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This past week, my grandma turned 88. I can always remember Grandma’s age easily since my sister Kim was born on Grandma’s 50th birthday!

Grandma Ann Hacker is the last surviving grandparent that either Michelle or I have, and she’s special in so many ways. We don’t tend to appreciate our grandparents until we start losing them. When we’re young, our grandparents are these people that seem to live in a time warp from some long distant past. We don’t always understand everything they say or do.

It’s always a little bizarre to think that Grandma was born in the 1920s and lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Those were major events in my American History class!

I’ve always known my grandma to be a hard-working lady who always seems to be on the move. She and Grandpa Tony lived on a farm outside of Lafayette, Minnesota, and I remember many trips over there for a meal, some visiting, and later in the afternoon, “a little lunch.” To this day, it feels like a treat to visit with Grandma!

Grandma always seemed to be bustling around a lot when we’d visit, a little like Martha from the New Testament stories with Jesus. I’m convinced one of the reasons she’s lived such a long life is her constant activity. Too many people retire and become sedentary, but Grandma has never really “retired” from life.  The busier she is, the happier she is!

I think part of my enjoyment of cooking comes from seeing how much love and effort Grandma  puts into the food she prepares. Plus, I think we have all experienced the “Grandma effect” with our cooking. I can follow whatever recipe she gives me to a tee, but I can never seem to duplicate the taste of Grandma’s cooking.

My absolute favorite dish from Grandma is her homemade sauerkraut and dumplings. Put those in a crockpot with some pork and you’ve got a dish made for a final meal on death row! Add a slice of her smear kuchen (a German coffee cake), and the meal is complete. Grandma used to make this up for me when I’d come home from college for a visit. There would always be enough leftovers for me to take back to Winona too!

Grandma was there for me when I started driving. Grandpa passed away when I was 16, and she let me have his old 1966 Ford pick-up as my first vehicle. Red paint, three on the tree, and a self-installed tape deck were all I needed to get around! When I headed off to college, I survived for a bit without a vehicle until she sold me her car so I could get to work and back easier, plus make some more trips home to New Ulm. Finally, when I got my job in New Richland, she loaned me the money to get a Grand Prix and make an attempt to drive a snazzy-looking car.

Michelle and I have enjoyed the opportunity to stay at Grandma’s house in past years when we travel home for Pumpkinfest in October. The kids go to my parents’ house, and we get to spend quality time in Lafayette. It’s very relaxing, catching up on things with Grandma and enjoying some excellent reruns on TV like Everybody Loves Raymond or The Cosby Show.

Hopefully one of these years the Twins will still be playing meaningful baseball, and we can watch a playoff game together. Grandma can always tell me more about the Twins current predicaments than I know myself. One of my best memories with Grandma was seeing a game during the inaugural season at Target Field. I believe that was her first time ever seeing the Twins in person, and it was a beautiful day to spend with family.

Grandma is the last living sibling out of 16 in her family. Most of them lived long lives, including some over 100 years! I keep telling Grandma that we expect her to be around for many years to come. She’s had some health issues over the years, but seems to keep bouncing back stronger than ever. Remember when I said we don’t always appreciate our grandparents until we’re older? I fully expect that my own children will reach that age with their remaining great-grandma still around! I love you, Grandma!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is impecunious, which means having little or no money, as in, “Grandma lived through a time when her family was impecunious, suffering through the Great Depression, which has made her value every dollar.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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