Tracey Epp, left, and Michelle Cadwallader live in Texas.
When Michelle Cadwallader was a child, her grandmother's odd nicknames and unique behavior were part of her charm. But as Cadwallader grew older, she realized there was more to the story.
Grandparents are often given special nicknames by their grandchildren. Cadwallader's grandmother, Hattie Sordean, had several for herself — from Gremmich (a combination of "gremlin" and "witch") to Mrs. Wiffenpoofle. And she made up games that delighted her grandchildren.
But as Cadwallader got older, she realized that her grandmother was more than just a favorite grownup. The quirky, carefree attitude that Cadwallader and the other kids loved was accompanied by mood swings and impaired judgment.
Hearing other adults talk about "ups and downs" as well as "balance" helped Cadwallader recognize that her grandmother was manic-depressive. As Sordean aged, Cadwallader saw it more clearly. That's when her grandmother sometimes needed people to shop for her, when she couldn't leave bed.
Speaking with her partner, Tracey Epp, Cadwallader says her grandmother's condition was part of what made her special. And her main regret, she says, is that Epp didn't get to meet her Gremmy.
StoryCorps is the oral history project traveling the country collecting stories of everyday America. The interviews are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And excerpts are played on Morning Edition each Friday.