Grandma and The Dude

My grandma was a little round white-haired lady such as I see in the mirror every morning. She was devout in the loveliest ways and most hours of the day you would hear her singing a hymn. Now that I know more about the times through which she lived, I’m more deeply impressed by her courage, humor and fortitude. She was born in the 1880s. Married and came to the high plains of Montana by train with her husband and three kids. Seven more followed as did the Great Depression and WW II. I’m sure things were more complicated in her life than I will ever know because her daughters — including my mom — are all complicated women.

One of her hymns was “Abide With Me.” It’s a sweet hymn about God’s company in hard times and the inevitable disillusionment of life.


Denis Joseph Francis Callahan loved The Big Lebowski. He took its words and scenes as palpable wisdom. An angry man by nature, Denis needed any calming influence that came his way, and “the Dude” fell into his litany along with daily Mass and conversations with me. I’m good at defusing other peoples’ anger and many were the times that I’d step between Denis and a tree he’d just slammed with his fist (the tree always won) and say, “Let’s go get a burger.”

One of Denis’ words to me in times of trial and frustration was, “Abide.”


My grandma thought the Catholic church was the anti-Christ. Denis thought all Protestants were heretics. But there they were, hanging their lives on the same word.


6 thoughts on “Grandma and The Dude

  1. One of my top all-time favorite books is “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart, a post-apocalyptic story with a positive outlook. And it’s the only “science fiction” book Stewart wrote. Whenever I hear the word “Abide” I think of “Earth Abides” and I want to read it again 🙂

    It’s hard enough moving far from home, but to do it when you know you will probably never go back again, even for a visit requires a toughness I don’t possess. I thought of that a lot when I was in Israel, how all my grandparents came over from Europe and never went back. Never called home and eventually, lost all contact with their original home.

    • My grandma’s ancestors came to America in the 18th century, so her move was “only” from Iowa to Montana and one of her brothers was already out there. Still, they never went back to Iowa or saw their remaining family there again. It was too expensive for such a big family — and they were dirt poor.

      In the 60s, when we lived in Nebraska, my grandma came to visit. It was really important to my mom to take grandma to Iowa, but grandma didn’t want to go. I think she felt about it the way I feel about China — that the place she had known was gone. But we did cross the river for a picnic in an Iowa park.

  2. What a contrast in characters, Martha, as well as a contrast of glorious music and a funny movie (one of my favorites). I wondered how you were going to tie them together, and then you whipped out your list line and zinged me. Great Stuff.

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