Many people are fortunate to know and/or remember their four biological grandparents. For some, there are additional people who served in that role (most, referred to as “Big Momma”, whether they’re large in frame or not). In today’s society, with a great many women becoming mothers at an earlier age, grandparents are becoming younger and younger.
Not me. Not my generation.
I come from an era when grandparents were already 120 years old when we were born. Well, obviously they weren’t that old, but they were indeed up there in years. In fact, by the time I was born in 1967, my paternal grandfather had already passed, one year prior.
My forefathers (and mothers) list as so…
Paternal: Doc Jr. and Liller
Maternal: Comer Sr. and Mattie Bell
Sadly, I never met Doc Jr. and Mattie Bell (she never made a visit up north and vice versa). I did know Comer Sr., who I loved dearly when I was very young. That was until I learned the ugly truth about him. No explanation necessary.
That leaves my beautiful grandmother, Liller B. aka “Grandma”.
I wish I had seen her and my grandfather (always talking about her husband, Doc, Jr. Not that other guy.) when they were raising my parents. The stories about him were scary, because I heard he was a “no nonsense” guy never smiled. Ever. She was the loving and compassionate parent, but I heard that you never wanted to get on her bad side either.
They owned two stores on Carey Street in East Chicago and were both well-known and highly respected in the neighborhood. But like I said earlier, you didn’t want to cross her.
Story (or legend) has it, one of the street kids entered their store one day and robbed her at knife point. To take his stupidity a step further, he never left the block. He stood on the corner with the guys, laughing about what he did in Mrs. Davis’ store. Apparently he never saw her coming and nobody managed to warn him for God knows why. As she walked up, he turned around just in time for her to slap him in the face with her husband’s pistol, firing it simultaneously.
So between the strike and the gunshot, dude lost his senses, his cool points and some of his hearing, permanently. Man, the stories I heard about her.
I told you that Grandma didn’t play.
She only lived about 12 short blocks from us, so we spent many summer days at her house until my parents got off work or my mother made dinner.
I don’t have many distinct memories of her, since she died in 1976, two months before my 9th birthday after suffering a debilitating stroke. But what I do remember, I can never forget. Probably because many were part of her routine: housecleaning, prayer, singing, cooking, etc. What I remember most were her bone-crushing, Pillsbury flour coated hugs.
But remember, Grandma didn’t play.
One day, she overheard my brother and I getting into it and came charging in to intervene as we shoved each other back and forth.
I thought she was going to counsel us accordingly.
Grandma gave him a fly swatter and me an extension cord and made us whoop each OTHER until we were both crying. Afterwards, she explained how brothers and sisters must NEVER fight each other.
Then, SHE whooped BOTH of us.
Now that’s savage.
She was one of those people you think about when you say, “If I only knew then what I know now”. For me, I wish that I was as driven as I now am to know my history. I swear I would have sat with her every waking minute and bugged her to death, asking for stories about my father’s childhood, her husband Doc, her childhood, her parents and our history. Therein lied a wealth of healthy information, but who thinks of stuff like that when you’re 8 years old?
Truth be told told, “Roots” the television mini-series didn’t air until 3 months after her death and even then, no true spark had developed in me to know my past.
I guess that’s why I tell my sons as much as I can and encourage them to talk to their grandparents at length every time they see them or talk on the phone.
It’s so weird. She’s been gone 45+ years and I still miss her dearly. Especially those melt-in-your-mouth, golden fluffy biscuits. If you’ve been following me long enough, you might remember that story.
So no, I don’t have an extended history with my grandparents like many others. And no, I only got to know two of them and of those two, only one was worth remembering and honoring. But I can’t deny that without the four of them, I wouldn’t be here today. Each of them make up 25% of my DNA. Each of them contributed to the personalities of my mother and father, who in turn molded me. Each of them set the stage for all that set me on my path.
But I have to give so much love and credit to Grandma. Liller B. She gave me a love that I adore and cherish to this very day. A love that inspires me to write about her and hopefully encourage you all to contact those who are still in your life.
Call them. Email them. Send them a video clip of you and yours. Tell them how much they mean to you and how much you love and appreciate them for all that they are in your life.
And if you yourself are a grandparent, be that person that your grandchildren can admire and celebrate. Be a part of their lives and give them a reason to to continue the legacy that you and the other three created.
Happy Grandparent’s Day!
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