Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grandma C. . .

My Grandma C died in 1958 of cancer of the kidneys. I was 10 months old, so I don’t remember her, but my mom and my aunts told so many stories about her when I was a child that she was a big part of my life.

I loved the stories about Grandma C, they were exciting and made me want to be just like her. Can we have a role model who has already passed through this life? I tried so hard to emulate her when I was a kid. Nothing made me happier than to have my mom say that I reminded her of her mom. She wasn’t afraid to fight for what she thought was right, which was saying a lot for women of her era, who usually tried to stay under the radar. Oh yes, ladies, much like children were meant to be seen and not heard. Grandma loved life and enveloped those people in her life in a rich tapestry of love, arms and heart sheltering them when they were in need.

One of my favorite stories about her happened when she was 17, in 1915. She and my great aunt worked at a laundry downtown and they walked home every evening through a park. There was a man who would watch them and he finally started exposing himself to them. Grandma was outraged about this so she made a plan. She took a 1 x 4 board that was a foot and a half or so long and nailed long nails through it, so the nails stuck out an inch or so. Then, as she and my great aunt walked through the park the next evening, she had the board hidden in the voluminous folds of her skirt. When the man, true to form, unbuttoned his pants to show himself, Grandma started swinging. She took several pieces of him with her on the board!

Because of that incident, I think she was very cognizant of sexual predators, although of course that isn’t what they called them in those days. They were just good old-fashioned perverts.

When my mom was about 15 she had a job at a theater downtown. One evening she missed the last bus home and was forced to walk home, which was about 9 blocks. Considering this was 1949, it really wasn’t as perilous as it would be now, but was still frightening for her.

As she walked, about half-way home she realized there was someone behind her, sort of keeping pace, but not really gaining on her. Of course, she was scared to death, and speeded up her pace. She was all but running the last block, still hearing the footsteps behind her, but by then, they were quickening and starting to get closer.

Grandma was worried when mom didn’t get off the bus and had been sitting on the porch watching for her, knowing that mom would be walking. Grandma sit there on that old porch, in a white nightgown that probably covered more of her than her dresses did, but still she sat in the shadows of the porch because for heavens sake she didn’t want the neighbors to see! When she saw mom come running down the street, she knew something was wrong and went charging down the steps to meet my mom on the sidewalk.

Mom was crying by this time and pointing behind her at the man following her. Grandma told mom to get on up to the house, which she did. Mom stood there and watched as the man came up face to face with Grandma, who was a tigress defending her cub. Let me correct that—a raging, howling tigress.

Right up to his face Grandma went, finger stabbing the air in outrage. “How dare you follow a young girl like that, scaring her to death” she yelled. By that time, between mom’s crying and Grandma’s yelling, the neighbors, many of whom were sitting on their own porches, were starting to gather around Grandma and the man on the sidewalk.

“You get the hell out of here, because if I ever see you around here again, it will be the last time you ever scare anyone!” Grandma told him, this time her voice calm, almost deadly calm mom told me.

That was the one and only time she ever heard her mother use a curse word, but she, and everyone else standing there on the sidewalk that night, under a warm and starry summer sky knew that Grandma meant business. The man pulled away and ran off into the night, amidst a hail of rocks being thrown by kids who were out there with their parents. The neighbors were all circled around Grandma and mom, offering shelter and protection, but everyone there knew that Grandma had it all under control!

Grandma, I love you so much and wish I could remember you. But your legacy has lived on, through the stories our family tell of the of your spirited journey through this life.

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