Grandma Murphy

August 17, 2013

Kevin Berger


Many of you have given me your condolences on the passing of my grandmother.  Thank you.  I’ve been blessed more than most to have had my Grandma in my life for as long as I did.  Not many people live to see their 100th Birthday, which she celebrated in August of 2012.  Grandma had 95 very good years before her health began to fail.  Even at the end, she was able to smile and enjoy some of the things in life.

Wilma Murphy ObituaryThe family struggled to put together the obituary (see right); there is only so much that can be said in the limited space.  I have a wealth of stories I could tell about my Grandmother, so for those of you interested, indulge me in some rambling memories of some of our good times together.

When I was little, I would spend a lot of weekends with them in their home in Winamac.  During a lot of this time she was working at the bank, so Grandpa would entertain me Saturday morning (often watching Saturday morning cartoons with me) until she got home at noon.  She and Grandpa woke me in the middle of the night so I could witness some of the Apollo space missions live.  They taught me to mushroom hunt.  They taught me to fish.  Grandma Murphy was probably the only fisherman out on the lake who always had her hair done and was dressed in her good jewelry and full make-up!   That didn’t stop her from baiting a hook and taking her own fish off the line though!  Grandma had an aging uncle in Monticello she looked after.  Grandpa and Grandma would take me with them to do yard work for him on the weekends.  Grandma would direct the activities, but would also be right in there working with us.

They lived in Winamac until they retired.  They owned a second home in Venetian Village on the channels at Lake Maxinkuckee and eventually made that their full time home.  They continued to look out for  others there.  All the neighbors that weren’t full time residents had them taking care of their places and watching over them.  Some of those neighbors have continued to visit them in the nursing home and look out for them.  Grandma and Grandpa were good friends to have and they made good friendships that lasted.

They also had a mobile home in Lakeland, Florida where they spent winters after retirement.  It was initially to be close to her parents and sister who lived there, but they quickly became involved in local activities and served on the homeowners association board and other committees.  We were fortunate to spend many Christmases in Florida with them.  After we were married, Becky and I would travel to Florida and spend the week after Thanksgiving with them every year.  We made that trip every year until they sold the trailer to move back to Indiana full time again.  When the lake house became too much to take care of, they moved into Culver in the little blue house on the north side of the BP station.  She enjoyed sitting on the porch or in the dining room watching all the comings and goings there.

When my mother was in high school, my grandparents had taken her on a trip through the west.  When I turned 15 they did the same with me.  It was somewhat of a whirlwind ten days.  I no longer remember how many miles we racked up, but we went across the upper United States and then down through California and back across the southwest with stops at the Badlands, Hall’s Drugstore, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Golden Gate Bridge, Sequoia National Park, MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest.  Grandma was always pushing the limits.  While we were in Vegas she had to sneak me onto a casino floor had me put a quarter in a slot machine, just so I could say that I had.

But she was always frugal.  I only played one quarter in that slot machine…  And we would pick up motel flyers along the way and scope out the cheap room rates.  We stayed in a lot of Vagabond Inns (whose logo used to be a hobo) and she taught me to always ask to see the room before signing in to make sure that it was clean.  When we were at the Petrified Forest, she talked me out of buying a souvenir at the gift shop.  Then just outside the park she stopped the car and made Grandpa get out and pick up a piece of petrified wood for me.  Grandpa and I are probably felons!  Well, maybe I’m just an accessory.  At the time I was sure we were going to be arrested!

Probably my favorite memories though are of messing with her!  Grandma liked to have everything just so.   Remember me saying she was the best dressed fisherman?  Well, Grandma liked to have the house just so too.  They used to have a carpet that was the plush shag and she would rake her way out of the room whenever they would leave.  If I stopped at the house when they weren’t there, I would walk part way into the room and then hoist myself over to a chair and climb out to leave the footprints ending in space, or walk into the room backwards and backtrack in the same footprints. It became a challenge to find different things to leave for her.

This evolved into a game we played with Pluto.  Pluto was a little rubber toy dog with wire inside so you could pose it.  It became a game for me to get that dog out of the toy box and pose it somewhere in the house… often with its leg hiked by a plant.  When I moved to college, after one visit by my grandparents, Pluto appeared at MY house.  From there the game evolved and the dog would appear back and forth.  When I lived in GA, Grandpa and Grandma would stop on their way through to FL and Pluto would appear.  When we went down to visit them, we would take Pluto and put him somewhere there.  That dog got a lot of miles and had a tough life with all the poses we put him in!  Grandma always referred to him as “That Durn’d Dog!”

I was always a fidgety kid and G’ma would always be telling me to “sit still” or quit messing with things and to “Stop That!”  At the end of her life in the nursing home, she became the fidgety kid…  Picking at her oxygen line or worrying at a piece of paper.  One of the ways I could get her to smile was to poke her and tell her to “Stop That!”  I had to yell in her ear to tell her that she would never let me get away with that!  That usually got a smile from Grandma and Grandpa would laugh and tell her, “See what you started!”

There are lots of good times to remember and I’ll miss her.  I know there wasn’t a lot of joy in her life at the end, so I’m glad that my visits could provide some.

Today is her Birthday.  She would have been 101.  I thought it was an appropriate time to share a few of my memories about her.  Thank you for indulging me.

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