My Grandmother Williams lived for 103 hard years.
“Hard” because of where she lived, when she lived, and how she lived.
She was an old woman when I was born, and she may have been living her best years at that time. In the early 1940’s her children were grown, her arthritis wasn’t full blown, she was well respected in the small Oklahoma town where she and her husband lived, and the financial demands that had haunted her were a bit less overwhelming.
She didn’t talk much, but she cooked a lot and read her Bible regularly, usually while sitting on the front porch swing during hot summer days. Having married at a young age to a man she anticipated would provide a good life, an easy existence never materialized. They moved around in northern Texas before migrating to Oklahoma in the days before statehood. The couple farmed, she worked as a caregiver to neighbors while raising her six children, and granddad practiced law intermittently and apparently not successfully.
In those early years of marriage, they trudged on, moving often when rent was due, packing up their belongings, and finding another house as a temporary home.
Sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, they moved into a house in a small southeastern Oklahoma town and settled in, never leaving until she was moved to a nursing home where she spent the her last twenty plus years. I’ve never known how they purchased that intimate dwelling, but it is where her husband died, where she wrung the necks of chickens in her backyard for Sunday dinners, and baked bread in her wood burning stove.
I wasn’t emotionally close to my paternal grandmother, not like my older sister who was her favored grandchild, but there was a sense of warmth and comfort when I stepped into her house. The living room was tiny and seldom used. The dining room was larger and held not only a long dining table but also a large bed. The one bedroom was even larger where two large beds and a single bed were located.
A small bathroom was added after I was born with a bathtub and a toilet, as it was called in that part of the country.
There was nothing special about what I called ‘grandmother’s house’, except a special feeling and the aromas of something always cooking.
I felt encircled, cozy, and welcome whenever I was in that small dwelling that, as a child, seemed so much larger.
All this came to my mind this week when I bought a new long sleeve T-shirt for the upcoming cooler weather. The minute I put it on, those long ago feelings of belonging surrounded me, and I felt my Grandmother hugging me. I’ll probably wear it every day just to feel that remembered embrace once more.