Grandma Fontaine was always busy in the kitchen.
When my family would drop by to visit we would usually find Grandma working at the stove or cutting things up on the kitchen counter.
She always had an apron on over her dress and she would keep her tissues in one of the pockets on that apron. Those tissues were ever ready to wipe her nose or mop her brow.
I would always start my visit with Grandma Fontaine with these words, "Grandma, can I have a cookie?"
There was an endless supply of ginger snaps or sugar cookies in the cookie jar that sat on Grandma's kitchen counter.
I always thought she kept them there just for me, but she probably enjoyed the occasional treat herself.
Grandma never had the traditional Kool-Aid to offer us kids when we came over. She made her own concoction from something she called "nectar."
She had these little bottles of dark red or purple liquid that she would take down out of the cupboard and mix with water. She would make a big pitcher of her nectar for us to drink, but I was never a big fan. I'd drink it, but I would rather have my mom's Kool-Aid when we'd get home.
Grandma always had a good sized garden in her backyard, and during the warmer months she had plenty of big rhubarb plants growing in her garden. My brother and sister and I would go out there and cut us each a stalk of rhubarb and dip it into a cup of sugar Grandma would give us. That was one of our favorite treats at grandma's house.
The rhubarb was always so sour, but dipping it in the sugar made it just right.
There were always plenty of beets growing in Grandma's garden too. She loved beets, and so did my dad and mom. I was never fond of them. There was something about seeing a big pot of boiling purple liquid on Grandma's stove that was shocking to me. And that smell...I didn't like the smell of beets boiling on the stove.
Another smell that I wasn't fond of that I would encounter many times in Grandma's kitchen was that of boiling cabbage. There was a section of her garden dedicated to cabbage, and she would can it so she would have cabbage to last throughout the winter. That smell would linger in my clothes long after we left Grandma's house.
I loved my Grandma Fontaine. She was a strong-willed, hardworking French woman, who loved her ornery husband and 9 children.
Delese Dezotell was a single mother when she met Emil Fontaine. He married her and raised my dad as his own. Emil and Grandma had 8 more children together. They worked hard through some very difficult times to provide for their family there in eastern Minnesota.
Grandma lived into her late nineties.
She told me one time that she never wanted to have to live in a nursing home. In fact, she said, "Douglas, before you let them put me in a nursing home, you put me in a wheel barrow and dump me in the river."
Well, the wheel barrow caper never seemed like a logical thing to do with my grandmother; and so one day she did go into a nursing home.
In fact, one of the last time's I saw Grandma Fontaine, she was enjoying a rousing game of Bingo in the dining hall at the nursing home.
On one of our trips north, Lynn and I came in to visit Grandma, and we found her filling her Bingo card with her red chips. She was having a grand time, and didn't want to be bothered.
I stood by her side, and said, "Grandma, it's me, Douglas. My wife and our little boys and I have come to visit."
She looked up at me with a look of irritation, and said, "Come back after Bingo!"
She had adjusted well to life in the nursing home.
You know, all these years later, I can still smell beets and cabbage when I think of my dear Grandma Fontaine.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.