Thursday, January 5, 2017

Gone Far and Grazin'

Grandma Bonnie left us as 2016 was winding down. She got what she wanted for Christmas so we’re feeling blessed. The empty house at ranch headquarters will take some getting used to because she was the one constant in a changeable world.   

She grew up in the Depression with a selfless Mother and an absent Father. That combination meant service to others and a desire to make those around her feel loved was her mantra. Her homemaking skills were top notch, her work ethic unmatchable, and her warm, welcoming nature ever present.   

She was really good at giving, but found it difficult to receive. She got better at it in the end, but was as feisty as ever with her good humor in full display. We lucky ones on the caregiving crew laughed a lot. 

I am her grandson’s wife, but I was also her neighbor and friend. We shared a ranch wife’s view of the world. That doesn’t sound very modern does it? She knew what it meant to compete with cows for a husband’s attention. There are no better men than the Pratt men, but it’s easier for them to figure out a cow than it is to figure out their wives.  

She tried not to ask what was happening on the ranch, but we knew how much she cared and that she was always thinking about us and wondering if we were safe. Trips to the mountains had her wringing her hands until we called to let her know we were home. The standing joke was none of us needed to worry because Grandma was doing it for us!     

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting facing her, her hands in mine. I was comparing my nails, hastily cut short with fingernail clippers, to hers which she kept carefully filed in a graceful arc. I never knew that about her. We were alike but different in many ways. I asked her if I could take a picture of her hands because I thought them beautiful. “No,” she said, to her they were old and wrinkled.

In the month preceding her death, as I spent more time at her house, I learned to open the curtains first thing in the morning. It was her habit to rise early and pull the curtains. She not only wanted to let the first light in, but wanted to reassure Gary, or whoever would be driving through ranch headquarters, that she was fine and had arisen as usual. At dusk the curtains were snugly closed. It was part of her ordered world.

The night before she died, Anna and Seth had a good visit with her. She sat in her chair under a lamp opposite Anna. Seth stretched on the floor at her side. She talked about her mother working for the Works Project Administration and how her Mom had to be convinced that it was “not a handout!” We looked at her 1918 Book of Knowledge encyclopedia set. She told us how thrilled she was when she got them and didn’t have to go down the street to the library to do school reports. 

That our kids grew up next door to her is the rarest of gifts. When they left that night and I was helping her to bed, she said what a lovely evening it had been. She was using a walker and took a spin around the living room for good measure.

I went back to her empty home to do some laundry this week and sat in her favorite mauve chair for a while. It’s a surreal feeling. The recent memories of her decline are fading fast and those of the last 26 years since I came to the ranch coming to the surface. I opened the curtains when I arrived and closed them at dusk when I left.

Eldro and Bonnie


  1. your insights are precious, and your love shown for her is precious. You and your kids are continuing the circle of life.

    1. So nice to hear from you Gerry. We're all participants in the circle aren't we? I kept telling her, "I'll need help someday!"

  2. Poetic and moving. A life so obviously well lived! X

    1. Glynn, so pleasant to see a comment from across the ocean. We feel connected to our friends in Norfolk.

  3. What a beautiful piece; a tribute to the amazing woman we all loved so much. So many lessons to be learned from Bonnie and those of that era when life was hard but met head on with a strength most cannot fathom. The truth of the matter is that the hard times were softened by the blessings of a ranch wife's life -- the sad and funny moments; the challenge of loving a rancher with the slightly off center nature of a man who follows a cow for a living; the joy of incredible friendships and an amazing family; the warmth and stability of a welcoming home where everyone, two or four-legged, was nurtured with love and respect. Bonnie and Eldro are celebrating their life and posterity and the dance floor is smooth and the music just right. Until we meet again. . .

  4. part of her ordered world. Great capture mother.