By Phyllis F. Schaefer
My maternal grandmother was left a widow in her family home on Buffalo’s West Side. She was quite crippled as a result of a fractured hip and used a cane, which I still own. She was incapacitated enough to need domestic help. So it was that Frances came into our family in the early 1930s. Over time, she became a true friend and helper to our family for three generations.
As the years went by, Frances came to our house as a laundress. It was fairly common at that time to need help in that area, because laundry facilities were frequently located in the basement, complete with ringer washers, stationary tubs, clotheslines for use on inclement days and irons and ironing boards.
As a child, I spent many hours watching Frances iron. As I watched the freshly ironed tablecloths roll over the ironing board, Frances kindly reminded me not to step on them. No one could iron men’s shirts like Frances. I guess that’s why I have this strange liking for ironing.
Frances often brought special treats to me, like miniature chocolate violins. On special holidays, like Christmas and Easter, she brought her homemade kielbasa and cheesecake, which was to die for.
As more years passed, I married and my husband and I had our own complete family with six munchkins. Frances stayed on to help with household chores. Later, when these chores became a bit much for her, she became our babysitter when we spent a few days away on vacation or a business trip.
By this time, Frances and her husband were living in their own home on their son’s dairy farm. After piling everybody into the station wagon, we traveled to the country to get Frances. The children always got a tour of the farm. The chicken coops and the barns where the cows were milked were popular spots. How could we ever forget those trips, especially when the barn scent remained for a long time in our station wagon?
One day during my childhood, Mother decided to pursue her driver’s license. Dad would take her out on learning trips while I rode in the backseat. Things didn’t always go so well as Mother struggled to master the gear-shifting technique. One day Dad ran out of patience. And guess who finished the driving instruction? Frances’ husband, a good and patient man.
Frances’ older son completed his degree at Canisius College, while working at the Buffalo Airport as a traffic controller. He was also the father of Frances’ only grandchild, of whom she was very proud and with good reason. He received his medical degree from the University at Buffalo Medical School and is a leading doctor and executive medical director at a well-known hospital on the East Coast.
In a recently published article, he stated openly that he attributed his accomplishments more to his family than to himself. He is a perfect example of the saying, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”
Frances was also very talented with handwork. She made afghans for us and many crocheted items for the children.
Eventually, Frances began to age, became ill and was hospitalized. Fortunately, I was able to visit her often and we had many nice conversations.
We have so many wonderful family memories that never would have been the same without Frances. God bless her, our beloved third grandmother.