I adored her. As far as I could tell everyone did. The mention of her name drew smiles on people’s faces. My mother took us to Grandmommy’s almost every Saturday until I was in the 6th grade and we moved away. Sometimes we would take day trips and other times we’d just stay there for the day pitching in with the chores that needed to be done. My grandparents made candy – peanut rounders, peppermint canes nearly as tall as me and sold even more varieties than they made. In back of the house they kept sheep and some chickens. Above all, my Grandmommy loved the Lord. Her love for Him came out in everything she did – she embodied love. The rest of this post relates some of her Joy War.
This will be like those movies with flashbacks so I’ll try to help with timing.
My grandmother worked as a receptionist for a regional hospital and got a job working there for me, too. One night before she finished her shift one of the custodians came to her. He handed her his check, she looked at it and handed it back, then the man left. Some time later he returned, his hands full of cash. He handed it all to my grandmother who proceeded to count it, then handed it all back to him. Now, all this time I’m wondering, “What is going on?!” Why is he giving her his whole paycheck? When she gave it all back to him I was even more stumped so I asked her about it. She told me that she read the amount of his pay on the check then counted the cash he was given when he cashed it in so he wouldn’t be cheated. I learned that my grandmommy was honest and could be trusted. Some people were not and could not be.
Very early 70’s
My grandmother comes to visit. She and my parents have a hushed conversation – I cannot hear a thing. Sometime later my grandmother catches me alone and asks if I would like to join her for a road trip. “Would I ever!” I thought. We leave the very next morning before the sun comes up. I wish I had known what I was in for and what it would mean to me. I would have taken a recording machine. Over the next few days my grandmother told me her life story and some of our family history.
My great grandmother, Grandmommy’s mother, had:
- been a schoolteacher for a while
- shot a man who was stalking her
- died in childbirth
Great Grandmommy had remarried after her first husband died. She had several miscarriages until one day when she went into labor too early again. Her new husband’s mother prevented him from going when Great Grandmother asked for the doctor so my grandmother, still a girl, walked to the next town to get him. By the time they got back, it was too late. For some reason I think the doctor took my grandmother until her grandparents could come.
At some time two wagons full of Grandmommy’s relatives set out on a journey. The wagons got separated for some reason. If she told me I forgot. Part of the purpose for the road trip was to continue a search for the people in that other wagon. I’d gone with Grandmommy before to courthouses and records offices. I decided to wait in the car this time – standing around while someone else digs through files can get boring. Finally Grandmommy returned only this time she got in the car and sobbed. I had never heard my grandmother even cry and wouldn’t again until my brother’s passing. The courthouse we were at that day had been built in the 60’s after a fire destroyed the original building. Every last record had burned up in that fire. We had hit a dead end. Not just an end to the paper trail but the death of one of my grandmother’s dreams. We have never found out what happened to the people in that other wagon. But that wasn’t the end of our road trip.
My grandmother had cigarettes. Now she was a Christian woman so smoking was just not done. I gave her my “I’m shocked!” look and she handed me a cigarette. Shocked again. I asked her why she was smoking. “The doctors say I have cancer and I’ll be dead in two years.”
“So,” I thought, “she’s thinking what difference does it make if she smokes.” Maybe I said so. She told me that I was not supposed to tell anyone else. [Now, sitting here typing this I’m guessing that cancer is what that hushed conversation was about back at my house before we started the trip.] Then the history lesson resumed at my grandmother’s house.
She showed me a stack of papers from the Cherokee Nation or the State of Oklahoma or both. They had contacted her because they owed her money based on her heritage as a Cherokee. She took the cigarette lighter, the papers, and stepped out onto the porch lighting the papers on fire. “Blood money” she said and informed me that she does not want my mother to know about the papers or the money. We swept up the ashes and put them in the trash. She asked me what I would want in her will. She was so brazen and matter of fact about her impending death it was refreshing and startling at the same time – like splashing cold water on your face. History lessons continued as well.
My grandparents divorced when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. At the time I couldn’t believe it. My grandmother lost a lot of babies to miscarriage so my mother was an only child. My grandmother confessed that one of those miscarriages had been forced on her…
I lived with Grandmommy off and on after the road trip. She was aggravated with me because I was wild. She told me that God showed her my life – that it would be full of trouble. She went on to say that God showed her that His hand would sustain me throughout.
My grandmother had been very sick with diverticulitis, having to have part of her colon removed resulting in a colostomy. She abhorred that colostomy.
Shortly after that surgery she had to go back in the hospital. I knew I should go visit her but we’d been fighting. Finally I felt like I was running out of time, if I didn’t go see her I would feel guilty for never visiting her in the hospital before she went home. Well, I ended up being wrong and right about that. [Today I think that angel was doing whatever angels do to pressure us into doing the needed thing.] We had a great visit! The talk covered every topic we had been needing to clear the air about. When I left I was so happy that we were not fighting anymore. Unbeknownst to me at the time though, about the time I reached the door at the entrance of the hospital, she had a massive stroke she would never recover from.
I didn’t find out until I get home a little while later. I can’t remember if I talked to my sister in person or if she left a message [Did we even have answering machines yet?]. She tried to resuscitate even though Grandmommy had a DNR (do not resuscitate) order. My heart went out to my sister. I now know that God had arranged for me and Grandmommy to be clear with each other but at the time I was distressed because that woman was an oasis in my life. An angel appeared resembling Grandmommy to say, “Everything will be alright.” or something like that. It was freaky but encouraging.
When I was older and asked how she became a Christian she told me her grandparents took her to church. I looked at her life and the lives of our ancestors and marveled that they held onto Jesus through all the trouble. My grandmother died before I became a Christian but I knew she’d been praying for me my whole life. What did I end up learning?
Pray and persevere you may not see the answers to your prayers but someone will.