As we head into the holiday season, we’re all reminded of memories of time’s past. For me, Thanksgiving obviously reminds me of a meal with family and friends. However, there was one particular time that will always stand out for me.
I’ll get to that in a moment.
My grandma was a character. She was always the center of attention. She grew up as the only child of a doctor in Upper Arlington, Ohio, which is about 10 minutes north of Columbus, Ohio. In 1929, at just 3-years-old, she was diagnosed with polio, her mother died of cancer and the Great Depression started. It wasn’t a great year for my grandma and her father.
Nonetheless, she persevered, made the nuns crazy at her Catholic school and because of her polio diagnosis, wore two different sizes of shoes. She started driving and smoking when she was 13-years-old and would often hide in the back of her car, smoking, while the nuns looked for her. With bright red hair that she meticulously rolled into curls, and a limp from polio, she was hard to miss, but she knew exactly where to park so that the nuns couldn’t see her.
She met my grandfather in college and was awarded his pin – a tradition much like being given a boy’s letterman’s jacket. They married and had three children in 39 months, with a fourth child coming a few years later. She and my Grandpa lived in the same house until they moved to Colorado in 1992 to be closer to us.
She often spoke about quitting smoking during her pregnancies and would light up again as soon as her children were born. She smoked until her dying day, but that wasn’t the cause of her death. She died peacefully after complications due to dementia, with her long-time caretaker by her side.
She lived a very full life. She loved to travel and eat at the Lakewood Country Club where she was a member. She drove a bright blue Cadillac and had the loudest laugh in any room she entered.
She knew Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. She knew Jack Nicklaus, winner of 117 professional golf tournaments. She aslo knew Beverly D’Angelo, a famous actress known for her role as Ellen Griswold in the series of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” films.
She knew all of them because they were born in, or lived in Columbus. She was very proud of her Ohio roots. She would always introduce herself to strangers and ask them where they were from and what their last name was. It didn’t matter who, or the situation. It was always, “Hi, I’m Nancy! Nice to meet you. Where are you from? What’s your last name?”
It was a way for her to tell new people that she was from Ohio and she frequently asked the person to write down their name on a piece of paper so that she could analyze their handwriting and discuss their ethnic background.
She had funny sayings like, “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?” when someone had to leave an outing – dinner, a visit with her, etc. If she liked you, she would say, “I like you. You’re white trash, just like me!” She frequently would announce to a room full of people that no one would be there if it wasn’t for her. Even though there were plenty of people in the room who had no relation to her.
Grandma always had a stockpile of Hershey’s bars with almonds, nut-covered ice cream drumsticks and sweet rolls. I still can’t look at a Hershey’s bar without thinking about her. She made her famous “Ohio Chili” for family gatherings and instead of putting it into a ziplock bag, or Tupperware during transportation to the party, she stored it in large, 50-gallon trash bags.
Why? I have no idea. She would never leave a piece of bread behind after a meal, but would, instead, wrap it in a napkin and take it home for the birds who would visit her back patio.
She would tell stories about conversations she had with Nicklaus’ parents. “They’re just going to let their kid chase a little ball around and hope it goes in the hole, rather than sending him to college?” Then she would make fun of herself because Nicklaus is potentially the greatest golfer of all time. (Side note – Nicklaus did attend Ohio State but never graduated).
She was no stranger to poking fun at herself and would tell us that she liked walking along the sidewalk because she could have one foot on the sidewalk, and the other in the street and that would briefly camouflage her limp.
I’m reminded of one particular memory and a meal we almost didn’t share together. It was Father’s Day in 2008 and we were all gathered at my parents’ house for a BBQ. My grandma relied on a walker to get around in her later years, both due to age and her polio. We were all gathered in the living room, with some of us in the kitchen and others out on the deck attending to the grill.
It was a very typical meal setting for us. Someone always had to be with Grandma to keep her company and listen to her stories. She was drinking a non-alcoholic Coors that had been poured into a pint glass for her. She wasn’t allowed to drink beer anymore due to doctor’s orders, so we had to conceal that minor detail by “going to the garage to get her a beer” then coming back with it already in a frosty glass. If she wanted to smoke a cigarette, we’d assist her and her tennis ball-bottomed walker onto the deck.
There were 13 of us at the house that afternoon, so it’s unclear how a fire started in the grill. Everyone was paying attention, no one was inebriated, it was just a fluke. My dad meticulously cleans his grill, so it wasn’t due to grease build-up. It’s still a mystery.
I was in the kitchen when someone yelled, “fire!” The deck is partially covered and smoke started to billow on the ceiling. Quickly. My sister ran inside screaming, and grabbed a small drinking cup and started filling it with water from the sink. This was obviously not going to do the trick, and she self-admittedly is not good in moments of crisis. Everyone was running everywhere, minus Grandma. She sat on the couch and laughed while the chaos rang out around her.
I called 9-1-1 and the firefighters were there in no time. Since we were all preoccupied, no one was paying attention to Grandma. She managed to get off the couch and make her way to the front door and greeted the firefighters by extending her hand, and asking each and every one of them where they were from and what their name was.
Unbelievable! Grandma! They’re here to put out a fire! Not chit-chat with you! The fire was mostly out by the time the firefighters arrived, but they checked the gas line to make sure it was fine, then they were on their way.
The situation perfectly fit my grandma. In a moment of panic, she was calm and became the center of attention.
As we head into Week 10, I think we’re all probably feeling the chaos, but we should be striving to be more like Grandma. This week holds a lot of uncertainty and the waiver wires are slimmer than a piece of dental floss, but let’s take a look at a couple of players who might still be out there for the taking.
Jen’s Friday Night Insights
Cam Newton (QB, Carolina Panthers)
Welp. I guess Cam Newton is the quarterback in Carolina now. Again. He’s getting a ton of hate for going back to his previous team. He’s getting a lot of hate for coming back at all. He hasn’t played in 11 months. Sure. He had an injured shoulder. Sure. But he’s back with a team he knows.
He’ll be the starting QB while Sam Darnold is out with a shoulder injury. The deal is pretty massive, too. Newton signed a one-year, potentially $11 million package and has some very solid weapons. He’ll have Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson, Chuba Hubbard and D.J. Moore to spread out on the field for his choosing.
He’s rostered in just 11.7 percent in ESPN leagues. But he’s going fast, folks. Go get him while you can. He’s been working out on his own, has stayed in shape, healed his shoulder and is ready for action. He may be a quality quarterback fill-in for your fantasy team, at least for the next month that is.
D’Ernest Johnson (RB, Cleveland Browns)
Besides a massive week against Denver in Week 7, where he carried the ball for 146 yards, had 22 receiving yards and had one rushing touchdown, D’ernest Johnson hasn’t gotten a lot of looks this season. And why would he? He’s been behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt for the entirety of his NFL career.
In fact, he’s had so few appearances that he’s only had 382 yards and two touchdowns in his three seasons. Well, that’s about to change. Chubb has been ruled out this week and has landed on the COVID-19/Reserve List. Joining him on the list are fellow backs, John Kelly and Demetric Felton. This opens up a huge opportunity for Johnson to have another week as he did against the Broncos. Baker Mayfield has no one else to hand the rock to.
Like Newton, Johnson is going fast. Go get him if you need a running back who can bridge the gap until his fellow teammates come back in action.
I’m here to join the conversation, drink in hand and watch the 2021 NFL season unfold. Cheers! If you choose to make any of my drink recipes, I’d love to see them. Please take a picture and tag me!
Bi-Weekly Drink Recipe:
- 2 oz Aperol
- 3 oz prosecco
- 1 oz Sprite or club soda
- Orange slice for garnish
- Add all ingredients to a wine glass, stir and serve over ice. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter for more motherly and fantasy sports advice @JenPolvogt.