Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away at the age of 72 which makes today 122 years since her birth. She passed away on her birthday and maybe that’s why I always remember the date.
My grandmother, Bertha Rose, had a difficult life. Her father was ‘run out of town on a rail’ (I talked about this in an earlier post if you care to read about it) and she was only 16 when her mother passed away — possibly from polio. She married my grandfather a year later when she was 17. He was 34.
My grandfather worked for the railroad and they moved to Roanoke, Virginia. She raised her younger siblings so they moved with her when she married. As I write this, I cannot imagine how hard this was on all of them. As far as I know, she never saw her father again – he passed away when she was 19.
My father was born 13 years after she and my grandfather married. I know she had a stillborn child because she did talk about it. I have no idea when that was, where she was living, or how or where the child was buried. Things were so much different then. I just know losing a child hurt her deeply. My father would remain an only child.
She also talked about her mother, who was very strict and walked with a cane. She never spoke of her father except somehow we always heard he had been run out of town. I know from my genealogy research he had been married before and it is unknown if he just left his wife or if they divorced. Either of those would have been severely disapproved of my great- grandmother’s very staunch and religious family.
My grandmother was a beautiful woman. Of course, I do not remember her as a young woman, but I love the photos I have of her when she was younger. I found an old faded negative of her with her hair down that I hand-colored years ago. I hold on to this mental image of her because I think she was a pretty tough cookie inside.
My grandmother worked as a private nurse. I am not sure where she received her training, but I know she was an LPN. I suppose it gave her some flexibility when they had to move around. The people she worked for held her in high regard and I know the work took a toll on her.
There were struggles financially. My siblings and I lived with her and my grandfather for a while when my parents went to look for work in another state. I think it was hard on them. I remember her sitting on her bed crying because she had to sell her precious black walnut trees for lumber. I will never forget that day. Those days with my grandparents were some of the best of my life and I will always be grateful for the love they gave us.
She was an excellent cook. She canned vegetables and made homemade jelly. I was often chastised for dipping my fingers in the hot paraffin wax she used to seal the jelly. She played the ukelele and as a woman of faith, she read her Bible faithfully. We often gathered at her feet while she peeled apples for us – each apple peel in one long continuous string. On Christmas Eve, she always slept with us — her four grandchildren — crosswise in the bed. That sounds like something I would do.
On my grandmother’s birthday, my dad always sent her a dozen roses. He always asked the florist to attach each of our names to one of the roses. The day before her 72nd birthday, she was hospitalized. My father left Ohio to drive to Virginia to see her. He did not make it before she passed. But the roses were there. I hope she got to see them.
Happy Birthday, Mam-Maw. Thank you for all the love and guidance you tried to give us through the years. You are not forgotten.
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time. ”