As I said before, my grandmother was shuffled back and forth between relatives as a child. Her mother, Greta, was too busy running the streets to be a mother. Grammy told me that a couple of male relatives attempted to molest her as a child but she was able to fight them off. Sometimes she was fed last so to make sure the others kids had enough food first. She never had her own bed and her hair often went uncombed. She felt ignored and like she was always in the way. When her uncle (Greta’s brother) heard about how she was being treated he insisted that she come to California to live with him and his wife. They had no children and a nice house.
Grammy adores her uncle and has fond memories of him. He was the only person who ever loved her and didn’t treat her like an inconvenience. He actually wanted her. He bought her new clothes and his wife taught her the delicacies of feminine hygiene. She showed her how to do her hair in the latest hairstyles and how to apply modest makeup. It was the 1940’s so you know the hair and fashion were VERY important. When Grammy hit her teen years, she and Uncle’s wife started butting heads. I don’t know if it was jealousy on one or both parts but Uncle was caught in the middle. Grammy admits that she hated his wife and gave her a hard time. She never told me why she hated her. After years in what sounds like a safe, loving home, Grammy went back to Louisiana to live with her mother for the first time in her life. I don’t know if this was her decision or Uncle’s.
Grammy tried living with Greta but that was a disaster. Greta had no idea how to be a mother and Grammy had no respect for her. Like a lot of young women back then Grammy looked to marriage as a way out of her mother’s house. So, at 18 she married her boyfriend, *Samuel. He was recently discharged from the Army and had a good job as a hospital orderly. Grammy had just completed nursing assistant training. Their future seemed to be all figured out.
Before their first wedding anniversary Grammy and Samuel then had their first baby, my mother, *Trish. Grammy quit working to stay home and be a housewife (an honorable thing back in the 1950’s). But like all husbands do, Samuel wanted to make more money and buy a home for his family. He decided to go to a large California city to look for work. He had relatives there and they said he could stay with them until he found a job and place to live. He left Louisiana and his wife and baby behind, promising that he would send for them soon.
This is where the story goes downhill.
I know there are always 3 sides to every story (her side, his side, God’s side) but this is Grammy’s version. She says that Samuel sent very little money home and she was unable to pay the bills and put food on the table. Plus she was pregnant, again. Whenever Samuel would call she begged him to hurry up and send for her and the baby. Samuel would always say that he hadn’t saved up enough yet. One of Samuel’s relatives finally took pity on Grammy and gave her the money to get to California. She showed up unannounced and says Samuel was sitting very close to another woman on the sofa. He denied having an affair but Grammy knew better.
Well, things get choppy after this. All I was told is that Grammy and Samuel had 4 children and he cheated on her the entire time they were married. He would stay gone all day and most nights he wouldn’t even come home. When he did come home it was only to shower and change his clothes. Then he went right back out. For the most part he didn’t even live there. Grammy had just given birth to their last baby and was put on bed rest due to a birthing injury. She couldn’t stand or walk and had to crawl to the bathroom. She had a newborn to care for and 3 other kids who were hungry and dirty and neglected. They needed her but she physically could not take care of herself, let alone them. When she did have enough strength she would crawl to the kitchen and grab any food or snacks within her reach and place them at a level where the kids could get to them. At least that way she knew they wouldn’t be too hungry.
She seriously considered suicide one day because the kids were crying from hunger and she was at her lowest point emotionally and spiritually. She thought of turning on the gas stove and letting them all fall asleep together. She said she didn’t want to leave her kids to be passed around like she had been as a child. Then a neighbor who had befriended her suddenly showed up with a few groceries and some money. Grammy was raised in the church off and on but had never been very religious. But on this day she had cried out to God to help her and her children. Then the neighbor showed up. This is how she understood that God really did love her. Finally one day Samuel moved out to be with a woman from his work. He divorced Grammy and left her and all the kids to fend for themselves. He didn’t provide any money and he never visited again. He simply walked away from his life and started a whole new one.
(To be continued…)