I was almost a year old and had not been baptized. My father had ignored his mother’s plea for a baptism. My grandmother was an assertive woman undertook an intervention. This is the story that was told to me by my father’s sisters.
My baptism was not the traditional baptism where the family gathers in church a few days or weeks after the birth of a baby. In the spring of 1945 I was approaching my first birthday. The Allied liberation of Europe was being raged. Food, fuel, and almost everything was rationed in the U.S.A.. Times were tough. My father was trying to hold the Stratton family together and recover from the death of his father in the fall of 1943.
During 1943, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and he died in October of 1943. My dad’s brother, Art, was serving in the Army in England and could not return for the funeral. After my grandfathers death, the draft board deferred my father so he could run the farm and care for his mother and two sisters. My parents were married in March of 1943 and I was born in April of 1944. My grandmother Rose was the spiritual backbone of the family. Her spiritual strength sustained her generation, her children’s generation, and my generation. Rose was her given name but we all called her Grum. I was the first grandchild and I could not pronounce grandma. Instead the word came out as Grum and Grum became a nickname that stuck. Ten grandchildren would know her, and call her, Grum for the rest of her life. Grum never remarried. She became an independent, self supporting, working woman in the 1940s, long before it became fashionable to do so. She remained active and a supporter of the family until she was almost 80. For the next fifteen years she suffered with Alzheimer’s.
After my grandfather died, my dad and grandmother continued renting the farm we lived on in Milford Township, Story County, Iowa. In the fall of 1944, the landlord decided to rent the farm to a relative and we had to move. The move required my dad to borrow money to purchase farm machinery. He always said he had to mortgage my mother and me to acquire that loan. As part of the move, my grandmother rented a house and went to work for the Fuller Brush Company. We relocated to a farm about five miles away in Grant Township that was named Grant View Farm. The move was made during the end of December 1944. Much of the work moving grain, hay, livestock, and household goods occurred with a wagon and a team of horses. Dad rented that farm and remained there until he retired after the 1982 crop year.
My dad was an avid farmer and by today’s terminology was a card carrying workaholic. By the spring of 1945, my grandmother was very upset that I had not been baptized in the Lutheran Church. It was the latter part of March and my dad was preparing the fields for planting the oat crop. The accepted practice of that time was successful farmers planted oats the last week of March. My father had a strong desire to prove he was a successful farmer in his first year on a new farm. My grandmother’s continuing requests that I be baptized did not have an impact on my dad. Farm work always came first. My dad was not about to let anything, including a baptism, interfere with field work for the oat crop.
Being the strong and independent woman that she was, my grandmother decided it was time for intervention. One day Grum came from town and brought the minister, Dr. Simon, to the farm. Grum then went to the field where my dad was working. She literally drug my dad to the house for the baptism ceremony. There, in my home, I was baptized into Christianity by a Lutheran pastor on March 25th of 1945. My parents were listed as my sponsors. It was a small ceremony, just me, mom and dad, Dr. Simon, and Grum. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a life long spiritual journey with many hills and valleys. A journey that would include occasional deep pit and mountain top experiences.
I did not hear this story until later in life. By then I understood my dad’s work ethic and addiction to work. I had no doubts about the story. In my preteen years I came to understand that when my grandmother said a family event was to take place, especially if it involved the church, you better be in attendance. Even my father would comply. Although I did not know it at the time, during this baptism, the Holy Spirit had imparted to me some of my grandmothers spiritual strength. During my senior year of high school I met another independent woman with strong spiritual strength. As my wife she had a major impact on my spiritual growth.
An intervention for a baptism began a life long spiritual journey that continues more than seventy years later. Thank you Grum. Almost fifty years after my baptism, Grum, the angel, would return to help get me into a rehab program for workaholics but that is another story.