I can't write about my Grandma and not write about myself and the other women in my family. Somehow we are one and the same. I have often written about the women in my family. We outnumber the men, I think its probably about 3 to 1 normally in our genetic history, though sometimes it seems closer to 4 to 1, my siblings are 4 to 1. I have a saying, *We don't have an x gene, we have a capital X gene.*
We women absolutely adore the men, they are a jovial bunch! They kind of have to be, a sense of humor is a must when you are surrounded by wildly passionate females. The women are all strong. At risk of insulting the men, we are the strongest gender in our family. We never give up and we are the ones who inspire or force the men to become the leaders that they usually are. Even my mildest female relative, my baby sister Rhonda, who I've often mentioned, is a handful. No one else but me would dare call her mild. We all avoid confronting each other. We know that we are formidable. Nothing is more hair raising than to watch two women in our family disagree. Personally I'd rather fight a thug from the streets.
This sisterhood is passed, it seems, down the maternal line as well. My sisters and I, despite the differences we note from time to time, are really quite alike. We have the soul and the passion of our mother and our maternal aunt. Our mother and our aunt had the soul of our grandmother, who from what I understand inherited her spirit from her mother, whom I never knew. We all may have bits and pieces of our fathers in us, they pass on beliefs and kindness to us. But the truth of it all is that without this *never say die, never give up, never give in* spirit in our female lineage, I think our family would have died out during the potato famine in Ireland. That is when another woman, down the female line, raised her numerous siblings and made it to America, her siblings in tow. The next generation of females, which include my spirited daughter Celia, are even stronger.
On the outside and to outsiders we may appear to be socially acceptable and appear to be ladies most of the time. Appearances can be deceiving and so can we. The women of our family never needed the women's liberation movement. We never needed a law to tell us that we are as good or as capable as a man or to demand and receive justice in a man's world. All we ever needed was recent family history. We usually outwardly conformed to the social rules of history while breaking numerous conventions privately. Unless we didn't care a flying uknowwhat, then we would break the rules and damn the consequences. History repeats itself alot in my family.
My Grandma skipped school one day and married a Cherokee boy. When she married him interacial marriage was illegal in some states and unacceptable everywhere, especially in her father's house. Native Americans were in the same boat that all other dark races were then. To say that my Grandpa was a wild one would be an understatement. He was huge too. He was a golden gloves boxer who stood over 6'. My Grandma was about 4'11" and small framed to boot. To say she tamed him would be a misstatement. She directed his energy though. Because of who she was, he became who he was. There was more power and intelligence in her small form than in any man he ever met, I'm sure. He was wise enough to note that. He never treated her as *the little woman*. My Grandpa was the bravest man I ever met, but he knew better. The things I remember most about their relationship are that passion and love were ever present. I don't remember ever seeing any indifference there, like I see in most couples after a time. I remember, even while I was just a young girl barely curious about sexuality, that they were very romantic towards each other. Very touchy-feely. They argued from time to time too, but even that was passionate and full of love. When they did argue, it seemed as if two sides of the same person were reflecting on the wrong that the feet had done to the hand when the body fell down. I used to love to watch them make thier morning coffee when ever I stayed there. It was like the whole thing was a choreographed dance. Grandma would take the pot apart and Grandpa would reach for the coffee. She would fill the pot with water and he would lift it out of the sink.... It was a beautiful sight. Always, when I think of what I wanted life to be like for me, that was it. To make coffee together like we were one person.
Grandma was a beautiful woman, but she didn't really care. I remember convincing her to wear more glamorous make-up in her middle 50's once. She humored me and wore it all day, but I knew she thought it was ludicrous. I thought she looked beautiful. Most of the time she wore nothing more than a little powder and lipstick. She did like jewelry, especially earings. She used to tell me I was naked without them. Its funny....she didn't care about how she looked so much, but she did want to put on a good face and maybe a little bling bling for the world to see. She was naturally a platinum blonde. She dyed her hair red for as long as I can remember. I asked her about that once. It seems that when my handsome grandfather was at his peak as a boxer he quite naturally enjoyed the attentions (without cheating in any form) of the women who flocked to him a bit too much. Grandma would, of course, get rid of those ladies in short order but she began dying her hair red to give them (probably him too) warning. I can only assume it worked. If Grandpa was admiring the ladies, I know I never saw it. Smart guy. She wasn't really jealous though, it was more of a pride thing. Those women should never have dared to approach HER husband. It wouldn't surprise me to learn she had actually kicked a few asses to tell you the truth. I think I would have. Ok truth be told, I have.
She was always about family. She loved her man, she loved her children and she loved their offspring. We never doubted her love, though there are times we questioned why. I'm not writing about the failures though. We all have them. I am writing about the woman who loved anyway, even when some of us did not deserve it. She somehow made time for each of us. We all have wonderful stories about our one on one time with Grandma. She tried to be wise, but she never spoke as eloquently as she lived. Grandpa was the talker, she was the doer. She used to make big Sunday friend chicken dinners and she would squeeze as much of her large family as possible into her tiny house. She seemed to live for the banter that went around the dinner table. I learned just as much from watching her do what needed to be done as I did listening to Grandpa speak about social issues. Her actions reflected his words. Grandma did not let important things go undone, she never let the unimportant cloud her vision. She was the essence of practicality. She paid attention to the whole picture, she didn't get stuck on the details like the dreamers in our family. Grandma pulled us all together when we were trying to pull her in different directions. She was like a lighthouse. If we felt sad or confused, we could go to her and she would busy us with tasks and we could think uninterupted. My mother has been growing more and more like her these past years. Trying to keep the warring factions at bay, trying to spank the dreamers among us back into reality. I feel kind of sorry for Mom. For having such tiny feet, Grandma left big shoes to fill. Mom is the matriarch now and the family is bigger than Grandma's, probably even wilder now. Grandma and Aunt Shirley are watching down on her I know, and will lend guidance through dreams, but my poor mother has a passionate bunch of women to guide and prepare for the next generation. It isn't easy. Not when we all have that bloodline of strong women. There's that capital X gene again for good or ill. I hope she can keep Grandma's sense of humor amidst it all. She's going to need it now.
I didn't mention my Grandma was funny did I? OMG! She was outrageous. Grandma would take us shopping at the local department store and go around sniffing toilet paper because she wanted to find the best smelling one. She would sniff loudly and pretend not to notice the other shoppers! Must be where I get the playing pranks on strangers thing. Another thing she would do at the store is let big stinkers, sometimes big loud stinkers and then loudly blame it on my siblings and me. "Tressa ANN what did YOU do?!?!" she would say as if she were disgusted and scolding me for my behavior. I would blush and get so angry and she would just chuckle all the way home until I was laughing with her even while I was praying to God none of my friends were there. I can remember her tricking me into annoying the neighbors with my off key clarinet playing by convincing me that I was so good she wanted the neighbors to know how much better her granchild was than their children and grandchildren! She did the same thing with me reading out loud. As a little girl she built up my ego so much that by the time I went in to get my tonsils out (4 years old) I had an attitude that commanded me to steal all the toys from the hospital play room. I then locked myself into the bathroom and refused to come out because I knew I deserved all those toys more than the other kids. When the nurses were finally able to restrain me (it took massive doses of sleep meds and a net over the crib they were trying to keep me in), I fell asleep ranting about how they could not do this to me and that I would tell my Grandma and she was going to be really mad because she said I looked just like Shirley Temple and was going to be a star some day. Yeah, Grandma could convince me of just about anything and she had a lot of fun doing just that.
There are lots of things I could say about her, she had the patience of a saint. She must have listened to the "Disco Duck" 100 times in a row one day because it was my favorite song at the time. She actually tried to learn to dance *the Hustle* from me. She let my friends spend the night and we painted knick knacks all day. She never told me to shut up (she whispered to mom to tell me though I am sure). She forgave almost anything. Her heart was always open for the love of her family. She wouldn't put up with shit out of any of us though. You haven't been told off until she got a hold of you. She was brave too. A year ago she tried to take on some neighborhood thugs while spending some time at my Mom's. They backed down. I bet she made them feel guilty about their own grandmothers. They probably hung their head in shame just like I did the few times she felt the need to straighten me out. She was protective of us all. I remember when I was about 13 or so, she caught my sister and me talking to boys and first she chased them off with a switch and then she chased us home with the same one. She loved that we were all such pretty girls but she thought we shouldn't trust boys. Wise woman sometimes. When she moved back to her hometown for a while I used to write her from time to time. I remember once I thought it would be funny if I corrected her spelling and grammar. Ok I was probably showing off too. I only did that once! Trust me, I was TOLD. She used to say I used $20.00 words for a $5.00 message, I think I finally understood what she meant sometime in my early 30's and I toned it down a bit. People liked me more after that.
I loved my Grandma. I wasn't good about visiting her as an adult. I will regret that forever I guess. I bet she would tell me not to worry about it though. She knew I loved her and that was enough. She was enough for me.