A couple of weeks after Annie died I took my parents to visit my grandma 40 minutes away. Grandma was eating lunch when we got there. Grandma seemed pleased to see us although it also was apparent she didn’t have a clue who we were. Mom kept trying to explain to her that she was her daughter Mary, and Grandma smiled but without recognition. She was just passing the time with three convivial people.

When she was finished eating we returned to her room, my mom pushing her wheelchair and Dad and I walking beside her. I tried to tell her who I was.

“Grandma,” I said, “do you know who I am? I’m Christine.”

She just looked at me blankly.

“I’m Annie’s sister. You remember Annie don’t you?”

My grandmother and my sister Annie at Grandma's 90th birthday party.

That sparked a recognition for my grandma who had been told about Annie’s death, and to my surprise and distress she became not only fully aware of who I was but also quite angry.

“What kind of daughter are you?” she demanded, “Leaving your mother alone when she has just lost her daughter?”

“Mom is right here,” I told her. “She is right here with me.”

“I’m here, Mom” my mother said. “This is Mary.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Grandma continued to me. “Your mother needs you.”

Mom was not getting through to Grandma. By the time we got back to Grandma’s room I was in tears, not because she had been yelling at me, but because of her fierce defense of my mother and her tragic loss. Mom was desperately trying to get Grandma to recognize her. My dad got involved because at times in the past Grandma recognized him and he was able to lead the way to her seeing my mom for who she was.

“Ann,” he said, “do you know who I am?”

Grandma calmed down and got kind of quiet. “I’m sorry about Annie,” she said.

My mom leaned in towards her and said, “This is Mary. Do you know who I am?”

My grandma reached her arms out to Mom and leaned forward out of her wheelchair. Mom grasped both of her hands in her own.

“I’m so sorry, Mary,” Grandma said as she started to cry. “How are you doing? Are you doing okay?”

Mom told her about Hospice and how we were all with Annie and that Annie was an angel now with Grandpa. “But I won’t get to see her anymore,” Grandma said through her tears.

I took my mom back to see my grandma two more times before she died in February. The first time I waited in the car with my dad. Grandma was sleeping and my mom did not stay long. The second time Grandma was in a coma. When we visited Grandma we knew it would be the last time we saw her. She was lying on her back on the bed. Her frail and tiny body was still. Her motionless hands resting on her stomach looked like older perfect replicas of Annie’s right hand. We stayed for a little over an hour.

About two hours after we got back home Mom answered the phone call telling her that Grandma had died.

My grandmother and grandfather, probably in the 60s or early 70s.

The last years of my grandma’s life were difficult ones for her and for those who loved her. But today I want to celebrate the way I remember my grandma.

When we were young, she had a large corrugated box in her laundry area beside the kitchen that she would pull out when we visited. It contained the items she had collected for us to play with—a plastic horse, small plastic toy soldiers, an empty metal donut-shaped adhesive tape container, and tons and tons of empty thread spools.

Every year until she was 80 my grandma held a Christmas party on a Saturday in December where she gathered all her children, grand-children and even great-grandchildren for a meal of Kentucky Fried chicken, potato salad and home made cake to celebrate the birth of Jesus. She had presents for each and every one of us that she had bought throughout the entire year.  She used to give us each an orange and a candy cane. Then we would play BINGO for prizes.

1958 - My sisters and me in dresses Grandma made for us.

My grandma was a prolific crocheter. I am the lucky recipient of four of her afghans. She made us little crocheted dresses when we were small and another for my daughter. On Grandma’s 90th birthday my mom and her two siblings held a big celebration for her where we displayed many of the items she had made with her own hands.

1988 - My daughter Anna, named for my grandmother, models the dress Grandma made.

I miss my grandma, and I suspect my mom misses her mother. But we’ll always have the memories, and an afghan or two.

Anna Matilda Adams 1915 - 2010

24 thoughts on “Remembering Grandma—Anna Matilda Adams 1915 – 2010”

    1. What a day of emotional upheaval. The same thing happened to my sister. The day my father’s mother died, my parents had been at the hospital where my sister was having her baby. They left the birth hospital and went to the one where the death occurred.

      So much in one day. How do our emotions do it?

  1. What a beautiful and touching story. It already reads like a favorite novel. Thanks for sharing such warm memories of a great lady.

    You and I share a family history of Alzheimers. I hope you look into the possibility of it happening with you. Not to frighten you, but to gain you more years of quality time with your loved ones. That’s how I look at the POSSIBILITY of Alzheimer’s.

    While I can, I’m trying to do all I can to control the onset through diet and exercise however difficult both are, socializing which I often have to push myself to do, brain exercises through writing for my blog,avoiding stress and negativity at all costs, and trying like heck to get enough sleep.

    I’m probably a decade or more older than you, so I share this info as one who’s closer to the prospect of the dreaded disease. I’m even toying with the prospect of being tested, although I don’t want the outcome to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I do want to be proactive since I don’t want to go the way my mom did…very, very badly.

    huge hugs…hugmamma. 🙂

    1. I’ve started paying attention to it. I was in the habit of doing mind exercises (memory games, etc) then I stopped. I think I’ll go back to that. I need to do better with my diet and exercise. Thanks for the digital kick in the rumpus.

      It’s not a fait accompli, however. I hope you live a long and alert life.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Christine. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you.

  3. Wonderful post. I loved hearing about your grandmother’s early life in her own words, and seeing her handiwork. How special.

    My dad wrote a short autobiography of his early life and gave copies to the 4 of use. It’s a nice treasure to have as they age and fade away.

  4. What a moving and charming post… I’m off to give my grandma a great big hug. Thanks for taking the time to share something so special and personal.

  5. Whoa, this is a touching post, my hubby’s watching tv and I am at the computer with tears running down my face. Beautiful tribute, one of my fave posts!

  6. Thank you for sharing. My grandmother has been gone for many years now but my own mother died only three years ago. Yes, there are always the memories.

    1. I’m sorry for your losses. I’m fortunate to still have my mother. I’ve read that even years after their own mother has died women will still call out for her on their death beds. Poignant.

  7. My dad is going through this dementia thing right now. Just yesterday it hit me how hard it is for him and how courageous he has been about it. He still recognize us, but Parkinson’s has killed the speech centers in his brain. Your post is reminding me to make sure he knows what I think of him when he knows I’m there.

    1. I’m sorry to hear this, Karl. How difficult it must be for you. They say touch is important—touching a person’s hand. Giving a hug, all of that. I try to touch my father a lot.

  8. Your grandmother was born in the house that my dad owned, up unti a few years ago. It was my grandma’s house.

      1. I’m sure we are relatives, but I can’t figure it out. See what I replied under my brother, Kenny’s, post.

      2. Oh, my! I just read your short bio on Amazon, and you have a dog named after my grandfather, Arthur! This is uncanny! There have been several things that have happened in the last two days, your blog included, that are tied in to my grandparents. I think it’s their way of letting me know that they are watching over me. What a feeling that is! Wow!

  9. My father grew up in the same house his name was Maurice Lee Adams, I also lived in that house when I first got married. It was my grandmother house also and her name was Ruth Adams and her husband was Arthur Adams. My name is Kenneth Dean Adams. The house is still there but when we lived there we added on to the east side of it.

      1. This is Kathy Adams. I am Kenneth’s (Kenny) older sister. Our grandfather was Arthur, Jr. and was married in 1915 to Ruth Erwin. His father (our great grandfather) was named Arthur, also. He was married in 1876 to a lady with the first name of Matilda. Our great-great grandparents were Gilbert and Eliza.
        It’s hard for me to understand how your grandmother was born in my grandparents’ house.
        I do remember reunions years ago south of Pleasant Hill and remember the name of Cory Lemmon. That name stuck with me for some reason. My dad, Maurice, bought my grandparents house and the farm back the lane, which was the Franke’s place. Mom and Dad tore the old Franke house down and built a new brick home there. Dad also built a new barn there and held the Adams reunion in it for several years.


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