We were driving down a long stretch of road this past week-end as we traveled toward the place where my grandmother’s funeral was being held. It had been years since I’d been on that road and it triggered the thought/image within my mind where I saw myself 6 years old sitting on my grandmother’s front porch watching her as she taught me how to make mud pies in the same pot she’d earlier cooked lunch in.
If I were to describe her in a few words, it would be that she was simple, unreactive, physically tough, hardworking and self-sacrificing.
A quiet lady who taught me mostly who she was by her daily routine. It’s interesting because almost every memory I have of her involves physical movement.
I used to watch her as she would wring out wet clothes through her wringer washing machine, and no matter the weather, she hung the clothes outside to dry. She slaughtered her own cattle for meat, churned her own butter, baked her own bread, tilled and planted her own fruit and vegetable garden – canned her own fruits and vegetables and made her own jelly.
She milked her own cows, fried bacon from the hogs she raised and could wring a chicken’s neck quick enough to be sure they never suffered. She carried water daily from her well into a house that didn’t have a flushing toilet or running water until I was close to 12 years old. She made her own clothes and her children’s, her own curtains and blankets and bedspreads, and I never once heard her complain.
She always had many laying hens and roosters, and every morning right after the sun came up, her and I would go open the chicken pen and let them all out to wander about freely.
She taught me to treat all animals gentle and with respect, and the only time I can remember seeing her upset with one of them was when I was 5 years old and one of the roosters attacked me. She grabbed him by the neck and in an instant he was dead and as I stood there in a kind of shock from what I had seen, all she said was: “we can’t have one that will do that Cath, it’s ok, he didn’t suffer”. The only time I saw my grandmother fearful was when, as she put it, “there come up a storm and that’s when we high tailed it to the storm cellar”.
Every evening at my grandmother’s was always the same, and even now I can feel the comfort in how my mind perceived myself as safe as I became accustomed to the daily routine. I’d be swinging on the swing that was hanging from my favorite tree which was right in front of where she’d be sitting in her rocking chair on the long front porch of her small little farm house.
We’d watch the sunset and talk about our day and about the silly things one of the animals may have done. She wasn’t one to laugh very much, in fact, she was a rather serious person. What was important to her was seeing to it that her little farm and her animals were taken care of and she tried to teach me to take responsibility in finishing what I start. All those summers I spent with my grandmother up until I was around 14 years old – I began to realize a sort of silent understanding between us.
I wouldn’t comprehend exactly what that understanding was until years later as I sat in the small country church while some man who was the preacher of the church attempted to share his ‘idea’ of who my grandmother was as her body lay in a casket just in front of him. He spoke about how she was in a better place now because of how she had spent her life believing in the blood of Jesus.
That’s when I had to stop myself from chuckling out loud. All those summers with her and everything she taught me in order to survive in this world, not once was God part of the survival plan. In fact, God certainly couldn’t be depended upon to “make ends meet”.
Survival is and has always been the name of the game and unfortunately the programming survival system of the human begins with acceptance. Acceptance was that silent understanding we had between us. It went without saying.
As a child I began to understand that if one is willing and able to work hard every day to finish what one starts then maybe they’ll survive this dog eat dog world. So that at the end of the day at least maybe one could sit on their own front porch and quietly rest with the ‘feeling’ that they had accomplished something – then and only then, through an acceptance of slavery, maybe one can make themself believe that Life within this Capitalistic System of self-interest and greed is somehow worth it, even though deep within us, we know something is terribly wrong.
I’m beginning to understand the depths of that acceptance. It seals the resolve within us and separates us from life itself. My grandmother became very well at accepting, allowing and thus working hard at suppressing herself in order to survive, and ultimately, she learned to cherish the simplest of things within a world/money system that she knew would eat you alive.
It wasn’t until she started getting older and realized that she was physically unable to continue assisting properly with her own survival. Only then did she begin to talk about God, and then finally began going to the small country church. It’s interesting how that is, how mostly people seek a God when they realize they aren’t able to survive here on Earth much longer.
In the end, after having 4 children, grandchildren and many great grandchildren, and living to be 97 years old – what did the life of my grandmother teach/prove in the end?
In the end, she gave over her land to be raped by fracking companies and signed the rights away for all her royalties, which are still coming in, to only one of her children. She believed her adult child when he told her that in return for everything she owned, he’d see to it that she’d never have to leave her home, her land.
She was betrayed and died in a nursing home.
As for her children, those who were left with nothing but hurt feelings, they don’t speak to the sibling she entrusted her land and life savings with.
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