Granny, Jane Jabs, on her 85th birthday.

Granny, Jane Jabs, on her 85th birthday.

By Michelle Mielke

This was an entry in the 2012 ‘Who Inspires You’ contest

One of the inspirations in my life is my grandma, whom we affectionately call “Granny Jane.” She lived through the Depression and personal heartache and pain. But for as long as I can remember, she has always been full of “vim and vigor” as she might say about others.

She grew up and got married to my grandfather, Howard, who was a farmer near Devils Lake. They had three children, two boys and a girl. They probably lived a typical farm lifestyle.

But then something horrific happened. A truck delivering gasoline to the farm rolled down the hill and struck the house, where it caused an explosion and fire. My father, age 6 and the oldest boy, was away at school. My grandma was in the house with the other two children. As a result of the explosion, my grandmother was severely burned, her newborn baby girl suffered burns and her youngest son, age 3, died in the fire.

My grandmother spent a year and a half recovering in Rochester. My dad and aunt stayed with their paternal grandparents. My grandmother was only able to see my dad once during that entire time and didn’t see my aunt until she got out. I look at my 20 month-old daughter and think about what it must have been like to leave a first grader and 2 month-old and come back to a 3rd grader and a 20 month-old. When she finally got out of the hospital, they also didn’t have a place to stay so they had to squeeze into her parents’ tiny house.

I knew about the accident growing up but it wasn’t talked about much. Only now that I am a mother myself can I even begin to grasp the heart-wrenching pain she must have gone through. Just thinking about it, tears flow freely from my eyes. Not only did she have to try to recover herself but she was mourning the loss of a child and had to be away from the other ones for a long time during their early childhood years.

But Granny Jane didn’t let it define her. She still finds the positive in life because as she says “what is the point of focusing on it?” Many times I think about her advice when I have some trivial problem in my own life that I am spending too much time and energy on.

Growing up, we would always hear Granny whistling as she went about her work. She was a busy farm wife – she kept house, cooked for the men, took afternoon lunch out to the fields, mowed lawn, gardened, did crafts, sewed, she even ran a ceramics shop out of her basement!

I remember thinking that Granny Jane was such a cool grandma. She has a great sense of humor. I don’t know if she’ll remember this but she would have burping contests with the grandkids. She let us play wheelchair derby with her wheelchairs, which consisted of us racing the wheelchairs down a gravel hill. She had a special candy cupboard we liked to get into and if we asked if we could have some candy, she would just say “Eat it up!” Many times she took care of us when we were sick and she could always make us feel better with her humor. I remember lying on the couch with used tissues all around me and she jokingly said “Pick up your snotrags!”

My brother and I worked at the farm during the summers. I use the term “worked” lightly because many times we would be hanging out with Granny when we should have been out doing something my dad set up for us. We couldn’t help but want to spend time with her.

Granny out fishing on Devils Lake

Granny out fishing on Devils Lake

Granny created gifts for all five grandkids. I know we all received coats she personally knitted when we were younger. She also made us something called a quillow (a quilt that can fold into a pillow) one Christmas. She was at the store getting all the materials and telling the store clerk about her plans, not knowing one of her grandchildren was behind her in line. He asked “What are you making for your grandkids?” She turned around and said “quillows, aaaak!” (He found out early that year.)

She is a forgiving grandma. We were the typical clumsy kids. We broke her favorite cookie jar. The boy cousins were wrestling, snapped the flower off her plant and tried to fix it with Scotch tape. I’m positive we broke more than one of her ceramic creations. She forgave all.

Granny Jane and Grandpa Howard did everything together. They went to church every Sunday. Thursday nights were reserved for “stag night” at the Elks. Grandpa Howard passed away in 1998 and though I know she misses him dearly, she still continues on with her positive outlook on life.

At nearly 85, she is still active – she does quilting at the church, goes out for family breakfasts, makes her way around town for shopping, goes on trips with the local bank’s senior club, goes out fishing on the lake with family and much more. There is no grass growing under her feet!

And, she knows how to email. Yes, email. She is never afraid of learning something new, which is another great quality she possesses. Maybe I’ll have to teach her how to text!

Despite the cards that life handed her, Granny Jane has always been a positive, upbeat person and I am truly inspired by that.

Love ya Granny!

Michelle Mielke lives in Bismarck with her family and has always been interested in writing.