Margaret Hall Hensley was my grandmother. Growing up in the Branson area, I remember when I was very young Grandma coming to spend the night with us and I getting to share a bed with her in the small bedroom. I remember feeling safe and loved while with her. She would read me stories and sing to me.
Years later I remember Grandma living in a little house on College Street down the hill from what was then back in the late 70's Branson Junior High. On away basketball games and track meets, or after sock hop dances, I would walk down to Grandma's after the game or event to spend the night. If during the week, I brought extra clothes for school the next morning. If on a Friday night, my Dad or brother would come pick me up Saturday morning.
Those were special times with Grandma Margaret. In the winter my Uncle "Moose", or Dale, who slept on the living room couch while I would lay on a mattress in the living room floor. His bedroom in the backroom of the house was heated poorly, thus his move to the warmer living room. I remember at 10:30 p.m. he would always watch Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or SOAP. I never got the humor of either show.
The next morning Grandma would always make me a nice breakfast topped with a cup of hot chocolate in one of her ceramic dark brown mugs. She would also often have homemade fried pies ready for me to snack on. My favorite was peach. My brother Mike also remembered fondly her cooking. "I always liked her scrambled eggs with cheese and how she never wasted a biscuit. She used to put the leftovers in margerine tubs and put the lid over them to keep them from drying out."
My sister, Cindy, also remembered Grandma fondly. "I remember how she would talk about wanting to dance but Grandpa John wouldn’t let her. They’d go to a party or barn dance and he would dance but wouldn’t let her. So, a few times when I stayed with her she would put on some George Jones or Gospel Music and dance away!"
Grandma, born I believe in 1906, grew up in the area, living as a child in south Hollister up Turkey Creek just a few miles north of a little village called Melva. She called it Melvie. She was there in Hollister when the neighboring town was literally blown away by a tornado on March 11, 1920. Sadly, 11 were killed, including 9 children. Grandma never liked talking about the tragic event. She knew all who died.
Grandma raised five kids, including my Mom. She worked for over 30 years at The Shack in Branson. Many of those years was as a cook, but in her later years she was the main cashier, the friendly face you saw when checking out. She later retired, battling COPD from years of smoking and working the grill.
Grandma loved old gospel music, and taught herself to play the auto-harp. The picture is of her playing a tune for me. She loved watching television, especially cop shows like Mannix and Columbo. She was a big fan of soap operas as well, much to my chagrin when visiting. She called them her "stories."
Grandma Margaret was always an example of grace, faith and consistent devotion. I always knew I would experience kind words and wonderful stories of yesteryear when with Grandma. Each experience linked me to my heritage, connecting me more deeply with my Mom's side of the family.
As Grandma got older, she moved into the house at Mt. Branson where her sons, Moose and Curly, live today. I remember my visits with her in her later year being more somber. She didn't feel well, having to be on oxygen and lacking energy and strength. Yet her faith in her Savior and her love for me always shined through her physical weakness.
If you are blessed today to have a Grandma in your life, please don't take them for granted. Cherish your moments of time with them. Listen to their stories, ask questions and learn. Who you are in part is because of who they are, and were. Embrace this wonderful mystery and don't take your grandparents for granted.
I can still hear Grandma's shaky but confident voice as she strummed her auto-harp. I know in my heart I will hear her again.