August 3rd, a birthday to remember
Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away in 1979, right after I graduated. Such a sad day for me. I nearly did not recover from the following 5 years of depression. But, as she would have had it and with God’s will, I did survive it. I would like to honor her this day with a bit of history.
My grandparents raised me. My grandfather always said grandma was the “prettiest little thing”. They married when she was just 13 years old, it wasn’t uncommon in early 1900 Kentucky. The beginning of their lives together was of hard living for both my grandparents. She had to adjust to all that married life brought, for her mostly children, 11 of them.
Living in Kentucky
Grandma told me she was uneducated about such things as having babies and such. Having three children prior to coming to Michigan, she learned the hard way. My grandmother was glad to leave Kentucky and never wanted to return, other than to visit. My grandfather, on the other hand, always thought he would return to his homeland.
One day he announced to my grandmother that he was moving back there. She drew the line and said “good-bye”. Grandpa never went. By this time she had a few more kids, I’m sure. As hard as it was making a living in Michigan, grandma was willing to endure it rather than go back south. (The picture on the right is my grandmother at a young age)
families were funny
There was an unwritten code in the south where different families were concerned. All one need do is look at the legacy of the Hatfield and McCoys. It was common place for the women to be domestic support and child bearers to their men. You hit the lottery if you were lucky enough to be born into a kind loving family. Everyone else endured hard knocks. Being seen and not heard as children, married off as young adults to be someone else’s burden, putting up with their men’s fancies; whether it be drink, other women, abuse, all of the above. (To the far left, of the picture on the left, is my grandmother, her dad, mom and I am guessing her sister on her dad’s lap).
My grandma’s mom died in her sleep when my grandmother was still young. There were four sisters and one brother along with my grandma. Pictured at left is my grandmother and her brother.
dysfunctional at best
I felt loved, growing up, but there wasn’t a lot of it on display. We didn’t enter each other’s space much with hugging and the like. By the time I came along, my grandmother was a faithful Christian woman and thereby toted me to church every Sunday. She felt at peace while there and enjoyed others company.
There were family gatherings over Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc., usually just my mom and her 3 other children. My grandparents other sons and daughters visited regularly, just rarely at the same time. (In the picture on the right, my mom is the girl to the right of my grandmother, front row).
happiness found in the details
I believe my grandmother was happy in the details of her life, but she felt that she missed out on a lot, too. When she found out she had cancer, she began to do things and go places she would not otherwise have considered.
For example, she went to a Jesus76 concert with me and a group from our church. It was spectacular. We arrived in Pennsylvania somewhere and spent all day enjoying music. We had a blanket laid out with various things on it. You could wander off for an hour or two and come back to find it undisturbed.
Grandma also went on an overnight snow retreat, again, with a church group. There was a main lodge cabin and several small ones for sleeping. She spent the day in the lodge, enjoying the fire, while I was out being a kid.
she was the peace keeper in the family
Grandma was the stabilizer amongst all her children, even unto her grandchildren. She instilled moral and ethical values in my life. Taught me to pray, respect those older than me, round-aboutly teaching me to be determined and strong-willed. She always told me never to forget what it was like being a kid.
I miss her. All through the year I think about her, especially on her birthday. I believe she thinks of me as well. One year, on her birthday, I was standing at the sink, where she stood many times in her life, doing dishes. A Cardinal was clinging to the side of a willow tree my grandmother had planted years earlier. It fluttered its wings until I finally noticed it. The Cardinal stayed outside that window for several minutes, displaying colorful wings and grip strength. I thought, “happy birthday, grandma”.
Pictured above with my uncle, her second youngest.