Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Grandma

Her name was Erette O'Neal Gibson. She wasn't given a middle name, and she never liked her first name, so for most of her life she used her married name; Mrs. H.M. Gibson. Although she was only married four years before she became a widow.

In the photo above she is 43 years old. One year older than I am now...

She was born in 1912 in a place called Tillman, Louisiana. The place is no longer there, and hasn't been for many, many years. It was a mill town and when the mill was gone, so went the town.

She was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters. In a time when young women married and had children, she was twenty-seven before she married. She worked in other peoples homes and helped with the household duties and child care. In one such place, she met her husband.
He was a widower with seven living children. Only a few were still young enough to live at home. The older children had married or joined the military.

His name was Harvey Middleton Gibson and they married in January of 1940. In 1941 their first child was born, a daughter Betty. Then while expecting their second child, he became ill with bleeding ulcers, or possibly stomach cancer.
In May 1944 he was given a blood transfusion and died shortly after. Three months later their second child was born, a daughter, Brenda, my mother.

We called her Mawmaw. She was such a gentle woman. She tended toward the pessimistic side, but I suppose life circumstances seemed to slant her that direction. But she was a wonderful, loving grandma.

After the death of her husband she moved back into her family home with her parents. She would go at times to stay with other people and help in their homes, leaving her own children in the care of her parents. But in those times, in that place, her choices were limited.

I once asked her in my child-like way, why she had never re-married. I often wondered how different things would have been if she had re-married. She lived to be 94. Ninety years she wasn't married, only four she was, but in her mind she relived those four years over and over.

In her day, a girl dreamed of getting married and having a family. I suppose those were her dreams also. I know that she was disappointed when her dreams were taken from her. Yes, she had children, but without a husband she was stripped of much of the joy that went along with raising her children. I knew even as a child that there was a sadness about my grandma, I just didn't understand it until I got older. It is amazing how even without understanding that grief she carried, I harbored those feelings within myself. When I married, for years I feared that something would happen to Andrew. I feared that my life would mirror that of my grandma. It was only after ten years or more of marriage that I released that fear.

After her parents passing she remained in the family home. That home holds so many wonderful memories for me. That home was the one constant in my life. I knew that no matter what happened, I could go there and find love and acceptance and there would always been something on the stove to eat. I felt such comfort there.

My Grandma was many things; she was kind, gentle, good, meek, and a friend to many. She passed away June 27, 2007, quietly in her daughters home, just a few yards away from the home where she spent most of her life. At 94, it was only in the last few months of her life that she wasn't able to be alone at her home. Each time through the years that we would go back to Louisiana for a visit, on the morning we left, we would stop in to see her again. She would be in her kitchen, the smell of coffee in the air, cooking something. When the time came for us to go, she would follow us out onto her large front porch where we would hug and say our goodbyes. As we drove down the road she would stand there waving until we were out of sight.

When I close my eyes now, I can see her standing there in her duster or a long robe(depending on the weather), both arms in the air, waving goodbye...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Her middle name was Ethyl.

cd

cd said...

And her first name was Eretta. She was always called Erette at home.

cd said...

Actually it was probably spelled Ethel as opposed to an "ethyl" group in chemistry.

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