My Grandmother is one of the most important women in my life. Not only have her caring words carried me through hard times, but her story gave me hope that I too could be happy.
My Grandmother and her family moved from Tennessee when she was young to Washington, DC. There were 6 children. They lived in a 2 bedroom row house on 17th Street in South East DC. It was 1933. 4 girls shared one bedroom, and 2 boys and her Mother and Father shared the other room. My Grandmother got married to my Grandfather Wallace and moved back to the south with him. They did not last long down there before they moved back, this time to District Heights, MD. They had 3 children, Susan, David, and Thomas (my Dad). My Dad was only 6 months old, and it was days before Christmas when Wally died of cancer. It was the 50s and my poor Grandmother was left with 3 kids to feed so she went to work. Her parents moved in with her to help raise the kids. She made it through somehow. To this day, I cannot imagine how scared she felt and how alone she must have been.
She persevered through that hard time and stayed true to herself and her happiness. After over 10 years of being a single working Mother, she met the only Grandfather I knew, Eugene. Now, this is funny because my Grandmother’s name is Jean. So they became, Gene and Jean. Oh, how he loved my Grandmother- and she loved him back just as much. They were married very quickly and eventually moved to Sterling, VA.
Even though she found love again, My Grandmother still had another horrific event to live through, losing her daughter. I never met my Aunt Susan. She died years before I was born. She was still in her 20s when she passed away from cancer. She was a nurse, a wife, and my Grandmother’s only daughter. This is a Mother’s worst nightmare. I cannot think of the pain that it caused my Grandmother. After making it through all of the hard years, and to finally be happy and in love- just to lose her daughter. It must have felt like she had to start all over- repairing her heart, holding herself up even though she wanted to give up.
I say all of this because my Grandmother is full of sweet, kind, gentle, loving wisdom and sentiments. She is the first to say, “It’ll all come out in the wash” or “I bet you that you cannot smile!” which of course made me immediately smile. Growing up I loved going to her house and spending time with her. Some of my favorite memories of her house are making cookies, doing crafts, going on walks, watching Shirley Temple movies, and banging nails into wood in Grandpa’s workshop.
She passed her compassion, her love of life, and her determination to be happy no matter what on to me. I will always think of her as my hero. I recently asked her what her greatest accomplishment was, and she thought about it for one second before replying, “Being a mother and grandmother.” It was at that moment I knew that she was right. Her life changed mine. Her life changed my children’s lives because of the things I pass down from her. My older son now quotes her, saying “I love you all to pieces”- something she would say to all us grandchildren.
When I was a single mother, my Grandmother helped me in more ways that I can count. She let me live with her, she gave me money, she made me food, she took care of my child but more than any of this, she was a living example of not just surviving hard times but as someone who took her pain and turned it into hope. Hope that she passed on to me.
When I met my husband, I immediately realized he was like my Grandfather in many ways. We got engaged 6 weeks after meeting each other, just like my Grandparents. Gene and my husband are both from the North and have similar personalities. My Grandmother knew I had met Bryan but she didn’t know we were thinking about marriage when she called me and asked if I wanted her and Gene’s wedding bands. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about slipping my Grandfather’s ring onto Bryan’s finger to see that the band fit perfectly.
My Grandmother was married to Gene until 2002 when he passed away. I miss him dearly but his life, just like my Grandmother’s changed me. He was my example of a good, loving husband. And I recognize him in my husband every day. I hope my children recognize my Grandmother in me. In this way, my Grandmother’s life achievement will pass down to the next generation.
Love you Grammie.