Tuesday, June 29, 2010

She Was Strong, This Woman

She was born in 1889 and died in 1985. Her life spanned horse-and-buggies and space shuttles. She was married at 15 to a man 10 years older than she was; she had five children and buried one.

She was strong, this woman.

I met her when she was 62, but I wouldn’t remember her until I was about three. My earliest memories of her were warm, embracing and musical. She played piano by ear; she never learned to read music. She sang with her church choir and she sang solos, including one she did for her 90th birthday.

For several years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I spent a week each summer with her at her house in Shreveport. It was a magical place for me. My aunt and uncle lived across the street; my half-sister less than 10 minutes away; and there was a boy exactly my age who lived next door. And for each visit, I flew Delta Airlines by myself – a huge deal for an 8-year-old in 1960.

She drove an old black Ford, a sedan from the early 1940s. We’d tool around Shreveport – shopping, visiting downtown, stopping by the Louisiana State Museum at the state fairgrounds so I could see the cool dioramas. And it was inevitable that she would take a short cut through a poor part of town and equally inevitable that the Ford would break down somewhere along the way. She’d tell me to stay in the car, and she would go to the nearest house to ask to use the phone.

My grandfather had died when I was nine months old. She talked about him like he was still there in the house with us. She wanted me to know him, but I think she did it as much for herself as for me. They had met when he had stayed at the boarding house in Jena, Louisiana, owned by her mother. He was a land surveyor, working for the railroad. He married her in spite of her tobacco-chewing mother, and in spite of the rumors that her mother had killed a man.

When my grandmother was 5, her mother had put her to work in the cotton mills. She had no formal education, but she was fully literate and read her Bible every day. (I have this image in my head of her reading her Bible while her mother pinged the spittoon with used tobacco.) She taught a ladies Sunday School class for decades and I can remember her writing out her lesson on Friday and Saturday in a small, black two-ringed binder.

She was strong, this woman.

She endured the loss of her youngest, a little girl who got sick and didn’t get well. Two of her children (my father and his youngest sister) didn’t speak to each other for more than 40 years; how that must have grieved her. I can remember being in her living room one summer when the door opened and in walked the aunt I had never met, who looked like a younger version of my aunt across the street. We stared at each other. She was as shocked as I was – she didn’t expect to see what looked like her brother as a child standing in the living room.

My grandmother made all of her grandchildren feel like she loved them the most (although I knew I was really her favorite). She sent her only son off to the war in the Pacific. She stifled herself (mostly) when her son decided to raise her grandson in that den of iniquity called New Orleans, yet she loved to visit. I know she prayed for me from the day I was born until the day she died. Raised by a mother who was likely her polar opposite, she was strong in her faith and strong in her love for her Lord.

She was strong, this woman.


To read more posts on strength, visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley.

24 comments:

Sandra Heska King said...

Absolutely love this! Strong woman, indeed.

Kathleen Overby said...

A word portrait by someone who loved her - I saw her with the soft muted lens over vibrant colors. No photoshop needed. :)

Bridget Chumbley said...

What an amazing description of strength you've shared, Glynn. Beautiful post... I could picture her too, and am sure you were her favorite! ;)

katdish said...

Thank you for sharing your grandmother's story. I truly admire people who live in obedience to God instead of being crushed by their circumstances. I'm so glad she was an influence in your life.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I feel like I know her now. Thanks for sharing her life with us. Her strength is inspiring.

Susie said...

That was really beautiful and made me cry.

Candy said...

We shared similar grandmothers. My fear is that the strength has faded as new generations come to pass. Hers lives on - I use her example often for my own. Thanks for sharing this, Glynn. Yes, no doubt you were her favorite.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I would have liked to have known this strong woman.

Thank you Glynn for a beautiful portrait of a woman I would have liked to have known.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Glynn, I love how your grandmother spoke of your grandfather to the extent that she did -- helping burn a memory of him for you that you couldn't have gotten otherwise.

Loved this.

Monica Sharman said...

Love the spittoon image. :)
And this:
"My earliest memories of her were warm, embracing and musical." Musical memories!

Thanks for sharing this history and for the reminder of what treasures we have who have older ones in our lives.

H. Gillham said...

As you remember more of her, please share it.

I enjoyed this...

Maureen said...

So many wonderful details in this portrait, beginning with the fact that she lived in the most extraordinary times. I can imagine this a chapter in a memoir.

Beautifully written.

n. davis rosback said...

and what se was became part of who you are.

Duane Scott said...

She was strong in her faith. We all want to be like that. It's a bit of a fear of mine that I am not as strong in my faith as those gone before me.

Jaycee said...

Beautiful. Really beautiful.

S. Etole said...

And through your words I love her, too ... you write so "real."

Madame Rubies said...

This makes me want to know her.

JC Dude said...

A great tribute to a strong woman!
Thanks for sharing...

Jay

jasonS said...

I always stand amazed at your brilliant tributes. Thanks Glynn for sharing her story with us.

togetherforgood said...

Wow. What an amazing woman, and you paint her with love and character.

Linda said...

I love her Glynn. I am so glad you have all those precious memories of her. My Grandmother died when I was two, but I have "known" her through the stories my Mom and Aunts have repeated over and over again. She too was an amazingly strong woman.
Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Nithin R S said...

Well,strong woman indeed.My grandma was strong too.She was from well off family.Then faced poverty after marriage.She raised 7 kids,then grand kids.Until she could walk around she did all she could.I was lucky to hear from her,various experiences in life.She kept her faith in god.Everyone loved her so much,that many people used to visited our home just to talk to her.

caryjo said...

Absolutely loved this... made me smile so often [I like posts that make me do that!]. You said one thing I often try to remember when I'm driving through town and "someone" extremely aged is driving questionably. Earlier, speed limits were in the 20s or 30s at the most, the roads were nothing compared to our interstates, cars were a start-up challenge. There were few, if any, airplanes... no public passengers. My mom turns 90 next month, and I try to keep those things in mind when she fusses about phones or TV/VCR problems. For me, as I head that direction, sooner than I'd like, it's not cars so much as it is the techy stuff that keeps slapping me and making my brain spin -- changing a cell phone, different I-net programs, etc. Sounds like "Grandma" did amazingly well. [And I'm glad she broke any family tradition connected to chewing tobacco.]

Keda said...

this is such a beautiful post. It's rare to see people love and respect so much and for it to be able to put into words. And honestly, you could actually feel the way you felt about your grandmother.