Grandma Dee was a VERY special lady in my life. Her real name was Eulah D. Bailey, but we always called her Grandma Dee. Although she wasn't my biological Grandma, our family permanently adopted her in about 1974.
I first met Grandma Dee when I was a baby. I do not remember our first days together, but apparently I was a huge fan of hers from day one. However, my fondness for her caused some hard feelings. Her sister Beulah had been babysitting me and had asked Grandma Dee to babysit me for a few days when she was not available. Grandma Dee was always very honest with me about being asked to watch me. I can still hear her saying, "Your mom asked me to watch you and I told her that I didn't know anything about taking care of kids like you, but she convinced me to try it. And well, you just liked me a lot and we got along really well. Your mom asked me to keep the job, and I had just retired from the shoe factory and my husband had died a few years before so I had time to watch you." I would always ask with a smile, "What about your sister?" Grandma Dee would always answer with a smile, "She never has really forgiven me for taking her job."
Grandma Dee had the best stories! She was born in 1910 and was 63 years old when she began babysitting me. She had raise 5 kids and worked at a shoe factory for decades. The noise in the shoe factory had caused nerve damage in her ears so there was always "crickets" as she would call them. Grandma Dee was one of the few surviving children after the 1925 tornado destroyed the DeSoto School. She would tell of how loud the tornado was and how she and her sister just kept running until they were away from the building and the flying bricks. Grandma Dee said about 30 kids died and a lot of their friends and neighbors died too. She also had stories of how she met her husband at a Tent Revival when she was sitting in the car pouting about having to be there. She explained how in 1927 at age 17, she walked along the railroad tracks with her few belongings to go get a marriage license with Tom. She would laugh about how as newlyweds, they lived in her in-laws living room until after their first child was born. They had been married 42 years when Tom passed away.
Grandma Dee was young at heart! She was so young a heart that she was one of the few adults who remained "cool" and "smart" during my teen years. Grandma Dee could make even a trip to Wal-Mart an adventure. She loved to try new products from her small disc camera (a trend that didn't last long) to her lava lamp to a new nail polish. She had young taste buds and loved pizza, specifically Supreme (hold the green peppers) Pizza Hut pizza, and she had a soft spot for good fried chicken. For her 85th birthday, my mom took her to a restaurant that she had always wanted to go to, but she had never gone because the restaurant had a bar. However, she really wanted to try their famed fried chicken. She lamented, "What if I see someone from church?" Her daughter Betty said, "Say hi." and laughter followed from everyone! So at age 85, Grandma Dee entered a bar for the first time in her life to imbibe on fried chicken and she loved it!
Grandma Dee was a devoted Christian woman. She had more Sunday school attendance pins than one shoulder should ever hold. No matter where she went, she was in church on Sunday. There was no debate! One of the things I still remember fondly was how much she loved a good storm. It seemed unlikely that someone who lived through a deadly tornado would love storms, but Grandma Dee believed that Jesus would return when a lightening storm came out of the east. (Based on Matthew 24:27) Every storm, she would run to the window to check the direction. As a teen, I would tease her that she just wanted to be the first to see Jesus. However, what impressed me was that her faith that was so strong and her desire to see Jesus was so real that she was at the window as soon as the clouds darkened for EVERY storm.
Grandma Dee babysat me while my mom worked in a gas station that my folks owned and operated while dad was in college. She taught me to walk. She went to doctors appointments in St. Louis with us. She was a big part of our family by the time my dad graduated college and we were ready to move to southwest Missouri to be near my mom's family. Each year she would come stay with us for at least a month and sometimes longer. Grandma Dee vacationed with us, celebrated with us and was a big part of our plans for Summer adventures.