Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Grandmother

My Grandmother was the first feminist I ever knew.
I doubt she would ever classify herself as a feminist, and when I was growing up I certainly didn't know that other grandmom's weren't like her. I thought everyone had a grandmom like mine.
In the 60's, as the sexual revolution blossomed around her, my grandmother took her 5 kids and one trashbag full of their clothes, and walked out of her marriage. The man that she was married to, my maternal grandfather, was abusive and slowing going insane from diabetes. He was the perfect example of why you have to take care of herself if you have that particular disease.
My grandmother went to her mother's house, a very small place in Yardley. Her two sons would later request to go back to live with their father, and she would allow it, though I would love to ask her now what she felt when she did it. I doubt she was fine with it. She kept her daughters, and realized that she needed a career. She had dropped out of nursing school years before, she wasn't cut out for dealing with the patients. Now she decided to pursue the career she wanted.
She would go on to be the first woman engineer to work for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. She certainly wasn't welcomed with open arms, however that didn't stop her. She loved engineering, and she wasn't about to let some men tell her she couldn't do what she wanted. One of the jobs she liked was inspecting the roadbeds for highways under construction. She was known for making crews do work over and over again until the did it right. She was a bitch, but she was a bitch who worried about the safety of drivers.
She met her second husband there at the DOT. He was the polar opposite of her first husband, and before he asked her to marry him, he asked her children for permission to ask her. He wanted to make sure they would be ok with him as a step father.
They were.
By the time I was born she and her husband had retired from the DOT. They traveled the country in an RV, and went everywhere they wished. Her younger son had been killed, and no one was sure if it was a freak accident or murder. She always maintained it was an accident because she didn't like to think her son's murderer was free.
She was a constant in my life up until she died. She was my rock, a little strange at times, but solid and unyielding. She had done so much in her life, and she expected others to do the same. I believe she was always disappointed in my mother, she had fought so hard and made so many sacrifices when my mother was seriously ill as a child just so she could live. She made ugly choices, a mother's choices. And out of her children, my mother was the one who rebelled and did the least. There is another story there, but in this story you could always feel my grandmother's disappointment. Watching my mother make the same mistakes she did, over and over again.
I think she was a bit proud of my brother and I. After I left my ex, and found a job I loved and was good at, and then got pregnant with my daughter, she told me she was proud of me. It was one of the best moments of my life. She watched my brother do the traveling she loved to do. I think she understood why my brother and I spent years in a state of freefall, and thankfully she saw us both come out on the other side.
Sometimes, when I'm upset or scared I hear her. When I was diagnosed with fibro years ago I heard her in my head ask me, "Well, what will you do about it?" When I realized I had to take my ex to court I heard her ask the same thing. This year when he sued me in turn, again I heard her asking that. And it calms me knowing that my rock is there. Unyielding, but passionate and powerful. She helped shape when I was young into what I am now. She helped bring me back home when I was lost and hurt, even if she never knew it. She was the most astounding woman I ever met, and I miss her dearly.

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