Hazel Mae Gilland was my grandmother. She was truly an amazing woman. In her younger years she knew how important education was and fought for the Head Start learning program in her area. She was a huge history buff and loved tracking down her ancestors long before the cool websites came out we spent many hours searching public records. Most importantly, to me, though she was my grandmother.
This time of year was where she truly shined. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas was at her house and no matter where I lived I almost always made it home for the Holidays. My grandpa was an amazing man but we truly lived in a Matriarchal household. She would cook for days and always provided an excellent meal. She was a very traditional person and we always had the typical turkey and sides but we also always had some of the individuals’ favorites. She truly knew how to make people feel loved and special.
I was very lucky that from birth to 12 I lived within a short drive and was able to see her very regularly. The first 8 years I lived within walking distance and spent almost as much time in her home as I did in my own. She always had immaculate landscapes at all of her houses because she loved plants. She and my grandpa owned nurseries and tree farms their whole lives. From the Gardenia tree outside the front window that bloomed and brought the beautiful perfume into the house on a beautiful spring morning to the bleeding heart vines that lined the walk there were always beautiful flowers everywhere.
She had four children each as opposite from the other as you can get. She must have had many adventures on the farm with them growing up I know I have heard many of the stories but I also experienced so many of my own. My mother and her sister Kathy tended to battle. I remember one day at the nursery Kathy grabbed a hose to battle my mother and my mother grabbed it too. Right at that moment with the hose squirting into the air my poor grandmother stepped out to stop the bickering and got the full force of the hose up her nose. I can only imagine how many sibling arguments she ended up on the wrong end of in her 89 years.
The amazing support she always showed for family really came to a head when her husband, my grandpa, became truly ill with his ALS and Alzheimer’s. She supported him every moment through the toughest times. He was a WWII veteran and I am sure they had many difficulties because of his PTSD from the war. She had been through so much towards the end of her years. She lost all of her friends and her husband, sister, and even a grandchild and daughter-in-law.
Through everything she was always a pillar of support and she made the best chicken and dumplings.