My grandmother, who was named Grace, was born in 1890 in an obscure house on the Kansas prairie. Her father was a dirt poor farmer trying to grow crops on soil only fit for tall grass. He supplemented his income by becoming an itinerant preacher. Every so often he would hitch up his horse and take off to various little communities scattered throughout the Flint Hills of central Kansas.
Life way back in those days was made up of blood, sweat and tears. There was absolutely nothing glamorous about growing up in the Flint Hills a hundred years ago. There is still very little glamor in those parts today. Except for a few large cattle ranches and scattered oil wells, the area is best suited for a National Park which does indeed occupy some of the land (Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve).
My grandmother was one of the older kids in a very large family. Most of the kids were girls and there were, as was common back then, a few that died in childbirth or in infancy. Unlike today, back in those days a large family was crammed into a small dwelling with numerous kids sleeping in one room and no one having any privacy. Food was what could be grown or shot or caught for the most part.
My grandmother met and married a cowboy 100 years ago named Guy. My grandfather drove cattle from Kansas to Texas in the winter and then back to Kansas in the spring. Neither my Grace nor Guy had a single religious cell in their body. They had no time or patience for religious folk for all their energy was devoted to staying alive.
My mother was born in 1917 in an obscure house on the Kansas prairie. A few years after her birth, Grace and Guy opened a store where farmers brought cream and eggs which were then sold to dairies and other distributors. Being middlemen, there was very little profit to be made to begin with and then the Great Depression hit. For 12 long years, the family barely survived and did so only because of their frugality and willingness to do without.
My grandfather Guy died in his 50’s long before I was born. My grandmother had to do whatever it took to survive the next 30 years and became a hard, bitter and difficult woman. I have many memories of my grandmother Grace and none of them are positive. In fact, I was scared to death of her for she was a huge woman who rarely smiled and had little love or patience for kids.
My mom inherited many of my grandmothers genes and the lessons she learned living through the Great Depression stuck with her a lifetime. She was the most frugal person I ever knew but at least she had a heart which allowed her to manifest the love and compassion my grandmother never possessed.
On this day I pause to remember the only grandparent I ever knew and the only mother I ever had. Although they were not warm and fuzzy people, they were “salt of the earth” women who did whatever it took to keep their families fed, clothed and safe. They never squandered a penny or wasted anything that could be reused or used for another purpose.
Against all odds, my grandmother accumulated enough money to live out her days in a nice nursing home leaving no bills to her kids. Against all odds, my mom accumulated enough wealth to leave her kids a sizable inheritance upon her death. If only those of us of the current generation would have learned the lessons our mothers and grandmothers had to learn to survive; we would not have all the debt woes and materialistic distraction that runs rampant today.
I thank God for my grandmother even though she was a scary and mean for her strength and stubbornness allowed my mom to endure unbelievable hardship and build a life for my brother, sister and myself that was well above the poverty she grew up in. Happy Mother’s Day mom, and I pray you are resting in peace.
[q]If only those of us of the current generation would have learned the lessons our mothers and grandmothers had to learn to survive; we would not have all the debt woes and materialistic distraction that runs rampant today.[/q]
This is all too true.
As I have been facing my current financial situation, I have half-jokingly commented that I must have been paying more attention to things my grandmother did then I thought I was. There is some truth to that though and I am thankful for that. I didn't know I had it in me.
May we not disregard the lessons taught by those who have gone before us.