A lot can happen in 90 years.

Births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Wars, reunification, cultural development and destruction.

The rise and fall of political systems. Development of material culture. The musical path from folk songs to industrial rock.

While someone reads this column, I will be in the northern suburbs, preparing to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Her birthday is actually only later this month, but this weekend is a time when the whole family can go to see her.

Born in 1920 in northeastern Pennsylvania, my grandmother was the daughter of a farmer who lost his mother early. She helped raise younger siblings while in school, starting with one-room school and graduating from high school in the late 1930s.

Grandma occasionally shared with us the details of her time as a single woman, and as far as I know, she attended college for a short time before moving to Camp Hill to work during World War II, after which she married for my grandfather and moved to Northern New York.

The following war years brought 11 children (two of whom died), 16 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and many mothers-in-law for all tastes.

Grandma survived the Great Depression and World War II. She began raising children during the baby boom and fed her teenage daughters through Beatlemania and a school of nursing.

She watched as men landed on the moon, and as the country and the world tortured each other during the 1960s and 1970s.

It was close to the beginning of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In addition to his wife and mother, his grandmother wore many hats. She cleaned houses, served food and prepared dozens and dozens of pastries for church events. She can restore any chair and went through the stage of carpet weaving in the 90s. In recent years, she has been quilling. In my memory she has always been an active gardener.

Now, near the age of 90, she continues to get up early five days a week to get on the bus, make one transfer and arrive at work, where she is a housekeeper for the residents of the priests in the local parish. We are all convinced that she works to stay active and that without work she would feel without direction.

Mobility is not an issue. She pulls on her smart sneakers and the spark goes anywhere, including in “Stop and Rob” to get milk and bread, and in “Geriatric Giant” (her terms) for all the other essentials.

She is still sharp and ready to talk about anything from politics to her family’s life.

Her house (where she has lived for more than 50 years) is a place where you can always eat polka on Sunday morning and a rich supply of peanut butter cookies. I’ve never found a tastier potato salad recipe than hers. Her cafeteria is full of games and toys, and the house is full of books, old photos and memories.

They say you can’t go home again, but at least a few of us can go to my grandmother’s.

Happy birthday, Grandma! Much remains to be done.

Jess Haynes is the editor of the Gettysburg Times articles.

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