This is a picture of me with my great grandmother. I loved her.
She died age 93 on my 9th birthday.
Her nickname was “Tiny”. She chewed tobacco but I did not realize it until years later. She kept a spit can under her bed and had this black ring around her mouth that left a nasty aftertaste when she kissed you. Blech.
We thought she was crazy!
She lived in a house that was as ancient as she was and we loved to sneak upstairs when she wasn’t looking. We would raid the shelves of old fashion magazines and books, going through bureau drawers and closets. We found amazing stuff!
She would wander the house in a threadbare house coat that was so thin, you could see her 90 year old nipples showing through. I thought she was beautiful!
She always complemented me on my hair and would ask to brush it. I would sit in her lap as she brushed stroke after stroke after stroke, back when my hair was long enough to reached my waste. She was the first person to make me feel beautiful.
I have pictures of her up on the walls in my clinic. She was extremely poor and one picture features her with her mom, a sister, and a brother. Her brother is wearing a hand me down dress and they are standing outside of their home, a tumbledown one room shack. Her brother died very young from appendicitis. Another picture has her standing solemnly outside a dugout. She even lived for a few years in a tent with her young children.
My grandfather had a scholarship to a local college to study chemistry, but he could not afford the bus fair. He dropped out after two semesters, found a job, and bought her a washing machine with his first paycheck. He was so proud telling me about that, decades later. He never finished college.
I wish I has known her better before dementia set in. I would have loved to know how she managed to keep going in the face of so much adversity.