Monday, January 22, 2007

Vicious Grandma

This is my paternal grandmother in 1951, age 37, so she wasn't a grandma yet. She was an amazing woman who was a big inspiration to me. She was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 20, 1990, when he plowed his car into the car she was in. It was a devastating loss for the whole family. She would have had many, many more years of good health ahead of her.

Growing up my sister and I would spend a week or two with our grandparents in the summers. Partly, I guess, to give our parents a little break from us, but also to help us get to know our grandparents since they lived a few hours away and we didn't get to see them often throughout the year. We have so many fond memories of those summer visits.

She got her first modern washer and dryer in 1977 or 1978 (I can't remember exactly now). Before that she used one of those wringer washers. I think hers was electric and not hand cranked. The one in the link is a remake, and believe it or not, I would kind of like one, though not to replace my modern one. ;-) I was fascinated by watching her feed the wet clothes through the wringer, but she wouldn't let me help because she was afraid I'd get my fingers or hand caught in it. Maybe she was just like me in that she liked to be in control of the laundry and didn't want little hands messing things up.

In high school for my senior year Spring Break, unlike most of the other kids who went to the beach to party, I spent the week with my grandmother. My grandfather had died in 1979, and Grandma never remarried though she did have a series of boyfriends-usually younger by several years because the men her own age couldn't keep up with her. ;-) This week with her was priceless and very important to me.

She loved to drive all over the rural area to visit with friends and family. I got to meet people and see places that I never otherwise would have seen. Some of these were kind of unbelieveable because of the abject poverty conditions, yet these people were warm, friendly, and wise. I'm talking tar paper shacks here, with crooked linoleum floors and crooked, unfinished walls and no heat other than a wood stove. And in rural Appalachia there are still people living in this way.

We went to several different backwoods Baptist churches that were having Revivals. Every night was a different one. Incidentally, this is the same grandma who had me recite a bible verse in front of her church when I was quite young. I remember being impressed with the passionate delivery of one preacher who was barely literate yet understood his interpretation of the Bible to a degree that many highly educated preachers don't seem to reach. He truly seemed to be channeling the Holy Spirit. At another, I was moved in some other deeper, more vague way. It has been these experiences, among some others, that have kept me from accepting atheism.

During this Spring Break she also taught me to pick "creases" which are a wild green of the cress family that were delicious when she cooked them. I see them growing around here and am always thinking of picking them and eating them, but there is that small part of me that is kind of insecure and worries that I'll do something wrong.

My grandmother was a storehouse of knowledge about family history, nature and plants, and probably many other things that I didn't get a chance to learn. She always seemed fearless and almost brutally practical. I think she'd have gotten a big kick out of being called a "vicious grandma."


dhammett said...

You had a tremendous opportunity when you spent time with your grandmother/grandparents. Good on you that you took advantage of it and that you can look back and cherish it. And in addition to the benefits of the relationship you had with her/them, you got a peek into how a whole different segment of society lives; something that most of the rest of us never have.

Great post.

Rae Ann said...

thanks, there are other stories about this grandmother that I'd like to share some time.

rafa said...

like grandmother, like granddaughter

Congratulations. Very NICE post
All the best

Rae Ann said...

rafa, thanks! Sometimes I wonder what she'd think about the Internet.