Grandma Ellis (October 7, 1930 – February 19, 2010)

Betty Ellis
Grandma Ellis

Nostalgia can be a very satisfying practice! Everyone should have those special times to which they periodically retreat into the recesses of their memory to enjoy. Those are the memories that bring a warmth to the heart and a smile to the face. One of my favorite times upon which I reminisce is moments spent with my Grandma Ellis. Here are just a few of the wonderful memories I had with her.

One gift that God gave Grandma that she blessed so many with was her work in her kitchen. I remember those visits to her house. When we walked in the door, almost immediately following the welcomes and hugs, she asked if anyone was hungry. When you sat down to eat, it would be your own fault if you left the table hungry. Grandma would ask at least three or four times if she could get you anything else.

Grandpa & Grandma
My Grandpa and Grandma Ellis

I found it advantageous to bring an appetite to Grandma’s house … especially my sweet tooth. Grandma was never without a dessert in the kitchen. Whether it was Mississippi Mud Cake in the refrigerator or Half-Moon Apple Pies as a centerpiece on the table, there was plenty occasion to earn an encounter with diabetes in my old age.

On some occasions, I would stay with my siblings at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I was never sure what time Grandma woke up. I just knew that when I opened my eyes, the house was filled with the aroma of sausage, bacon, biscuits and fresh eggs that Grandpa had gathered that morning from the chicken house out back. There was orange juice, chocolate milk and even some coffee she made in the percolator on the stove. On a rare occasion, there may even be some Red-Eye Gravy. (I had heard that earlier in Grandma’s life, she wouldn’t just bring eggs from the chicken house. She’d wring a neck or two and have fried chicken that evening.)

Another fond memory of Grandma was her love for family. I remember the joy on her face each time we visited and she opened her front door. If I made myself available for talking to her, away from Grandpa’s conversation, she would ask about how things were going and would always enjoy learning everything “new” about me.

Grandma Ellis & Great-Grandma Spears
My grandma Ellis and Great-Grandma Spears

She also had a love for her mom. We took many trips to the country to visit Great-Grandma Spears. These were occasions when time seemed to stand still. It always seemed that we stepped back into time as we sat in the living room / bed room and listened to Great-Grandma talk about all that had transpired since the last visit.

I was always aware that these trips weren’t really about me or my siblings. The purpose of the visit was for Grandma to give her mom some company and do anything that Great-Grandma had been unable to do on her own. (I remember on one occasion when we stayed the night with Great-Grandma. When I asked how I could get to the restroom in the middle of the night without waking Great-Grandma, Grandma gave me a bed pan. Memories.)

Another unquestionable attribute of Grandma was her devotion to the things of God. It showed up in many ways. For starters, when we got to spend the night at her house on Saturdays, we awoke on Sunday to the sound of the kitchen radio. Typically, Elton Wilson, the pastor of Grandma’s church was on the radio with a message and some music. We would be invited on that broadcast to join Bible Baptist Church for worship. (I always thought that it was incredible to hear the pastor on the radio and actually get to see him later that morning. Something about being on the radio seemed to make him bigger than life to me.)

There was never a question of whether we were going to church. I am certain that if I had ever asked Grandma if we were going, she may have checked my head for a fever or something like that. Asking such a question was ludicrous. Everyone in the Ellis household just knew that when the church doors were opened, we would be walking through them.

To keep me and my siblings quiet during church when we happened to join them, Grandma would always pull out a piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. To this day, when I buy a pack of Wrigley’s on a whim, I smell it and it reminds me of Grandma.

In the final years of Grandma’s life before age robbed her of her memory, Kim and I spent much time with them. We spent time with Grandma and Grandpa when we dated and continued to enjoy trips to their house after our wedding. One thing was clear – Grandma loved Kim. She told me so on many occasions. And Kim loved her back.

I’ll never forget taking Grandpa and Grandma back home to Clarksville, Tennessee after a family member’s wedding in Lexington, Kentucky. I drove with Grandpa in my car and Kim drove with Grandma in her car. When we arrived, Kim and I noted that non-stop conversation had taken place in our vehicles for the entirety of the four hour trip. We further noted that she and I had said no more than 50 words during the whole trip. Grandma’s talkativeness just meant that she felt at home with Kim. Grandpa? Well, he just enjoyed another opportunity to talk.

I really miss my Grandma. I believe that my sons would have greatly benefited from getting to know her. All they remember are her final years in the nursing home with serious health problems. However, we look forward to being reunited with her again one day in Heaven.

Final note: For a very brief video clip of Grandma’s house, click here. It will mean absolutely nothing to most of those who read this post. To me, every corner of that house and yard has a wonderful memory. It’s fodder for nostalgia.

Kim, Grandparents and me
Kim and me spending some time with my grandparents

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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