My grandmother, Helen Maxine Diltz - known as Pat or Patsy to family and friends, passed away two weeks ago at age 93. She grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where her father (a Maxwell of the Maxwell House Maxwells) was the railroad station agent - and always considered herself an Oklahoman. I never had a chance to meet my great grandparents, but I am sure I would have liked my great-grandmother, Loula. She owned a gas station, loved to fish and had excellent taste, from what I understand. My grandmother must have inherited that from her - she was always impeccably dressed.
She met my grandfather, Donald C. Diltz (known to me as Grandy) when he spotted her through a window and bought a ticket to the dance she was attending just so he could meet her. He was 26 and she was 17. It was a little bit scandalous at the time, but it worked out well enough - they were married the following year and stayed married for 66 years, until his death in 2001. He was also 93. They lived through the great depression together, and even ran a bakery at one point with at least one of Grandy's brothers (what I'd give for a photograph of that.)
In the thirties, they went on the road with the U.S. Geological Survey. My grandfather was a civil engineer with a degree in Geology from the University of Oklahoma, and spent his early career mapping the Western United States - taking the measurements by day, and doing all the calculations by slide rule in the evening. He was incredibly smart, funny and decent. Everyone who ever met him liked and admired him.
My mother was born in 1941, and they more or less settled down in Colorado - living in Golden, Manitou and eventually Denver. Patsy had a degree from the University of Oklahoma and started teaching in Golden, then later in Denver, eventually spending 25 years in the Jefferson County Public Schools. She taught every grade and earned a Masters in Education from the University of Denver in 1965 and became an administrator and principal.
My parents met while my mother was in college at the Colorado College for Women (now part of the University of Denver) and my father was at the Air Force Academy. They married in 1962, and I was born in 1970, around the same time my father graduated from law school.
My parents moved to San Diego in 1971 when my father took a job at the U.S. Attorney's Office here, and my grandparents retired and moved out to be nearby. They lived in North County before it was fancy - building a house in Del Mar and later in La Costa. Having no siblings I was a much doted upon child, and I spent a lot of time at their house - all very fondly remembered. My grandmother told me stories her grandmother told her about the Civil War, cooked creamed corn and bacon for me for dinner and bought me Rose Milk and Irish Spring after I saw the commercials for them on the Lawrence Welk show. My grandfather teased me a lot - which I loved, and took me to the library in Rancho Santa Fe and shopping at Long's Drug Store. (It kills me that we could never get him to smile for a picture. You could never guess what kind of sense of humor he had from these photos.)
They also took me to the horse races at Del Mar. They went almost daily when they lived across the street, and were pretty good at picking the horses too. I can hardly remember a day my grandfather didn't walk away from the track at least $100 richer. They also loved Vegas and let me tag along on several trips - usually to the Tropicana or the Sahara.
I inherited my love of food and cooking from my grandmother (though to be fair, my dad does like to eat too.) Being from the South originally she favored foods like fried chicken and mashed potatoes, served with sliced tomatoes and cucumber pickles. I am sure she served other things too, but that's what I remember most. Grandy always cooked breakfast, with lots of sliced Jimmy Dean sausage and Svenhard's sweet rolls.
My grandparents loved to travel - we have some great photos from a trip they took with my parents on the Queen Elizabeth in the early 60's. They traveled all through my childhood, and brought back fun gifts for me that of course I took for granted at the time.
It's funny, when people are alive, you think of them the way they are, but when they pass away, you remember them the way they were. I remember my grandparents as the people they were when they were in their sixties and seventies, not their eighties and nineties. And I think they would have liked it that way.