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the end of an era

The world lost a great lady today. Margaret Anderson Dale was 97 years old. Her death was something that we all expected would happen over the last few years, but still, it was a shock. We’re certain of her place in heaven and know that she is once again united with her husband, Wilbur. But all those things are cliché and tell nothing about the woman who lived and loved and used the many years she was given.

My husband, David, remembers walking to her home on Sesame Street in Opa Locka, Florida, a city outside Miami that has seen better days. It was a nice place to live when it was their home. Going to Grammy’s meant swimming, with Grammy in her lively bathing cap, and Congo Squares, the  bar cookie  graced with legendary status in David’s family, packed with a whole box of brown sugar, chocolate chips and pecans.  No. It is NOT just a chocolate chip cookie baked in a pan. It is baked in a special pan, and nobody could make them like Grammy.

Grammy and Wilbur were the grandparents who took each of David’s brothers and sisters, all nine of them, to breakfast at Denny’s on their birthdays. They could invite one other person to enjoy this special treat. When you grow up with so many siblings, getting to do something on your own is an occasion, and going to a restaurant wasn’t an everyday occurrence. Christmas Eve was always at Grammy & Wilbur’s. Each child would receive a baggie with Congo Squares and an orange in it to take home for their very own. They also got to enjoy Grammy’s Meatballs at Christmas Eve dinner before packing into the car and waiting for at least a half hour to forty-five minutes while the adults continued talking. What David’s parents and grandparents had left to discuss was beyond the comprehension of the kids, all stuffed into a station wagon like sardines.  Grammy was also an aficionado of twirling square dance dresses and the owner of a little ballerina that spun around inside of a bottle. Grammy was a lot of fun.

She was the most positive person I’ve  ever met. I remember being over at David’s parents house after Wilbur’s funeral. I sat down to visit with Grammy and she let out a big sigh. “It was a nice day, wasn’t it?” she said. I about fell over, but through Grammy’s eyes, she saw a wonderful day visiting with family, many of whom she hadn’t seen in awhile, and in spite of the loss of her beloved husband, she had the grace to see that it was, indeed, a good day. Another memory I have of my husband’s maternal grandparents was right after our daughter was born. They came up to North Carolina to visit, first in Winston-Salem where they saw David’s cousin Chuck and his wife, Jeanne, and then to Charlotte, where we lived. I expected them around noon. The night before, our best friends celebrated the birth of their first child, and we went up to the hospital to see them. We got home late and had our own new baby to care for, so I left the supper dishes to clean up in the morning. Well, Grammy and Wilbur had to leave Winston-Salem early when Chuck and Jeanne went to work, so they drove on down to Charlotte and surprised me at 8:30 in the morning! I was in my night gown and robe, the kitchen was nowhere near being tidied and our daughter had just gone down after being up since early that morning. I was mortified! I thought they thought I was a terrible wife and mother catching me so undone. But typical Grammy, she told me that there was a museum or something they were dying to see, and they’d be back around lunchtime. Grammy and I shared many laughs over that incident over the years. I also recall the time I called Grammy out of the blue one day and shyly asked her if she would share the Congo Squares recipe. She not only gave me the recipe but she went out and bought me the correct pan that very day and sent it to me in the mail.

She was just that kind of person. She was fond of sharing stories of living in Florida before it was quite civilized. She traveled to the Sunshine State from her native Wisconsin when she was a little girl in a tiny camper kind of vehicle that they opened up each night and cooked in the little kitchen which was basically some kind of a primitive stove, and they made up their beds each evening out of this unique structure. It took months to get to South Florida, and I’ve always thought she learned her amazing patience partly on account of that trip.

Grammy saw many amazing things during her life. She lived all her years to the fullest and she leaves behind many beautiful memories and a large family of people who are all better for having been touched by the love of a very great lady.

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