My maternal grandmother, Mary Scholastica, was of Irish immigrant extraction, and began her married life in a tent at a Colorado mining camp. She gave birth to my Uncle Alan in that same tent nine months later. Mary had been seventeen when her mother died of peritonitis following a burst appendix. Mary’s dad was Leadville’s town doctor, but he was off delivering somebody’s twins when his wife became mortally ill. Such was life, more than a century ago.
My paternal grandmother, Ina, lost her father when he went off prospecting for oil in the wilds of late 19th century Oklahoma, leaving Ina, her mom, and sister, to eke out a living as live-in help at a vicarage in upstate New York. (My genealogist sister discovered that Granddad had a second family as the result of a bigamous union, but Ina never knew what happened to him).
Ina married a Doughboy and ended up widowed with a baby at age nineteen. She married my grandpa next, and they managed pretty well through the Depression, but infidelity and drink took a toll on the union, and Ina ran off with her husband’s brother (my uncle John). She eventually married him and dumped him too (another drinker), and at the age sixty of she opened the candy store that would support her for the final twenty years of her life. She wore faux mink stoles and bright red lipstick, and referred to the contents of her voluminous handbags as her “plunder.”
Ina was gone by the time I was thirteen, Mary lasted another seven years. I would not say I knew these ladies well, though they both lived in the same town as I did by the time they expired.
In later life, I think about my grandmas a lot. They dwelled in times that were in some ways awful for women (and no picnic for much of anybody). Ina broke a lot of rules, Mary endured all manner of upheaval trying to keep her family thriving during the Depression. Both women had an excellent sense of humor, a lot of pragmatism, and a compassionate view of humanity. The older I get, the more I admire them.
Over the holidays, my first and (given the ages involved) probably only grandchild was born. He and his parents are thriving. Mother and father are agog and slightly a-fog with their new baby, and I am hoping plane fares drop by the time virus season ends. Compared to my own grandmothers, I can’t imagine that my story will be half as impressive, should my grandson be telling it somewhere “ages and ages hence,” and that’s OK.
I’m not a mining engineer’s wife in the wilds of Colorado or a teenage military widow in the Roaring Twenties or anything much very exciting. What I do feel though, knowing that this particular small person is inheriting the world I’ve lived in for decades, is renewed determination that it should be a good world, worthy of him and his confreres. And I promise you this, bloggin’ buddies, that boy will never want for good books, and my first official act as a grandma will be to read him a bedtime story.
Were your grandparents a factor in your life? Do you have any memorable stories about them even if you didn’t know them? I’m running contests over at Fresh Fiction lately, and that’s reminded me how easy it is to do e-gift cards. Somebody who comments will recieve a $50 Amazon e-gift card (or Barnes and Noble or Kobo if that’s your jam).