I Remember When...
Memories of Mom / Grandma / Great-Grandma / Our Family
So many memories of Mom, and thanks to those who've shared them. If you have memories you'ld like to share, send them to Dave
The earliest memory I have of visiting Grandma was the loooooong car ride to get there. I usually fell asleep in the car and then was really groggy and confused when my dad carried me in, plopped me on the floor in the living room and ran out to the car to lug in the next sleeping kid. Besides that traumatic memory, I have many wonderful memories of Grandma: playing Uno and Tripoly with her. Eating egg bake, ham sandwiches and pistachios. Grandma helping us get games, toys and puzzles out of the closet to keep us busy. And always, always, always, going down the line and hugging every single person before I left to go home. Even from a young age, I knew that this family loved and cared deeply for each other.
My favorite memory was when my parents shipped my brother Ben and I away to spend a week with our Grandparents. I had so much fun that week. Mostly, I loved having Grandmas (almost) undivided attention (ugh, Ben). I still remember random things from that week, like running errands with Grandma, and being able to just chat about day to day things. They are special and cherished memories because they were with my Grandma. Also, I'm pretty sure I cleared out Grandma's supply of Strawberry candies that week, but don't worry, she stocked up again by the next time I came.
Here's a very recent darkly funny story. Right before Thanksgiving this year, we decided it would be a good idea for my kids to send their school pictures in the mail to their Great Grandma. We cut their pictures out, and wrote their names on the back of the pictures. We stamped and addressed the envelope. Then my daughter, Erin, made a Thanksgiving card for her Great Grandma. She checked with her Grandpa Mark to find out what his mom's favorite animal was. After some deliberation, they decided Great Grandma's favorite animal must either be a bird or a duck. So she drew a really sweet picture of a mama bird in a tree feeding her baby birds. Then she wrote a cute note. It read "Dear: Great Grandma, I hope you don't get COVID-19. I ❤ you. Love: Erin". Erin definitely got the Matern bluntness and dark humor gene.
Another memory of my Grandma (and also our last conversation) was her telling me that my son Odin reminds her of my dad, Mark. She told me this several times starting when Odin was a toddler. I loved hearing and knowing this because I can't think of anyone I'd rather my son be like than my dad.
Carrie Radatz, Granddaughter (Daughter of Mark and Martha)
My favorite memories of grandma were spending afternoons with her after school, at her small office at the high school where she made photocopies and at her house where we’d play triominoes and she’d give me snacks, usually nutty bars. She was my best friend. I recently bought triominoes to play with Daniel because it reminded me of her. I think that in a way I thought grandma would live forever, because it’s hard for me to imagine life without her.
Heather Llanes, Granddaughter (Daughter of Kate and Mike)
When I was younger I would call her Grandma Candydish. Grandpa was alive so it was "We're going to Grandma and Grandpa Candydish's house!" Grandma had a crystal bowl faithfully on the table for us filled with strawberry candies, milk maids, and other various treats. She was so consistent the nickname stuck. And apparently sugar was a huge motivator for me as a kid. Some things never change.
I remember her walks on the trail with Grandpa it was sweet to see them together walking at their own pace pointing out various types of trees and different wildlife. I admired the strength of their marriage knowing it had withstood the test of time and they still liked each other's company. They had been married over 50 years and truly were soul mates.
When Grandma asked me to "come out of retirement" and be the the alter girl for Grandpa's funeral she made such a big deal out of it. I felt special. That's what she did, she made you feel special in unexpected ways. She always let you know she loved you.
Also she didn't ream me (like I was a little scared she might) when Richard and I got the church giggles in the middle of church and could not stop laughing at the priests singing...I bit my knuckle till it bled but every time I heard a crack in the priests voice I lost it...and then Richard would laugh and it was back and forth... We both felt bad but Grandma didn't say a word or shame us for it. At least...not that I'm aware of ;
Grandma is also responsible for my love of puzzles and games. There was ways a closet full of games and toys- Candyland, chutes and ladders, uno. I loved going to Grandma's house.
I also remember a time in church, when the priest was singing...Grandma leaned in before the singing started and said "He's not very good at this..." And then the church giggles ensued. Lindsay added that bit!
Jaime Norell, Granddaughter (Daughter of Kate and Mike)
For a lot of my childhood I referred to grandma as Grandma Candy Dish because I kept mixing up the names of my two grandmas but I definitely remembered Grandma Matern had a bowl of hard candy available for the grandkids. We shared a love of those yummy strawberry goo filled ones.
Lindsay Andrzejewski, Granddaughter (Daughter of Kate and Mike)
My memories of Mom are primarily of her working. She worked at several jobs outside the home, to provide for our family, but our's was also a typical old-fashioned family, where the Wife and Mother cooked all the meals, and did all the laundry. For nine children. She did teach her kids to help out around the house, and my sisters at least, did learn those lessons. Me, and my brothers? Hmm...
I remember her returning home from work, exhausted, and with horror stories to tell about cleaning rooms at the Kahler Hotel. She still had time for her little kids and their little kids' problems. Be careful, though, Mom, you might take that curve into Byron a little bit too fast!
She worked in several restaurants, primarily as a server, I believe. That is a particularly difficult job, as anyone who has done it knows, but I'm sure she had patience, and was hard working, and was polite, and didn't get rattled much, when a million things had to be done simultaneously. More lessons to us, you've passed along, Mom.
She worked in the High School for many years, operating an Offset Printing machine. She would sometimes point out spelling and grammatical errors to those who brought documents, for to make copies of, but sometimes she'd just leave those errors alone, knowing that sometimes it was ok to let someone know when they screwed up, but sometimes you just let it go, and didn't judge them for it. Looking back now, it's funny to envision my mom in a technical role, but when I think about it, she could and would do whatever she had to do to keep the machinery of our family running. A complicated printing machine would be a breeze, in comparison.
Dave Matern, Son
A lot of the best memories I have of Grandma aren't specifically involving her. It's more the environment she created. I remember Easter Egg hunts that she and Grandpa put on at their house. I remember being in awe when I heard that she worked for the library, as that made her an extra level of cool higher than I thought she was. I remember the sense of welcoming and family that she radiated out. I remember her banana bread, and how appalled she was that I preferred it without the walnuts as a kid. I remember her always being in the kitchen, making sure everyone was comfortable and fed. I remember the cases of glass bottles of soda near the back door that somehow remind me of how loved I always felt there. I remember a sleepover at Grandma's on the fold-out couch where my brother Ben kept "rolling over in his sleep" and "accidentally" slapping me in the face. I remember the puzzles that Grandma put together and put in picture frames that Grandpa made for all of their kids' houses. But when I picture Grandma, she's always in the kitchen, offering some food: Rice Krispie Bars, Fruit Salad, or her Banana Bread.
Most of the stories I remember about Grandma are hopefully already told by people who were there: Grandma and Grandpa leg wrestling on the floor, I think at their 50th anniversary. When Grandma and Rose were in a car accident and Grandma yelled at the emergency worker who was checking on her that he better not cut through her bra, because it's her only good one. I think there was also a story involving her telling someone to "piss up a rope".
This past Sunday on the family Zoom call, I recall someone said to her: "I'm glad to hear that you're feeling better!" Not missing a beat, she scoffed and said: "I don't know who told you that!" Grandma didn't shy away from the truth, but always did it in a way that was humorous.
I remember calling Grandma to tell her that Stacey was expecting our firstborn, and how excited she was. She was even more so when she found out that it was a boy to carry on the Matern name to a new generation. While everyone else in the world calls him Ike, to her, he was always Isaac. The last time we saw her in person, Thanksgiving 2019, Ike finally got the courage to ask her to please call him Ike. It was a touching moment between the two of them, and I think they got to understand each other a little more.
When I told Ike about his Great Grandma's passing, he teared up and said: "I'm just thinking about all the times we played together." and talked about how much he's going to miss her. In contrast, when I told his little brother Logan, who was on his way to the bathroom, his reply was "I guess I shouldn't go potty, then." I didn't follow that train of thought, but if Grandma was watching, I'm sure she'd get a kick out of it.
As Grandma's life was coming to an end, many of us changed our Facebook profile pictures to those that we took in a photo session at our 2018 Family Reunion. T-shirts were made for the occasion, and everyone was wearing them in the photos. As I saw that, in addition to thinking about how many people's lives she touched, I couldn't help but imagine her looking down at all of us and saying: "I have more than one shirt, you know!"
Greg Matern, Grandson (Son of Mark and Martha)
Our mom had a fantastic memory. Towards the end she worried that she was slipping, but she was sharper than I've ever been. She knew everyone's birthday. And she would always try to recognize it with a card and $5. Sometimes she would put some bills in it to creatively represent your age. Like if you were 55 you might get 2 5$ bills. I always thought that was funny when she would explain the significance. Mom had 9 children and I just can't imagine that job. She made us all feel so special and so very loved. She loved to brag about our accomplishments to everybody, including people who couldn't care less. She made me feel important and smart and pretty. I'd come in with my hair all over the place and she'd say "gee you look so cute today, I love your hair like that". Unless I straightened it, then she just wouldn't say anything. She had strong preferences that's for sure.
It was a science though at times, figuring out what she really wanted from you. She would say something like "just leave those dishes and I'll do them later" but what she really wanted was for us to go do the dishes. And she was so smart. I loved to do the word power quizes in readers digest with her. She taught us right from wrong and to treat others the way you want them to treat you. The night before she died I asked her if she was afraid. She said "not anymore". I told her I was a little bit jealous that she would soon see Dad and Pete. She said "and Dan and my mom and dad and my sisters" her voice was but a whisper by then. I layed my head on her chest and cried and her hand came up and patted my hair. I miss her so much.
I remember going out to eat at the airport alone with mom and dad for our birthday. That was special.
I remember Beck and I having a dress that matched moms. Pink and white checked? Or blue and white? Beck will remember.
I remember begging her to tell us our birth stories. But I can't remember mine now. All's I remember is that I fell down the basement stairs when she was having Becky.
Rose Baker, Daughter
I remember when she thought it would be great fun to be gramma's little leprechaun on her birthday and we snuck over to her house while she was out and tipped over kitchen chairs and opened up the cupboards. Gramma was so puzzled when she got home, about what slob had been through her kitchen. But she was tickled when we told her it was me being her leprechaun.
Erin Baker, Granddaughter (Daughter of Rose and Mike)
I remember learning about Brownies when I was a brownie scout and how they got up early to clean. I did that for quite awhile and occasionally could see mom watching me. I bet she was appalled to have a 7 year old kid up scurrying around early in the morning
I also remember singing Silent Night for a group of adults at Aunt Arlene's house when I was about 5 because mom thought I sang like an angel
She let me sew all night -aunt Arlene would send me boxes of material and mom would get the sewing machine ready and it sat on the kitchen table for me.
Chris Ellis, Daughter
I remember that when Mom and Dad went out on New Year's Eve they always said "See you next year!". Mom always looked so pretty dressed up.
Kate McGuire, Daughter
My best memories are the ones I made with Mom over the last five years. She was my hobby in retirement and my daily phone call. She told me memories of hers and we talked about politics, family, rosaries, what we ate and what we were going to eat. Just random stuff. Missing her especially at the 11:00 hour.
Liz Jasper, Daughter
One of my memories of Mom is some advice she gave me many years ago. I guess I was having trouble sleeping because of something I was worried about. She assured me that "Everything is worse in the middle of the night. Tell yourself that you will be able to handle whatever the issue is when the sun comes up." She was so right. I have been comforted by that many times over the years.
Becky Varley, Daughter
I have a memory/comment about grandma and grandpa. I can always remember on b-days we would get a card with $5 in it from them (it came in her hand writing so she gets the credit I guess) and growing up in the country in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and a birthday in the summer trapped in the country and not really getting much from anyone else it was always looked forward to.
Also I must have been about the 4th grade and wrestled in a youth state tournament and they made the trip from eagle grove to come watch and as I think back on it it was great of them to do that. Great grandparents who sorely will be missed.
Christian Ellis, Grandson (Son of Chris and Dan)
I remember when us grandkids were little and maybe it was Easter because we were all over at the park and we had candy, and candy wrappers. Gramma went over later and picked up all the wrappers. As an adult I am really bothered when I see the trash others have left around my fishing spots and I usually clean it up.
I remember gramma's house always smelling like banana bread or some other baked dish. And I remember she used to always tell me I was handsome. And how I could make her really happy just by giving her a hug.
Paul Baker, Grandson (Son of Rose and Mike)
I must have been in 2nd grade or less and sat on a bee on engels front steps and took off bawling for home. Mom met me 1/2 and had my pants around my ankles in the middle of the street checking out my bee sting.
I also remember as i was walking out the door to go skydiving she jokingly said break a leg unfortunately i did.
Matt Matern, Son
Grandma ended almost every message she sent me with “love you forever”. IDK if she did that for the other grandkids, but it was a phrase specific to her that I will always remember.
Eric Varley, Grandson (Son of Becky and Doug)
As I reflect on my early memories of mom I'm struck with how she was the glue that held our family together even when times weren't great. Those times dad was in Greenland or otherwise not present it was as if she were a single mom with a handful of kids. Couldn't have been easy. It was mom who led us in the family rosary on Sunday nights. It was mom who prepared our meals when supplies were meager, washed clothes in a wringer washer and hung them on the the line outside. It was mom who broke down in tears when facing the bill collector for the encyclopedias and there was no money. It was mom who sewed slacks for the girls only to have them come home from school and say classmates teased them cuz they looked like a pair of old drapes. It was mom who scratched our backs and then let us scratch hers.
So in her later years we sometimes would giggle at mom for being such a penny pincher....saving any leftovers in cool whip containers and only sending containers with us if she thought we'd return them. Why should we think she would be different?
Mom was fiercely proud of her family and honestly I can see why. As I look at us I see a group of pretty well adjusted, thoughtful folks with good values. I think we can thank mom for teaching us many of those hard life lessons and making us the folks we are. You darn betcha she's proud. Thanks mom!