My grandmother, Mabel “Peggy” McNeel, of Hillsboro, WV, is 95-years old today!  YAAAAAAAAY, GRANNY!  When she turned 90 I kindly told her she just had 10 more years to go so that Willard Scott could wish her happy birthday on the Today Show.  She laughed and said, “Oh, no.  I don’t think I’ll last that long!”  Today I told her that now she just has five more years to go!  Again she laughed and said, “Oh, no.  I don’t think I’ll last that long!”  Then I laughed as I told her that’s what she said when she turned 90 and now she’s half-way there! 

Granny is very special to me.  I have so many fond memories of days spent with her on the family farm in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia.  Have you ever traveled along Rt 219 between Lewisburg and Snowshoe Ski Resort?  If so, you passed our farm.  It borders the Pearl Buck Birthplace and is marked with a McNeel Family Farm sign at the roadside. 

As my almost 8-year old son helped me bake a pound cake this afternoon, I couldn’t help but remember when it was me who was little and I stood at Granny’s kitchen counter with one of her aprons tied around me (the strings going around twice), helping her cook and bake whatever she’d let me help with.  When I couldn’t help, I watched.  I loved being in the kitchen with Granny.  I still remember the sights, wonderful smells, and delightful tastes of the yummy meals and desserts she made from scratch. 

In those days the family farm was a busy thriving place.  My Gramps and Uncle Lanty would come in at noon each day, hungry from a busy morning of work, ready for a big, home cooked, meat-n-potatoes meal.  Granny always had one ready for them.  Almost all the food was freshly grown or food she and my Aunt Nora canned and kept in the cellar behind the house.  The cellar was just a few feet away from the Hen House where we gathered fresh eggs every morning.  Those chores were done after separating the milk Gramps brought in after milking the cow.  And the meat?  Mmmmmmm, good.  The farm raised beef cattle, sheep, and just enough hogs to provide us with our own pork.  Except for hot dogs, I don’t remember having much store-bought meat when we were at the farm! 

Not only was Granny a great cook, she fed everyone who needed fed.  If meals were needed for the church, she sent food.  If treats were needed at the school or church, she’d bake something.  And you never left a visit with Granny hungry!  She made sure she fed you something while you were there! 

OK, enough about food.  Granny played piano for their little country Presbyterian church until she was in her 80’s and arthritis took that pleasure away from her.  Sometimes we’d visit the state hospital to provide music for the patients.  She’d play piano and I’d lead them in songs and hymns.  What great memories!

Granny worked hard as a dutiful farm wife and took excellent care of my Gramps.  He was a well-known man of the community and state, and Granny often accompanied him to dinners and special events.  She always loved to socialize and be with people, and people always seemed to love her wherever we went. 

Hardly a week went by that visitors didn’t come calling back in the summers I spent with Gramps and Granny.  She welcomed everyone warmly and made everyone feel at home.  I guess that’s why so many still find their way to her door to pay a visit now and then.  I suspect it’s as much for their own good as for Granny’s…I know that’s how it is for me when I go back to the farm!

Granny’s eyes aren’t what they used to be.  She sees very little, which is a shame because she always enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and farm land surrounding their home.  She also spent a lot of time reading and doing crossword puzzles.  Without her sight there’s not much she can do with her time these days, but that sure hasn’t kept her spirits from dwindling!  Granny is as spunky and sharp as ever!  She keeps up with all the happenings of our family and remembers all the birthdays AND AGES of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren!  That’s more than I can do!  She still keeps wonderful humor and is just as fun to be around and talk to as she ever was. 

What I love most about Granny is that she has always lived by the Serenity Prayer.  It’s been posted on her refrigerator for as long as I can remember.  And she doesn’t just say amen to the prayer, she really lives it.  At 95 years of age she is joyful, cheerful, and THANKFUL for all that she has and for the life she’s led.  Oh, Granny, how I want to be like you when I grow up.  🙂   I love you, Granny!  Happy Birthday!  And many more!!

To read more about Granny, see “MEET MY GRANNY” in the May 2007 archives.