Mary Lou

Gravel RoadI had the privilege of knowing both of my grandmas for a number of years. Not everyone has this situation. My maternal grandmother was Mary Lou Kolbaba, a tough, yet kind person who lived on a rural farm in Northeastern Kansas. I remember her love for jigsaw puzzles, garage sales, feeding local cats, and keeping a successful  garden.

Her hands were riddled with what I think was rheumatoid arthritis and had inflamed joints that nearly made her fingers curl even when she tried to hold them straight. Although she struggled with obvious pain in her joints, she would often sit down to the typewriter and write us letters with her signature x’s and o’s at the end.

She was a hard worker, who kept her yard immaculate. On her property were a few ponds, one of them which we were able to fish and play around regularly. She was our country grandma. She lived down a gravel road, that would telecast a coming car for over a mile.

With wildlife coming near the house a common likelihood, my step-grandfather Frank’s cabinet was near the side door of the house. My brother and i would often sift through the pea gravel near her outdoor patio area to find .22 gun shells. She lived on the high side of a valley, so Frank could shoot at about anything since his misfires would only fit in a few acres of field, with little chance of hitting the trailer park about a half mile away.

Her house sat on quite a few acres which felt expansive to a kid from the suburbs. I remember picking blackberries and eating them right from the tree. She was a canning expert and often fed us from the jars that she filled with assorted fruits and vegetables. My favorite thing that she made was rhubarb, she would put it in pies and even in our jello. She also always had apple juice in small tin cans, which for my brother and I represented the sugar that we always craved as young kids. The sat in a corner cabinet in her kitchen, which was framed around the edges by a clear plastic walkway to protect the kitchen floor from high traffic.

We had a lot of fun on her farm, although by the time we visited, most of the farmland was rented out to farmers and even her sheds on the property were rented out. She kept control of the chicken coop, which we stayed away from most of the time. She had the most epic Easter egg hunts, which was quite easy since her yard was gigantic. She took such joy in us having fun at her house. She would always have something fun for us to play with in her back bedroom. She had a bedroom in a separate are in the house, which had a tile floor which we would play on. I remember her dresser having a lot of neat items on it, one of them was her favorite perfume, Charlie. Still to this day, when I smell that perfume, I am taken back to spending time with her and how she always made us feel special.

I remember visiting her in the hospitable after she suffered a stroke. She was still the kind person I knew, but I could tell she was feeling off, it was one the hardest times I ever experienced as I did not understand why God allowed that to happen to such an incredible person. After her stroke, she went on to live in a nursing home in Topeka, and lived out her days there. The last time I was there, was when we had her memorial. It was the last time I saw some of my family, as she was the glue that held us all together.

I catch myself taking country roads some times, hoping that I will happen on a gravel road that could somehow, magically take me back to her house and see her coming out, excited to see my car. Although I know this is not a physical possibility, I believe in my heart that one day I will get to embrace her again and tell her how much she means to me.



4 thoughts on “Mary Lou

  1. Mary Lou was an incredible person, and I also loved going to see her and the farm. She always made us feel welcome.

  2. What a great tribute to your grandmother . Never had the family farm experience, but it sounds serene . Glad you have those memories to look back on. She would be proud, I’m sure. Xoxo 🙂

  3. Frank was my grandfather, I too visited this farm with my family every summer, we did a road trip from California, every summer until I was a teenager. I have some photos of the farm and have located it on google. I have a few polaroid photos of Frank and Marylou. I would love to contact you and talk…you can reach me at………………………..i would really love to talk.

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