My grandmother didn’t get enough credit. She was the mainstay of my grandfather. Typical wife of an upwardly mobile middle-class man of the 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s. They married in college, he went to war (WW I) after ensuring the next generation. He fought in France under Black Jack Pershing and knew George Patton. Liked him. Used to talk about him a lot. When he came home, my Momma was 18 months old, and was instantly the apple of his eye!
Although he really liked the military, Gam didn’t want to be a military wife. When she got her back up, and put her size 3 foot down, 6’5″ Gaga did what she said. Because he adored her. (How could he be afraid of someone who was 4’11” tall with her hair up?) So Gaga went into business – the insurance business. No, he didn’t go into the selling- insurance-to-all-your-neighbors end of it. He went into the managing all the people who are managing all the people under them who are selling insurance to all their neighbors.
Being in business in the 20’s meant you were moved around some. So Gam did a lot of packing of her good china and crystal and silver and oversaw the packing up of the furniture. They moved from Louisville KY to Oklahoma City OK, then to Jackson MS, and finally to Atlanta GA.
Momma met Daddy while she was at the Univ of GA (where she also met Herman and Betty Talmadge and a few other “nonentities”). About the time they married, WW II came along, so they had me and Daddy went to war. He didn’t go overseas, but he seldom got to come home. When the war was over, unfortunately, so was their marriage.
So, Momma and I lived with Gam and Gaga. We lived with them during the war and following the war, while Momma resigned herself to having to work all the time. Gam stayed home and took care of me. While Gaga was alive, there was a nurse-maid to take care of me, too – I needed a lot of taking care of – I was always into a lot of trouble from the moment I could crawl! 🙂 Once I could talk, I had a mouth on me, too! I vaguely remember that we ran through about 4 nurse-maids in just 2 or 3 years! Don’t know if it was the times (war times) or if it was my mischief.
I do remember one who called me “Lord.” I must have been all of 4 years old when I took it into my head to walk around the block pushing my dolly pram with 3 of my dolls and 2 kittens in it. We lived on a LARGE block. Let’s call the nurse-maid “Carrie.” She was a rather large woman. At some point, as I was rounding the 8th corner (the block did some strange things) I heard someone groaning, “Lord! Lord!” I thought someone was praying, and I just kept walking. I KNEW if I stayed on that sidewalk, I would eventually get home. Finally, I rounded the 10th corner, and could see my house. About that time, Carrie caught up to me, screaming, “Lord! Lord! Whut you doin’ chile?? Whar you been?? Us been lookin’ and lookin’ fer yeh!” I just said, “I was taking my dollies and the kitties for a walk. I was fine. You look like you need a glass of iced ted!” With that, we arrived at our house, and I ushered her into the kitchen and managed to pour her a glass of iced tea before I was pounced upon, snatched up and spanked for running off without telling anyone where I was going. (Not that they would have permitted me to walk around the block alone had I told them.)
To Gam fell the disagreeable chore of doling out punishments to a very headstrong child. What made it worse was that I probably was more intelligent than she was. Years later, my Momma figured that out. So, within my limited experience and understanding, my mind was going 99 miles a second figuring out things to do faster than she could tell me not to do them. I was spanked, switched, deprived of toys, books, supper, and playing with other children. But no matter, I still did the very things I KNEW I shouldn’t do. And Gam still had the unpleasant job of meting out the punishments.
I was a somewhat sickly child between adventures. This was before the days of immunizations for everything. So I had “red measles,” mumps, chicken pox, several strep throats, and several ear infections. Not to mention innumerable “upset stomaches.” This was before penicillin, so I had to take horrible-tasting sulfa pills for the strep throats. There was nothing to be done for the measles, mumps and chicken pox except make the patient as comfortable as possible, and HOPE that the patient didn’t die or develop any of the horrible sequella of the diseases.
Measles encephalitis could kill, or leave the patient brain damaged, or blind or deaf. Mumps could leave the patient with brain damage, as could chicken pox. But they were less dangerous than measles. When someone came down with measles, the household was quarantined. They couldn’t leave the house. Period. Until 2 weeks after the disease was over. The State Health Department could enforce that. So Momma lost time from work when I had measles.
Milk was delivered. So were groceries. Gam would call in her grocery list, and the grocery boy would leave the bags of groceries on the front porch. Gam would mail a check to Mr. Broyles. Same thing with Mathis Dairy – but they delivered twice weekly anyway. The bakery would deliver, also.
It wasn’t Momma who made my meals. Gam did. Momma tried to get me to take my aspirin to keep my fever down (yes, ASPIRIN for fever! Tylenol hadn’t been invented yet). I hated the taste, even the orange-flavored St. Joseph’s children’s aspirin. Gam put it in some Ginger-ale in a spoon, let it fizz a bit and told me to hold my nose and swallow. It worked. When I threw up, Gam was the one who changed the sheets, bathed me and tucked me in. Momma was there, and I’m sure she did stuff, but I can’t remember what. I just remember Gam doing them.
When I was sick in bed, it was Gam who made hot tea and toast for me. She made Cream of Wheat and oatmeal for me to eat – and, yet, the fall-back favorite: Milk Toast. She would bring me ginger ales, climbing the stairs 6 and 8 extra times a day. I remember her slightly rough hand checking my forehead to see if fevers had broken.
In 8th grade I developed pneumonia. I was really sick for several weeks. Gam climbed those stairs at least 8 times a day, frequently 10 and 12, bringing me food, medicine, and helping me bathe. She brought me things to read, things to do in bed – not that I was “up” to reading or doing them, but she tried to keep my interest up. She was the one who drove to school to get my assignments and talk to my teachers. When I was “well,” but had no strength, Evelyn, the maid, suggested an old remedy – turnip greens, pot likker and corn bread. I don’t know if it was the fact I didn’t much like turnip greens or if it was all those B-vitamins in the pot likker I sopped up with her really great cornbread. Gam toted it up on a tray and toted the tray back down – empty. Five or six days later I was back at school – still a little “kneek in the wheeze” but back.
In the late 50’s or early 60’s there was a bad flu that went through. I came down with it, of course. My fever went up to 104 and I was delerious. Gam was the one who was at my side day and night. Momma was there in the evenings when she was home from work, but Gam was there all the time. Gave me aspirin, gave me ice chips, took my temp every 4 hours, packed me with ice when my temp went over 104.
She never – never – once – said the “look at all I did for you” phrase. She just did what was necessary to raise this headstrong grandchild the best she could. She gave advice when asked. She chastised as necessary.
And I did NOT appreciate her. When I felt badly I wanted my Momma. And I said so. “I want my Momma!” I said.
Now I’m old and I have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and there are days that I just HURT. And I catch myself whimpering, “I want my Momma.” But, as much as I love my Momma, I really want my Gam. She brought me comfort. She brought me comfort food. She saw to it I had clean sheets, clean bathroom, clean plates, good food, hot tea, toast, iced tea, biscuits, cream of wheat, poached eggs on toast, French toast, waffles, butter, syrup – all the stuff that went into “comfort foods” when I was sick. She never complained.
I don’t think I ever told her how much I appreciated what she did for me. Gam – wherever you are – thank you! I love you! You were the best grandmother ever!
~Whimper~ I want my little Gam!!~~