I remember a little white house, next to an old, broken down restaurant infested with raccoons, and raspberry bushes pouring over the gate right next to it. Across the street was a bygone shop, and in the back stood a rusty pink, green, and white swingset, while a broken down, two-windowed, little shed was across the yard. Standing in that driveway, biting my fingernails, and twirling my hair, I always looked forward to a woman with the brightest white hair coming through the front door. She was short and had the most vivid green eyes. Her name was Beulah Iezek. At that time, little did I know that this woman with a raspy voice and boisterous laugh would soon become my third-grandma, my favorite person ever, and my biggest heartbreak.
After going to Beulah’s house in Voorhies, Iowa since I was a baby, I began making lifelong memories that I still cherish to this day. In fact, I actually thought the town's name was “Iezek” because there was a sign in front of the house with her name and address, and to me, Beulah was the town, the backbone of the community, and the only thing I knew that made up Voorhies. I remember Beulah’s collection of Beanie Babies, I remember the singing fish, the lilac bushes in the back of the yard that my sister and I picked every spring, and changing the corn on the squirrels seat. These all sound like things that anyone would remember if they did them enough, and I definitely did. But something was different about these situations.
Now, I’ve already mentioned how much I loved Beulah to the moon and back, but let me tell ya that Beulah loved me and my siblings back even more. She was the person that after everyone else had gone to take a nap, she would pour a little cup of Squirt for Paiton and I. She was the person that when for lunch we had Spaghettios, would make me something else because I didn’t like them. She was the person who would send only my family home with a cantaloupe because we loved it so much. She was the person who let us stay later than everyone else. She was the person who when I was a baby, would take me on the weekends because my parents were too busy. In some ways, Beulah was my everything.
All these attributes about Beulah probably make her out to be the sweetest, most loving, easy going person alive. WRONG. Beulah was one of the toughest people I have ever met. But only because she cared.. a lot. If us kids did something wrong, she would let us know. I think that is something that I admired about her most. Some may ask, “Why?” Well, I can recall this one time when I wasn’t letting my sister, Paiton, play with the toys that I wanted to play with it. Well, being an 8 year old girl, I resulted to hitting her, and I’m pretty sure at the sound of that smack, Beulah had me picked up by my arms and drug me to the bedroom for timeout. Let’s just say I never did that again. But that didn’t completely pause my mischievous ways.
Something that I remember most about my experience at the little white house in Voorhies is nap time. I remember when I finally met the age that I wouldn't actually have to sleep and could sit in the swirly chairs in the dining room watching my favorite movies Life Size and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on the box tv. But that’s not all I did. As everyone else slept, including Beulah, I would take the salt shaker next to the toothpick dispenser and dump salt in my hand and eat it. And I mean, this was straight salt. It didn’t go over well because little did I know, Beulah could hear the salt being shaken as she laid on the couch in the living room. Let’s just say the salt got moved to the top of the counter where I couldn’t reach. But what Beulah didn’t know was that I didn’t give up that easy. As quiet as a mouse, I would roll the swirly chair up to the counter, and if there was a little squeak in the floor I would automatically freeze in fear of Beulah hearing. Long story short, I found a way.
Salt wasn’t the only thing that I liked to eat at Beulah’s. In fact, everything I ate there was automatically better. For example, the mac n’ cheese. Now, I’m not being over-dramatic or just saying this, but that mac n’ cheese was the best I have ever had. No joke. My Grandma Cathy spent years trying to mimic the “Aldi’s Mac N’ Cheese”. It was just never the same. Not only that, but another one of Beulah’s specialties was cinnamon sugar toast with microwaved hot dogs to go along with it (not to mention that they were perfectly cut in half every single time.) Besides those five-star meals, I also enjoyed the homemade pickles, hand-picked raspberries, turtle soup, vanilla cake, twin-pop popsicles with the flavors root beer, orange, lime, grape, banana, and cherry. Sometimes Beulah would even allow my sister and I to have two of those popsicles in the same day.
I dreaded the days when Beulah would leave on vacation for Las Vegas, Texas, or Arizona, for that meant that I wouldn’t be able to see her and I had to either go to my Grandma’s house or stay at home with Mom. Not to say that Grandma’s house wasn’t fun, but being with Beulah brought a sort of comfort into my life.
So the day that she retired, and I wouldn’t be able to see her as much, was ten times as worse. On this day, all the kids who had gone to her daycare over the years gathered at the front of her and her husband Tom’s house, and we threw a surprise party for her. We made a sign that included hand-drawn pictures of all the things we thought of when the word “Beulah” came into mind, like eating lunch in the garage, watching Caillou, The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, going to elevator to visit Tom and pet the kittens, her giant puzzle pictures that she made and glued together as wall art, going to her sister Ruby’s house, and picnics out front. I had never seen her cry until that day, and watching her crack the tough exterior brought tears to my eyes.
As time went on, and I grew up, my family still visited Beulah often, and going to her house on Halloween was always the highlight of the night (probably because we got about ten pieces of candy, an apple, and a hug). We continued to send her our school pictures to be pinned up on the huge cork board that hovered over the table, and whenever we saw each other we always exchanged an, “I love you.”
After about 8 years, we visited her less and less, considering that we moved to Grundy and were living very busy, sports filled lives. Although she did get involved with those sports and made it to a couple of my basketball games sophomore year. And then we got the news... Beulah got cancer. This news hurt at the time, but I wasn’t necessarily heartbroken because I knew she could get through it. As I mentioned before she was the toughest person I had ever met.
But a couple months later, Monday December 5, 2016, I walked down the steps of my house, and when I felt the cold on the bottom of my feet, notioning that I was on the tile, my Mom said with a forced smile and tears rolling down her cheeks... well, you already know what she said. The dark and dreariness outside resembled how I was feeling in the moment. The rain symbolized my tears, and the crack of thunder represented the sound of my heart as it broke.
And that’s the story. It’s a sad story and it sucks. But it taught me a lot about appreciating the people in my life, and more than that, appreciating what they did for me. So as I sit here writing this memoir, instead of seeing a computer screen, I see myself looking out the plastic covered window that was in the living room, just dreading the moment when my Mom’s car would pull up. I will never forget the sadness I felt when I’d have to leave that little white house, and I will never, ever, EVER, forget the woman that made me not want to leave.