Mom Grey on my mind

Please enjoy this story again, which I first told 11 October 2010.

Everyone in the family called her Mom. She was my father’s father’s mother, my great grandmother, and her time overlapped mine by a handful of years. Filet-O-Fish sandwiches will always make me think of her.

Mom Grey, my brother, and I, 1969

She was born in the West Virginia hills at a time when indoor plumbing wasn’t yet widely available. She is said to have been determined, ornery even. Her pluck served her well; she owned and ran the local tavern and roominghouse in the little railroad town where most of the family lived. My father slept in a room upstairs; Mom Grey did most of the work raising him.

Much of the family moved to South Bend in the 1950s looking for manufacturing and construction work. Mom Grey eventually closed the tavern and moved north, and by the time I came along she had a house on an alley near downtown. We visited most Sunday afternoons. She always had Hershey bars in the refrigerator just for my brother and me. We’d sit on her wide, wooden front porch and play with empty aerosol cans she kept in a cardboard box. Or we’d get the rag off the kitchen sink and try to rub the age spots off her legs. I can’t imagine now why she tolerated that!

She had a very old TV, and behind this panel right at little-kid height were about a million knobs. I was obsessively drawn to knobs and buttons, and so when nobody was looking I’d pull off the panel and twist them all. If she ever cursed my name Sunday night when she settled in that night to watch Gunsmoke, I never heard of it.

My brother and I were fascinated with a conch shell she used to prop open a door. The first time one of us reached for it, Dad quickly intervened — it had been strictly off limits to him as a boy. But Mom Grey would have none of it. “You let those boys play with that shell!” Dad stood down. When the family matriarch spoke, everyone fell into line.

Sunday dinner

Whenever our stay slipped into the dinner hour Dad would drive over to McDonald’s to buy us all Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, since Mom Grey enjoyed them. It was a testament to Dad’s devotion to his grandmother, for Dad was tight with his money and his wallet would not open so easily for anyone else.

Filet-O-Fish Sundays lasted only so many years, though, as Mom Grey passed on when I was six.

I haven’t had a Filet-O-Fish sandwich in years, thanks to the gluten-free diet I have to follow. But I used to order them at the drive-through all the time after church, just to feel that Sunday connection to Mom Grey.

Happy birthday today to my brother!


8 responses to “Mom Grey on my mind”

  1. Gerald Avatar

    I like these kind of stories, Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Gerald!

  2. jpcavanaugh Avatar

    An enjoyable collection of memories. And wasn’t it fun to see how different our parents acted around their own parents? I understand the dynamic now, and I am sure that my own kids enjoy seeing the very same thing play out in my life.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was very puzzling to young me to see my dad back down at Mom Grey’s command!

  3. bwc1976 Avatar

    I miss those styrofoam containers McDonalds used to use! I’ll always remember Filet-O-Fish as the first thing I ate when visiting Sydney, Australia.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I liked to dump my fries in the lid!

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    You are blessed to have such wonderful memories of your great grandmother and the interactions you had with her.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, I am fortunate. I knew one of my other great grandmothers, too, but not as well as Mom Grey.

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