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19 April 2012

#HAWMC post #19

Five Dinner Guests

If I could invite five people to dinner, living or dead, my choices would be:

1. Mary Morian Sadler

2. Chester Nichols

3. Anna Marie Nieblock

4. Ottie "Doc" Eggers

5. Myrtle Pickett Eggers

Mary Morian Sadler

I won't go into all of the details about why I'd want my best friend to be at this dinner. I am writing about her in a later post, using the bonus BFFL prompt for the Health Activist Writer's Choice day on the 23rd. The biggest reason I'd want her to be at this dinner is because it has been close to a year since I've seen her when she came to Myrtle Beach during the kids' spring break. I miss her so VERY much. It's been awhile even since I've talked to her. I hate that. But every time I  plan on calling her, something happens to keep me from it. I might lose my voice, thank you RA, or I'll end up sleeping all day, thank you fibro, or I'll just be too tired to think straight, thank you chronic pain! I am just going to not plan on calling and just do it one day soon. I miss her way too much. Just having a bit of a chat helps. I would hope she'd have fun although it might be an odd meal and she might . 


My paternal grandfather, Chester Nichols, died 30 years before I was born. My parents weren't even together when he passed away. My Dad had not been out of high school very long before his father passed away. I know very little about him so I'd like to find out more about him. I know that when he and my grandmother split up, some of their kids went to live with her and others stayed with my grandfather. I believe my Dad stayed with my grandfather. I know that my grandfather and Dad are buried near each other, along with 3 of my Dad's brothers. If I remember correctly, my Dad is buried between my grandfather and the fence separating the cemetery from the surrounding fields. Buried on my grandfather's grave, because an urn can be buried on top of a grave, is my uncle Gilbert, known as Gibb to the family. Then the row behind my grandfather is another of my uncles, Jack, while behind my father is another uncle, Benjamin. My grandmother is buried in a different cemetery about 8 miles outside of the village of Waynesville. My hubby and I went to visit my Dad and when he wasn't home, we drove around town and stopped at the library where I spoke to a friend of mine from my childhood. Or rather a friend of mine's mother. Then we just decided to drive around the countryside outside of town. We were driving and we saw a small cemetery. So we stopped. It was where my Grandmother was buried. If I remember correctly, some of my Grandfather's ancestors were in that cemetery as well.
Nichols Family late 30s to mid 40s

Anna Marie Baker Nichols Neiblock had divorced my grandfather Chester and remarried....after having 9 children together. I know some of the children lived with my grandfather and some with my grandmother. My Dad was close to my grandfather so he chose to live with him. I do not know much about my grandmother or her relationship with my Dad. I only have two pictures of her. One of her holding me when I was no older than 4 months old that was taken sometime between Jan. and May 1977 when she passed away, and one that looks to be a family picture (or partial family picture) before she and my grandfather divorced.
Wayney with Grandma Nichols
prior to May 1977
My maternal grandfather, Ottie Adolph "Doc" Eggers, (no he wasn't a doctor) died when I was only 8 years old. Although I have a number of memories of him, I never got to know him as the man the rest of the family got to know. This is because in Sept. 1977, he had a major stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. His health went up and down over the next 8 years. He did regain fairly decent use of his hands, and got to a point where as long as he had his leg braces on, his quad cane and someone there to support him, he could walk. Because he was such a big man, even being sick, he had kept much of his weight and had not shrunk much in height that could be noticed, my Grandma could not support him safely by herself.She was only 5'3" tall. So one of my brothers helped them when Grandpa left the house.

From what I've heard and the glimpses I got, Grandpa had a funny sense of humor. One thing he never regained was his speech. He struggled and worked to the point that he managed to say "yes",  "no",  "hell", and  "damn." He was pretty good at making his needs and wants known and my Grandma appeared to be fairly good at knowing what he was wanting to say.

Despite the fact that he was unable to discipline any of us, all it took was a clearing of his throat to get your attention and then a certain look that he'd give you and you changed your actions, attitude or whatever was wrong. I guess for my siblings and cousins it was that they remembered that Grandpa was a fair but strict man. He expected you to behave properly and if you didn't, well he came from an era where spanking was not the "horrible" thing it is today.
Doc Eggers, my grandfather and my
mother's first husband, Gene Winks
I remember when Grandpa died.  He'd been at home after being in the hospital for a time. He either had had another stroke or was having trouble with an infection. I know that at one point they'd had to do a colostomy on him. The afternoon or evening before he passed away, my Aunt Kathy (Mom's younger sister) who lived not quite half a mile down the road, was at my grandparent's house and ended up taking me home with her for the night. I am not sure if it was because they had an idea that Grandpa was dying or if it was just that he was so sick and they had enough on their minds without trying to keep me entertained as well. I know for a fact that Grandpa knew he was going to be passing away shortly. He kept pointing up toward the corner. We were thinking he was wanting something to do with the TV which was up in the corner where he was pointing. I remember that frustrated Grandpa. I don't think I'd ever really seen him get frustrated except at that time. I think he finally gave up trying to tell us what it was he was trying to say.
The next morning it was clear that  Grandpa HAD to be taken to the hospital. He did not want to go at all. I think he just wanted to die at home. The family did not know that he was dying though. I remember that once we got to the hospital, I was not allowed in his room. Mom knew I'd be perfectly safe sitting in the waiting room that was close to the room they had my Grandpa in. I know the nurses kept an eye on me because I either heard someone say something about Grandpa or I knew my family had started crying so I was crying. I don't recall much of the next few days at all. I know we all went with Grandma to the funeral home to make arrangements for the funeral but other than that, I don't much remember the days before the funeral. I know that distant family members that I scarcely saw except at funerals were there. I remember it being extremely hot since it was late Aug. I remember going to the funeral but not to the graveside service because my sister sent me home with her kids. 
My maternal grandmother, Myrtle Howard Pickett Eggers, was the grandparent I was closest to. When we moved to IN we lived in Bloomfield, which was about 12 mi from my grandparents farm. My Mom would drop me off at my grandparent's house on her way to work. I had a taste of how a farmer's wife did a lot of work, despite not being on an active farm. No animals aside from the barn cats, which were likely feral. none of the fields were worked by anyone in the family. They were possibly leased out. My Grandma was seemingly always busy. She did have a break while "her shows" were on every afternoon.  

Grandma started teaching me to cook when I was really young. I know I was 2 when we moved to IN after my parents split up. I remember living in Bloomfield and Mom working at Eastern Greene High School before she became ill. Mom was diagnosed with polymyositis in 1981 and was not doing well. I must have spent quite a lot of time with my grandparents at that time. Then sometime before I started school, Mom and I moved to Jamestown, IN which is about 55 miles away from my grandparent's farm. We drove down there fairly often. I know I was fairly young when I was telling Mom where to turn. Between 4th and 5th grade we moved back into the area, to Spencer, which is about 15 miles away. We saw Grandma a lot more. We'd take her to the grocery store or to the doctor. It was during this time that my Grandma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

By this time I was 12 yrs old. If Mom was somewhere and needed to get home after I  got out of school, it was no big deal. My neighbor kept an eye out for me, and if I had any trouble I could always go there. Mom knew I usually called Grandma after school anyway, so if Grandma was home, I was usually talking to her, until her cancer had progressed.

It was Aug 1989 and Grandma's cancer had worsened until she was in the hospital. She had been arguing a bit with her doctors. She'd been insisting that she was going home on Thursday. She was adamant about that too. Her doctor didn't seem to think that was possible. I know Mom had been to the hospital. I remember deciding to make deviled eggs for dinner. Why I decided to use the microwave to cook the eggs in the microwave I am not sure. But I know it was a mistake! The eggs of course exploded! I knew I'd have to let it cool before I could clean up my mess. As I was waiting, my sister came to pick me up and take me to the hospital. She told me it did not look good and she hoped that we could make it. When we stepped off of the elevator, my brothers and their wives were there. When they heard the elevator, one of my brothers came over to the elevator. I remember my sister giving him a look and seeing a small shake of the head and I knew then that we'd not made it in time. My brother reached out to hug us and as we all went towad the rest of the family, we all sort of drew into one big group. It was a rare moment. The 4 of us were seldom together. I had always liked being around my brothers, especially the younger of the family. He was a blast. But there were some underlying issues (as there are in every family) with everyone at the time. I was trying to stay out of it and not choose sides just as Mom was trying to do. No mother wants to be in a position where her kids are fighting. I remember going into the room where Grandma was. She looked so peaceful. I think I leaned over to hug her but I am not sure.
Myrtle Eggers
Grandma had taught me pretty well even though I was only 12 when she passed away. I knew a lot about cooking (although I apparently didn't know you can't boil eggs in the microwave). I have a number of recipes that are in her handwriting. One of my favorite recipes she taught me was her homemade egg noodles. Grandma's step-sister Aunt Hazel, also used the same recipe so after Grandma passed away, Aunt Hazel would supervise my noodle making. I believe they got the recipe from my Great-Grandma Sarah, who was Grandma Myrtle's mother, and Aunt Hazel's step-mother/aunt. I know that's a weird statement to wrap your head around. So I will explain it.

My great-grandmother was born Sarah Ann Runion, to William Newton Runion and his wife Lydia Lamb. I am not sure which of his wives she was, as he had 4. Sarah had a half-sister named Grace whose mother was Margaret Stevens Runion. I also am unsure which of his wives she was. I know neither were his 4th wife. William had 18 children by these 4 wives. Sarah married William Joseph Pickett and Grace married Charles Merritt. Sarah and William had 2 daughters, Mabel and Myrtle. They were also raising a nephew of William's named Russell I believe. William Pickett had passed away in 1912, about 7 months before my grandmother Myrtle was born. Great-grandma Sarah lived on her own with 3 children, 2 of which were under 2. Aunt Hazel's mother, Grace, passed away in Feb. 1914 after having 3 children with Charles Merritt. They had Oscar, Hazel and Catherine. Charles and Sarah ended up getting married in late 1914, combining families to have 6 children between them. They went on to have 2 more children of their own, Aaron and Woody. My Grandmother's cousins became her step-siblings. But, amongst the kids, it wasn't as if the word step prefaced the word sibling. They were siblings in the truest sense. In the end, Charles and Sarah ended up with a blended family of 10. Myrtle and Hazel, and I assume the other girls, were taught the noodle recipe by Sarah. I can only wonder who she got it from. It could be her mother, a grandmother, one of her step-mothers, a mother-in-law even. If it was Charles' mother, then that makes the recipe doubly related to me as she was my great-great grandmother on my Grandfather Doc's side. That makes the already confusing family even more confusing huh? 

Doc's Mother was Norabelle Merritt, and she married George Granville Eggers. I'm sure that her maiden name was Merritt and the fact that my grandmother Myrtle's step-father was Charles Merritt has people wondering if they were connected and if so, how? Charles and Norabelle were siblings. So that technically made Myrtle and Doc step-cousins, which is no relation at all really except through the marriage of Myrtle's mother to Doc's uncle. So it's entirely possible Sarah learned the recipe from her mother-in-law, who would have taught my great-grandmother, Norabelle as well. I have realized how convoluted my family tree is but I hadn't realized until now that Sarah's sister-in-law became her daughter Myrtle's mother-in-law. Ok now that is a bit strange to say, even for me!

As Aunt Hazel would keep watch over me while I was making noodles, she would do quality control in a way. She'd offer helpful suggestions such as "Roll them thinner." or "Make them this size." while showing me what size she meant. When she no longer watched me make them or offered suggestions, I felt I'd graduated in a way. I was probably in my early teens when that happened. I went on to teach my niece Christy how to make them when she was 12 or 13. I believe Christy has taught my great-niece Lyndsay how to make them and her son Christopher has likely watched her make them, and she will likely teach her daughter Lei to make them. She also recently gave the recipe to her sister-in-law (my nephew's wife) Lori. I have taught my son how to make them as well. He loves to cook and has been cooking with me since he was 2. So we have a recipe that I know for a fact has been made by 6 generations of our family and possibly more. My great-grandmother Sarah, my grandmother Myrtle, my Mom (although she HATES cooking) and my aunt Kathy, my sister Pam and me, my niece Christ and her sister-in-law Lori and my son, my great-niece Lyndsay and possibly others of my great-nieces and great-nephews. How many previous generations used the exact same recipe, I do not know. I know that I have had the memorized for some time. But I never use a single batch. I usually triple it if I am making it at home for my family. If I am making it for a family gathering, depending on how large it is, I will multiply it by anywhere from 6 to 12. I've never gone beyond 12. The recipe is one egg per batch and I've not had to make them for a gathering that caused me to use more than a dozen eggs. It would take time to do that. If I am making that large a quantity, I generally break it down so that I use 3 eggs at a time because it gets hard to mix in larger amounts. If I'd allow myself to use a stand mixer, I could make it in larger amounts at one time, but to me, that just isn't how these noodles get made. They are to be made by hand, just like my grandmother, great-aunt, great-grandmother and who knows how many other people before me made them. There is something about getting my hands in the flour, salt, egg, water and oil mixture, I had the recipe memorized but I've now forgotten the exact amounts of salt, water and oil because like Grandma and Aunt Hazel, I do not measure those items. It's such a simple recipe. 3 ingredients, since most people do not count salt and water as ingredients. Then after they are made, the noodles just need dropped into boiling water, broth or stock. I prefer chicken flavored broth or stock. I usually use bouillon because it's easier to have on hand at all time. It's odd. I prefer using chicken broth to boil the noodles in but if mashed potatoes and brown gravy are also on the menu, I will put the brown gravy on my noodles. I don't know why I do that. Maybe because I used to hate mashed potatoes, but I like brown gravy so it was one way of eating the brown gravy. I only hope that the younger generations that are learning the recipe continue using it and passing it along.

I would love to see if any of my grandparents had RA, although they probably would have called it "rheumatism" or one of the older names for the disease we know as RA now. I also would enjoy hearing stories of my parents and things that Mom and Dad wouldn't have told me. I've only seen pictures of my paternal grandparents, and it looks as if their hands are twisted some but that could just be the work they did throughout all of their lives, which would more than likely mean they had OA instead. I know my maternal grandparents also had hands that had enlarged joints. I am reasonably sure that my grandmother had swelling, and pain. I know she had OA in her hip that had been broken, but I don't know if she had RA also. I believe my grandfather Doc had Chron's disease. But other forms of arthritis, I am not sure about. He was a farmer as well as a railroad worker and truck driver. So it's possible any of the repetitive tasks of those jobs may have caused OA. I don't know if Chester did anything besides farming. Both Grandma's were farmer's wives. I know even after Grandpa Doc retired from farming, Grandma Myrtle kinda kept to the schedule of a farmer's wife. She was up early in the mornings but she also tried to watch the 11pm news and even part of Johnny Carson. I remember seeing Johnny Carson when I would stay over with them. Funny what you don't really recall until the oddest moments.

I think this would be a very interesting dinner. I'd hopefully get to know my grandparents better and spend some time with my bestest friend.

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