On April 6, 1915, one of the strongest women to walk this earth was born. Two years later on April 6, 1917, the U.S. entered WWI. Coincidence? Probably not, but ironic it still is.
She was my hero, her strength and courage were unmatched. My Grandmother’s ancestors helped to settle this state, naming Otter lake and the Wolf River. I recently learned that when there was still more woods than pavement, and “posted” signs were not on every bit of land, she could walk through the woods and name each bird, flower, tree, and berry.
It was rare for a woman to graduate high school back then, but she did. On July 29, 1934, she married my Grandfather Clarence Berseth. It was the Depression-era, but they got through it. Helping both of their families with each farm while starting their own family.
Grandma and Grandpa ended up having 7 children and 17 grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren. Grandma was touched by a birth of a new child from her blood in every decade. While still going through their own trails.
The Depression years brought bums to their door, which they gladly feed, even though they didn’t have much to eat themselves. WWII brought the interest of the Navy to the intelligence of one of my uncles, and away he went. Then brought the Beatles, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors.
Not many people see these many events in their life, but that was just a beginning for Grandma. In 1977 it was as though a curse had touched our family. (I still wasn’t born just yet) My Aunt Barbara Jean passed away from cancer at the young age of 28. I have no idea how my Grandparents got through those moments, but they did. Grandpa was sick already with Parkinson’s. And I doubt very much that the stress at losing one of his daughters made it any better.
In January of 1981, I came into the world, the last grandchild. the only grandchild to never meet Grandpa. He passed shortly after I arrived. Grandma was alone. To a certain extent. The first Christmas after I was born, unknown to anyone else she spent it alone. This was Grandma’s way, she felt her children had their own families or things to do on Christmas so she wasn’t going to burden them.
Well, that wasn’t going to fly with my family. So every Christmas from then on was spent with Grandma. It still brings tears to my eyes (I’m actually crying now) thinking about Christmas at grandmas. Boy, could she cook and bake!
My brother and I spent so much time at Grandma’s house growing up, each of us asked her if we could have it when she died. When I asked, she laughed and said, “your brother already asked.” I then wondered if that meant I had to fight him for it, or if I needed to start making sure Grandma knew how rotten he was. I prepared for both.
In 1991, Grandma lost one of my uncles, her son to cancer. I don’t know how she got through it, not without Grandpa by her side. I remember her having her moments, but she always held her composure in public and around the family. I suppose she let the pain out when she was alone.
In 1993 she lost yet another of my aunts to cancer.
To be perfectly honest there is no way I could have gotten through any of that without medical intervention with plenty of drugs. But she did, she continued on through each event. Quilting and winning awards for them, teaching all of us grandkids how to play cards (Yes all 17 of us can play at least 8 different card games, taught to us by Della Berseth), baking, sewing, knitting (She knitted each grandchild an afghan in our favorite color), and walking.
She is why I walk. Many moons ago, she had 2 strokes, and the doctors of the time gave her instructions to not move don’t exercise don’t strain yourself. Grandpa who was an active reader of anything and everything, read up on the new research of strokes. Everything he read said you need exercise. So he and Grandma walked every day around the pond.
And even after he passed Grandma did just that, she walked every day. She’d make her friends join her. LOL And I was always up for the walk, new town, new things! And it carried to her grandkids. For most every get-together, us grandkids would go for a walk. I annoyed most of my cousins as I was pretty much annoying. But we walked, and we talked about this memory or that. Knowing we were making memories for the future. Just think right now as I sit here and ball my eyes out typing, I’m thinking about all the great times Grandma gave all of us.
At one point I asked her I must have been about 11, “Grandma, what do you do all day?”. It was an actual innocent question. I couldn’t figure out what she did, she didn’t work so like did she have some super secret life? I didn’t know. She answered, “Well, I wake up in the morning and say, ‘Della what do I want to do today?’ and I do it.” At that age didn’t understand just how important that was to hear, I had no idea that it was the advice I would need as an adult.
Keep it simple, when its hard. “Jean, what do you want to do today?” And do it.