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Chloe Weingarten: Ode to Grandma Phyllis

This COVID year has taught us that life is fleeting and our world fragile.

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Chloe Weingarten Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Teenagers look forward; I plan to go to college, have a career, buy a house, see the world. Teens dread visiting their grandparents to hear “back in my day…”, a fault I’ve shared.

My grandma passed away this September a few days after she moved into our house. Her health had declined from inactivity from isolation during COVID. Her heart was failing. My parents found some old albums and hoped that my sister and I would look at them with her; we never got the chance. The rapidity of her passing surprised us. Last year for Speech Class I had recorded Grandma talking about her life. I have been listening to it again, it’s nice to hear her voice.

She moved to Rochester 12 years ago to be closer to us. We spent a lot of time with her because she was our babysitter. Her house had cool artifacts of bygone days. I would dig through old drawers and find her father’s sheriff’s posse badge and a rattlesnake tail.

Grandma grew up in central Montana on a ranch during the Great Depression. She learned hard lessons about survival. Like most ranchers her family was in debt. The insurance men came to take away their cattle as payment. Her dad, an honest man, was dishonest only once. He hid one cow and one bull up on a forested hill so he would not have to start from scratch after they took his herd.

She never wasted food. She once showed me old ration booklets from World War II. Freezer burned ice cream was okay and expiration dates a suggestion. Her home-made desserts were mysterious, recipes were just a guide, substituting many items because “I “didn’t have the right ingredient.” These desserts brought our family much amusement.

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Grandma was a strong woman who lived a quiet, humble life. She had no time for fussing or silly things. She was a single mother to my mom and aunt, and worked as a librarian in a Federal Juvenile Detention center to support them. But, she was also funny and told stories of how her world changed so much, from their first shared party telephone to cell phones which she could never understand. In Minnesota she had a thriving social life and was an awesome bridge player.

This COVID year has taught us that life is fleeting and our world fragile. The future is now uncertain. Listening to my tape of Grandma’s “back in the day,” she was faced with uncertainty and insecurity, but prevailed. I’ve learned the past of my grandma can be the foundation of my future.

Chloe Weingarten is a junior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.

Related Topics: PEOPLETEEN COLUMNS
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