Week 24: #52 Ancestors – Handed Down
By Eilene Lyon
I have very few family heirlooms. My Army-brat upbringing taught me to let go of things. We could only take so much whenever we moved. It’s been only recently that I’ve come to appreciate what little I have received and kept over the years.
This crocheted doily came to me from my grandmother, Reatha (Gusso) Halse. She gave similar items to my female cousins. I’d like to mount it on black velvet and frame it. One of those things to get around to! This is the note she wrote to me on April 28, 2001:
“Eilene & —, S– just left here to go to a wedding in Newport 1:00 p.m. Will return here tonight. Remain tonight and a friend will come to see her – Sunday.
“Today is P–‘s #38 birthday – my how my grandchildren have gotten up in years. Forgive me for that remark. Me, I am 85. What can I expect – !
“I am sending this crocheted doilie with S– for you – It was made by my mother – Stella Agatha Crandall Gusso – I noticed it has developed a flaw. Perhaps you can mend it. She was born June 5, 1893. It was made about 60 years ago…
“I am having trouble eating because of my esophagus – S– can tell you! — Much Love, Grandma Halse”
That closing remark came about because she was developing ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease – which ultimately ended her life, but not without some suffering beforehand. It’s a cruel disease.
As I look on with a tinge of horror at my mother losing her mind to severe dementia, what I recall of Grandma’s deterioration absolutely terrifies me. Being mentally sound with a body that gradually becomes incapable of various functions – swallowing food, use of arms, the ability to speak – to me is the worse fate.
Stella Crandall Gusso, maker of doilies and so much more, died the year I was born. Even if she hadn’t there’s a good chance I would not have met her, given our roaming and her home being in South Dakota. She led a clean life as farm wife and mother, a genial soul, who lovingly tolerated her curmudgeonly husband.
Grandma points out that her mom made the doily around the time of World War II. I can imagine Stella, lover of soap operas, in her rocker near the console radio, listening to a favorite show, perhaps punctuated by a news bulletin with war updates, delicate crochet hook flashing in and out of tiny holes of thread. How fortunate I am to have something created with her own hands.