Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Mere Mere: Concrete & Faith

I’m writing about my grandparents this month.  (Please consider reading Grandpa:  Work,Clean-Up, & Nails.)

The names for my Dad’s parents were straight-up and easy; Grandpa and Grandma.  But we all know how it goes and one set of grandparents has to be called something else so we call my Mom’s parents Mere Mere and Pere Pere.  That’s what my older brother started calling them, he was the first grand for everyone, they thought it was cute, end of story.

First off, Mere Mere was the one who introduced me to concrete.  It may sound odd, but it's true.  Here's how it went.  She was a school teacher and Pere Pere was an electrician.  They spent a lot of time building together as a team and she knew everything from mixing mortar and concrete to framing walls to hanging wallpaper.  I grew up in a house in the country that Mere Mere had built after Pere Pere died.  Like Garage #2 and The Fire House, this building was replacing one that was lost to a fire.  Anyway, I remember going out to check on this house with Mere Mere during its’ construction.  She held my hand firmly as we walked by a small section of freshly poured concrete.  She explained with intriguing detail how concrete worked.  I remember being fascinated because she explained how it was wet and soft before it would become hard like a sidewalk.  For a toddler, that was pretty cool.  She explained all of this like the teacher that she was as she held my hand and stood between me and the small wet pad.  

Mere Mere loading the mixer, on-site
with my grandpa in the 40's.
Then we walked to the back door, checked on the progress on the inside, and walked back toward her car.  She never let go of me, so as we walked back to her car, I was next to the concrete as we went by.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I guess I wanted to better understand what was happening with the concrete because as we passed by I stomped my foot into the middle of the wet square.  Mere Mere was right!  It was soft and not at all like the sidewalk!  I remember her being a mixture of exasperation and amusement.  Now that I’m a parent, I get this, but I think she handled it better than this guy would have; she carefully cleaned off my shoe then calmly fixed the concrete before we were on our way back to town.  That’s a good memory.

But the most important thing I got from my maternal grandmother is faith.  Mustard seed-type faith that makes a person think they can save a condemned or abandoned house that no one else wants.  Norman Vincent Peale’s father was the presiding minister at Mere Mere's parent’s wedding and she was a big fan of his work for her entire life.  She especially loved his book The Power of Positive Thinking.  Without Mere Mere and the wisdom in that book, I would have never bought The Fire House.  No way.

After we moved into Mere Mere’s house, she designed and had a triplex built for herself that had two apartments that she rented out.  When one of the block retaining walls needed to be replaced, she let me do it for her.  For me, this was just plain fun.  And even though she didn’t pay me, I was in charge, she let me plan and figure it all out, so I always think of this as one of my first jobs. 

Twenty years after stomping my foot in that little pad for the TV antennae, she let me form up and build that wall for her.  So because of all this, I think of Mere Mere just about every time I’m working with concrete… but more significantly I think of her every time I sign my name to take ownership of a Pig's Ear that no one else wants.  With faith of a mustard seed, anything's possible.  Thank you, Mere Mere.

Mere Mere had cataract surgery before our brother's wedding.
When she showed up with sun glasses, we followed her
lead and hammed it up for a photo.

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