The Grandmother I Never Knew

My mother’s mother, Effie, died of cancer when Mom was only 14 years old. Being the efficient and strong woman she was, she wrote specific instructions on where she wanted to be buried, and what the least expensive plot might be. She wanted no flowers, but she did say that she wanted her children to visit her when they could. The letter was addressed to Owen, her oldest son.

It was written two weeks before she died on December 18, 1945.

After the opening line, “Still bossing, you see,” she left instructions on things she wanted given to each of her children; Owen, Buddy, Raymond, and her youngest, Gloria, my mother. She tied up every loose end she could to make it as easy as possible for her children, her mother and her sister.

She ended her note in this way:

“Let me tell you, dear, you have no regrets. All you children are children any mother could be proud of, and please try to always be good.

All my love to you all including all my folks.

Mother.”

I have pictures of Effie and have heard all the stories about her from my mother. She was a strong and tough woman, and when her first marriage failed, she went right to work to support her children. Hers wasn’t an easy life, she worked hard to make life better for her children. Sadly, Effie’s oldest daughter, Vera, had only been married six months when she contracted spinal meningitis and died.

I remember my mother telling me about the tiny apartment they had lived in over a general store. By then all the boys had gone their separate ways, and it was just she and my mother together. Effie did a number of odd jobs to keep food on the table. The boys helped out as much they could.

One day Mom found her mother holding back tears—there was nothing in the house to eat. Somehow the man who owned the store downstairs heard of this, and he told Effie to never let that happen again; she was welcome to pick out what she needed. For a proud woman like her, this must have been difficult, but she accepted his help for her daughter’s sake.

When Effie died, Mom went to live with Raymond, the youngest brother, six years older than she. She took care of his home, handled the finances, cleaned and cooked and went to school. She did what she could to make her way in the world, and was every bit as tough and strong as Effie.

I am proud to come from strong women like these. So many times I have looked at Effie’s picture, and have seen the resemblance to my mother. I am part of both of them, and am grateful for my mother and the grandmother whom I never knew. But Mom made sure that I got to know her by telling me all about her.

I will always be grateful for those two smart, sassy and strong women.

 

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