Grandma’s Quarters

by | Jun 4, 1999 | Gifts, Sacrifice

It was October 1962, and we just experienced in the Northwest whatwould later be called, “The Columbus Day Storm”. A severe ice storm with pounding winds; damaging homes and trees alike. The area was a mess. However, it was the calm after the storm. It was on the very day following this tremendous storm that my story begins. Yes, the wind was silent now. It had stopped but there was still a chilling coldness in the air. We had no power at our home, which meant no heat! The house was ice cold with its bare wood floors.

I remember being in my new cotton night gown hand sewn only days earlier by my mother. We children all huddled together shivering waiting for Dad to light a fire. Dad put extra wood on the fire ensuring the house would warm up quickly. As he walked away from the hearth to go outside all of us children ran to find our place to stand directly in front of the fire. Oh, it felt so good. The fire was snapping and crackling. It was a big blazing fire with flames and sparks were flying. I had no fear though. My only goal was to get warm as quickly as possible.

I just finished warming my front side stretching out my hands to feel how hot the fire had become before turning to warm by backside. I had no warning of what was about to happen to me.

Standing there in comfort and warmth I relaxed for the first time on this cold morning. Shutting my eyes basking in contentment of the fire, I was abruptly brought back to reality. In one single second, it took only one single spark flying from the fireplace to change my life forever. It had made contact with me catching my nightgown on fire. Flames instantly ignited from the cotton and the smell of my flesh burning was in the air.

Later at the hospital my mom was told I had third degree burns and extensive deep tissue damage on the backside of my left leg. After months of treatment and everyday bandage changes that were the most painful thing I had ever endured the doctor said, “Melodie must have skin grafts. Her burn is not healing properly.” Due to the severity and depth of the burn the doctor continued to prepare my mother saying, ” I must warn you, Melodie will walk with a limp at the very best and most likely she will have a stiff leg after her skin graft heals”.

My mother cried. I was hospitalized and my surgery took place. They grafted skin off my bottom to put on my left leg. Oh, the pain of healing. Any movement brought tremendous pain, and walking was out of the question. My pain threshold could not bear it. I lay on the couch day after day trying not to disturb my leg. It just throbbed. Any movement sent a rush of pain. I became an expert at laying still.

My grandma would come everyday at the same time and visit me. My mother had shared the prognosis of the doctor with my grandma, sharing at best I would walk with a limp. My grandma was very upset about what the doctor had said. She said he had no right to say that. And she never accepted the thought of me, her granddaughter walking with a limp or a stiff leg. Grandma was diligent to her faith she came everyday to encourage me and try to coax me to move my leg. I loved her so much that I wanted to please her. I would move my leg with tears in my eyes barely handling the pain. Day afterday the ritual continued. Then came a day where I had reached a point that the pain was to great to bear even for Grandma. I didn’t want to try to walk any more – period. It just hurt too much. I just stopped trying.

My Grandmother lived in town so, she would have to make the drive to our house in the country and back everyday. She never missed a one. My Grandmother was poor based on government tallies of incomes…..actually extremely poor, I later learned. Yet she made the drive which required gas to come to be with me everyday. Being only 8 years old, I didn’t know my Grandma was poor and had no money.

One day after my long siege of “NO I am not going to try any more”, Grandma came with something. She had all kinds of quarters. I don’t mean a few. I don’t mean a handful. I mean a bunch of quarters that filled up her lap. A quarter in 1962 was a lot of money to a child. Penny candy existed back then. She wore a house dress or what she called a “moo-moo,” and placed all those shiny quarters right there on her lap. Laying on the couch I could see those gleaming quarters.

I had never seen that amount of money ever. It made me excited. She said, “If you stand up I will give you a quarter”. I wanted a quarter, so, disregarding the pain I stood up. Grandma smiled so big and placed a shiny new quarter in the palm of my hand. I quickly sat down the pain throbbing in my leg. She looked right into my eyes and made an announcement, “There’s more where that came from. Do it again honey, stand up”.

I did it again and she repeated the reward another shiny quarter in my hand. This went on day after day for months with Grandma. I missed my entire third grade of school. She was faithful and so determined that I would not have a stiff leg and that I would walk without a limp. One day I asked my Grandma, “What if you run out of quarters Grandma?” She said, “Don’t worry about Grandma running out of quarters honey. I got all the quarters in the world for you.”

So, we played our game everyday. It had progressed to me walking across the room now to earn a quarter. Grandma’s words saying, “Walk honey, come on you can do it, come get your quarter.”

It had been almost a full year since the fire when I went back to school. I remember walking in the door and I walked perfectly. No stiff leg. No limp. The doctor said, “In all my years of treating burns I have never seen a leg heal so completely.”

The extra bonus, a slight minor surface scar instead of the common deeper skin graft scar. Again, the doctor was amazed. He had me show many of the other staff doctors in astonishment. He had me come back many times to the hospital to show my leg and demonstrate its usage.

It wasn’t until after my Grandma had died and I was much older that I realized the gift she had given me. My mother said that she knows it was my grandmother’s determination and faith that healed my leg. My mother said, “Your grandmother could not bear the thought of you limping or walking with a stiff leg. Your grandma willed that leg well and God heard her.” I asked my mother, “Where did Grandma get all those quarters?” My mother replied, “I suppose she went without.”

After all these years I was brought to the reality of the tremendous gift my grandma had given me. A selfless act of love at the expense of personally going without. Grandma always gave me the quarters joyfully. I had no idea she was going without what she needed to give me those quarters to encourage me to walk. I thought she had plenty. She was so happy to give them to me. My Grandma’s daily gifts to me of those shiny quarters were actually her “sacrifice and faith” all rolled up inside those silver coins.

Melodie Lynn Tilander copyright 2001

I am a 46 year old professional woman who has recently left the “Corporate World” and a position, Vice President of Advertisement to pursue my dream of writing. I now choose to define myself as a christian writer who looks for and writes about everyday events that glory God. “Grandma’s Quarters” is my personal true story.


Grandma’s Quarters