The most amazing woman I ever knew was eighty years old. Her personality was spunky and pleasant, but at times, she was also ill and incoherent. She had rosy cheeks, and was really thin, with gray whiskers on her chin. She had translucent, wrinkled skin that felt soft to the touch. Tucked up in a hairnet, she would keep her silvery, gray curls. She had this quiet, soft voice when she spoke. When she walked by, the scent of baby powder filled the air. She would walk with a walking stick in each hand to move around and ambulate. She had two children – Eva May and Kenneth. She was married to a man named John, who fathered her children. She did so many things that fascinated me. This woman was my great – grandmother, Clara. Everyone called her Nan.
When I was younger, I could remember sitting on the front porch of our house on the steps while she sat in an old wooden chair with a floral cushion. She would tell stories of when she worked on the farm. She told of how she picked berries, bale hay, and milk the cows at 6:00 in the morning every day. She used to tell me that they didn’t have the everyday things that we take for granted today back when she was growing up. Back then, they had to use out houses; whereas, today we have actual toilets that flush. Back then, they had horse and buggies; whereas, today we have many different choices of transportation.
In 1940, my great – grandmother developed a disease called polio. Polio is a disease that causes paralysis. The doctors told her that she would never walk again. She proved everyone wrong when she taught herself how to walk again. It amazes me that by overcoming this disease, she was able to climb ladders and paint clapboards for the sides of her house. She had so much faith and so much persistence. She would not let her illness, wheelchair, or bed bind her.
My great – grandma Nan, was a very giving woman. She had a heart for children. She would sit in her old wooden chair on the porch, and she would always have cookies, candy, and kool – aid. All the kids on the street would come down to see her and some of whatever she had to give. There wasn’t anyone in the neighborhood who didn’t know her. When people walked by her, they would wave and say hello, stop and talk to her, or even stop to listen to one of her stories she would tell.
When I started getting older my great – grandma gave me an old, heavy, cherry wood shadow box with a large mirror in the center of it. It has two short, rounded shelves on the top, one on each side and a long rounded shelf in the middle. It has engravings of roses in each corner of the frame. When she gave it to me, she explained to me that it belonged to her and then she passed it down to my grandmother. Since my grandmother passed away, she felt that I should have it. I don’t have this beautiful shadowbox anymore; that I wish I could have kept forever. Every time I looked at it I would think of her. Now she is forever in my heart.
Unlike traditions of today, Nan created her very own. For Thanksgiving, instead of making a turkey she would make a hen. For Halloween, she would give us rolls of pennies instead of candy. For Christmas, she would buy everyone one pound boxes of chocolate covered cherries or mixed chocolates. If you were a baby or a toddler, she would buy you a small box of animal crackers or a toy. You really don’t think of how much you cherish these things until they are no longer.
At the age of 90, she started falling ill due to a disease known as Dementia. As her mind started to deteriorate more and more, she became unable to do the things that made her happy. She got to the point where she was unable to recognize who you were and to smile the way she used to. It was time for her grandchildren and her great – grandchildren to take care of her. She dealt with this disease for four years afterward. It was time for us to be there for her and show her the love that she showed us.
She died at the age of 94; she was an amazing woman with so much history, persistence, and advice to give. She taught the values of family and life. She taught you not to take things for granted. She was loved by everyone and that is why she is so unique and amazing in my eyes and in my memories. I feel very privileged and blessed to have had the honor of having her for my great – grandmother.