My mother was 25 when she had me and her mother was the same age when she had her. I’m not certain of the age of my great grandmother when she gave birth to my grandmother, but I’m pretty certain she was younger than that. I know that gram was an only child and that her mother was a fraternal twin, having a twin brother who had, at various events and reunions, been pointed out to me as such. However, I never knew my great grandmother on that side. She died when my grandmother was a teenager (18, I believe) and my grandmother cared for her over the course of her illness.
I only mention these things because they are the things that I am certain of when it comes to my grandmother’s life. These are the things I will tell my children and grandchildren about my grandmother when the time comes that she will not be able to tell them herself. And I will tell them these things as long as I am able to do so.
To carry forward, I know that she was a nurse, trained by the nuns of some order I’m not quite certain of (but I want to say St. Anne’s in St. Joseph, MO). I know that she was in the program, along with a group of other girls her age, for three years. They dormed together, studied together, lived together for three long years. I know that she married very quickly out of school and was fearful that the nuns would be annoyed, since in that day and age marriage meant you no longer worked and, had they known she had a sweetheart, they’d have booted her out of the program for fear of wasting their time, energy and money on someone who would not actually use the training.
I can say that my gram did, indeed, use the training and worked until retirement as a nurse (and, at times, a nursing instructor).
I can remember events that took place in my life time. Silly things like going with her to the old TG&Y as it went out of business and trying to stretch the $2 she gave me as far as I could to purchase trinkets there.I remember her sick in the hospital after having surgery telling me that I needed to take care of my mother and aunt. I remember her strength when grandpa had open heart surgery, her knowledge when my uncle ended up with diabetes and her pleasure at seeing all the young grandchildren and great grandchildren over the years.
I remember her advice on funerals (“We’re here to comfort people who are also experiencing loss, not to blubber on or act petty.”) Her thoughts on family troubles (“Sometimes it’s just easier to let things go… fighting shouldn’t be amongst family members.”) Her ideas on conflict (“Pick your battles. There are times when it just doesn’t matter and those can go… But, when it does matter, you must fight.”) and her thoughts on gossip (“What does it matter who she marries, what she wears or how she does her hair? We don’t have to live with it! ;D)
But most of all, I will remember her generosity. When I was sick, my grandmother stayed with me. When I couldn’t walk or take care of myself, she was there to help. When no one visited or cared outside of my home, my gram was there for me. I will never, can never forget that.
So, here’s to you, Grandma Arley, on your 83rd birthday. May the next year bring you all the things you want it to and none of the things you don’t.