My Grandma Mary died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 93. I have started numerous posts in an attempt to commemorate her near century on this earth but haven’t finished any of them.
She was a sweet woman, whose quiet demeanor belied her strength.
The things that stand out in my memory are silly little things like how she ironed everything, towels, sheets, t-shirts, everything!! How she would wash and wax the floor and then lay out newspapers over the floor and my cousin and I running through the house, hitting that newspaper and landing on our asses, arms and legs flailing. The plastic was still on the furniture and lamps and scraps of carpet made a pathway throughout the house to protect the carpet. My cousin and I spent many hours in the forest around her house and without fail we were given the same warning, “Watch out for ticks” I still don’t know what a tick looks like but when I go in the forest I am on the lookout for one.
My mom and Grandma were very close, Grandma divorced her first husband and as it turned out; her and my mom married brothers and got pregnant 8 months apart so my cousin and I were very close and my mom and I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s. She would come over and help my mom clean house and starch the doilies with a sugary concoction. Grandma was happiest if she was cleaning. She never watched TV and no one was real sure if she knew how to read.
From what I gather she was quite the looker when she was younger and would go dancing with her sisters. My mom remembers watching her mom getting dressed to go dancing in pretty dresses, her tiny waist cinched in, gloves, and high heels.
While walking at Cultus Lake years ago we walked past the old Pavillion and she told me how she had danced there during Prohibition with the soldiers.
In recent years she was lost in dementia sliding farther and farther into her own world, it was horribly sad for my mom to go visit her; then one day the old age home had a band come in to play old dance tunes and my mom noticed grandma’s feet keeping time to the music. When they started to play a jive mom asked grandma if she wanted to dance and she said it was like she was with her mom 30 years earlier dancing in the kitchen. Grandma danced like a young woman and didn’t miss a beat. It was the last time there was any recognition there.
My grandma was always very good to me, she helped me buy my first house, a little cabin at Cultus Lake, I had asked to borrow $2000 but she said to consider it my Christmas gifts for the next 5 years and then proceeded to give me money every Christmas anyway. Whenever we had a gathering Grandma was there and without fail I would hear her saying to someone, “Isn’t she a doll? that’s my granddaughter, isn’t she beautiful, such a good girl, she’s always been so good to me.” she’d call me over and pat my arm and say,”We never fought did we dear?” I’d say of course not Grandma. She’d say, “A doll, an angel, I tell you, just beautiful.” One Christmas at my mom’s I was sitting beside grandma and she was telling the room what a doll I was and with every second word she patted my leg with her bony little hand. Her diamond ring was much too large on her tiny finger and the diamond dug deep into my leg with every pat and after a while it started to really hurt. Finally I grabbed her hand and said, “Grandma, hit me one more time with your diamond and you’ll lose your hand.” She looked at me and said, “A doll, such an angel.”
There was something about Grandma not many people knew and it was never talked about. Her first husband was a horribly violent man and treated grandma and my mom like hired hands, he beat my grandma and other horrific things that were never talked about. In those days domestic violence wasn’t talked about or even acknowledged. My grandma had a nervous breakdown, no doubt because of the mind games these assholes use to keep you off-balance; and was sent to a mental institute called Crease Clinic where she was subjected to shock treatment. I can only imagine the horrors she experienced and then had to go home to worse abuse. Even though she had no money, and there was no help from police, or support groups, she didn’t drive, she knew she had to get away. My mom remembers grandma taking her and running into a nearby corn field and hiding for hours. They could hear grandpa looking for them as they hunkered down in the corn field barely able to breathe, knowing if he found them there would be hell to pay. Finally the sun went down, he gave up his search and they snuck out of the corn field and walked miles to my granny’s house where they hid in the attic.
I never understood the strength that must have taken until I experienced abuse and the feeling of helplessness. How scared she must have been, in those days domestic violence was something that no one talked about and if you did try to talk about it you ended up in a mental institution getting shock treatment.
Her second husband was alcoholic but I don’t think he beat her and she stayed with him until he died in his sleep of a heart attack in the bed beside her.
We have come along way since my grandma hid in a corn field but we still have a lot of work to do in the battle against domestic abuse, there are still myths to be dispelled, stereotypes to be corrected, and silence to be broken. For every women who has feared for her life, for every woman who has been told she asked for the abuse or deserved it, for every woman who has died at the hands of the man who promised to always protect her, for every woman who hid the marks on her neck or wore sunglasses to hide a black eye, for every woman and child that lived in fear of daddy coming home, for every child who has witnessed their mother being beaten and felt helpless to stop it, for every woman who has been told it isn’t abuse if there are no bruises I will keep speaking out.
I ask you all to end the silence, silence = shame, silence enables the abuser. In 2010 there were over 102,500 reports of domestic violence (that is just the reported cases) of those incidents 51% of the victims suffered physical injuries.
In the past decade more than half, 65 %, of spouses accused of homicide had a history of violence involving the victim and most of them were after the victim had left the abuser. That is why it is so important to report, charge and not minimize the abuse.
Even the victims minimize the abuse, question themselves, and believe they are special and it won’t happen to them. The really shameful thing is that women partake in the abuse of other women, so needy for a man’s attention they believe his lies that the woman asked for it and he won’t abuse her because she is special, her love has changed him. Wake up people! What is it going to take for society to recognize abuse and shame the abuser and not the victim? When are we going to start raising our daughters to believe they are beautiful from the inside out, that their worth is not decided by a man and they deserve respect? When will our sons be taught that infidelity is not a birth right, that a woman’s place is not in the home catering to his every whim and that a woman cries because she is hurt and not because she is manipulating him, that when a woman says, “That hurts me” , stop! When will people realize that “I’m ok you’re ok” does not mean accept me as I am and if you don’t there’s the door and when will the victim realize that given that choice they should walk out that door and they will survive and thrive. When will women stop asking for respect and accept nothing less than respect for their boundaries?
This is not something that doesn’t affect you, it affects everyone because it is a problem with society, this is not “her” problem, it isn’t “his” problem, it is “our” problem.
Rest in peace Grandma Mary
Love and hugs to my little angel.