This week, my grandparents both turn 88 – representing 176 years of life between the two of them. My Grammie, Norma Hamm, turned 88 Feb. 16 and my Papa, Jerry Hamm, turns 88 Feb. 18. It’s a special milestone for our family, and we’re glad to say they’re happy and healthy.
Amid The Phoenix’s Tuesday night production chaos, I was able to take a minute to join a family Zoom call to sing to them. While COVID-19 has brought a lot of hardship, one thing that has been beneficial is the rising popularity of Zoom video calls. In normal years, I would have just called their landline at their home in small-town Coffeyville, Kansas. But over Zoom, the whole family can be remotely involved face-to-face.
My mom’s parents are my only living set of grandparents, so they mean a lot to me. They’re some of the biggest Loyola Phoenix fans, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about them in my weekly column at least once.
In normal semesters, I mail a stack of Phoenix print copies to them every so often so they can scan each page and hear all about what’s going on at Loyola, in Rogers Park and in greater Chicago.
I wish this column would be in print so I could send the clip via snail mail, but online should suffice.
I’ve missed many things throughout COVID-19 and the lockdowns it has brought, but one of the biggest losses has been not being able to visit them in the Coffeyville house they’ve lived in since the 1960s.
It’s a modest white home on a long, shady street. It has a large screened-in front porch with a small yard and garden out back. A stone with their last name “HAMM” marks the entrance of their driveway. Their house stands the test of time — it looks as it did when I was five years old, and how it did when my mom was growing up there in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
In honor of their birthday, I’m going to list some of my favorite memories of spending time with them in Coffeyville growing up — some of these things I still enjoy today.
- Swinging on the porch swing for hours and hours listening to the cicadas in the summertime. Sadly the swing is gone, but we still enjoy sitting out there and enjoying meals on the porch.
- Biking up and down the long sidewalk in front of their house. I remember specifically getting ultra-competitive and racing my brother closest in age.
- Handwashing all the dishes. My grandparents don’t use their dishwasher, and as a kid, this method of dish-washing fascinated me for some odd reason. I think it was because I was used to my parents using our own dishwasher to wash mass quantities of dishes for the seven of us multiple times a day.
- Playing with the elephant and monkey families — little figurines of monkeys and elephants wearing clothes. These doll sets were often one of the first things I inquired about when I arrived in Coffeyville growing up. They were a hot commodity among us Chappell kids and probably served as a lesson in taking turns.
- Sitting in the TV room recliners watching the news and discussing philosophical topics with Papa. He has an office of sorts surrounding his recliner, complete with a file cabinet and lots of books. This is still one of my favorite parts of visiting.
- Going to the lake. My grandparents have a cabin on Katy Lake in central Kansas. We used to spend a week or so in the summers fishing, boating and sitting on the porch swing watching the water sparkle. One of my favorite parts of the lake was feeding the catfish at dusk from the dock and watching them jump out of the water that reflected the pink and orange sunset.
- Cooking with Grammie, especially the famous Crockpot taco soup. I still love cooking with her today.
- Going to Utopia Coffee for soirées hosted by Grammie — a chance for all her friends in town to get to know us better.
- Seeing them waiting when we land in Tulsa, Oklahoma — the nearest airport to them. Believe it or not, you can park your car in the airport loading zone and walk in to meet who you’re waiting for, instead of being forced to move by O’Hare or Midway employees.
I’m sure there are others I’m missing, but hopefully that gives readers a taste of what I love and miss about them. There’s nothing like grandparents, and as soon it’s safe, I’ll be on a flight to see them.
In News this week, find a piece on how President Joe Biden is preserving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but how recipients — including some in the Loyola community — are pushing for a more permanent solution. Also, after all this insane weather, read a piece on how some Rogers Park residents helped free each other’s cars from the snow.
In Opinion, learn how to create the ultimate playlist.
In A&E, read a story on a Loyola alum’s Second City comedy debate show and a piece about how psychics are adapting to COVID-19.
In Sports, catch up on this week’s game coverage.