Friday, March 25, 2011

Viola Jones Taylor 1921-1981

I have an amazing mother. I could NOT live without her. In addition to joyfully providing daycare for my daughter(s) when needed (basically DAILY) she's there to listen to me vent my frustrations, bail me out of jams, calm me down and bear me up when I hit break down mode, and all-in-all just be one of my best friends.

And you've also seen me talk about my beloved Gma aka "Famous Grandma" who I have the blessing of living next door to.

But lately, I've been thinking a lot about my other Gma, My Gma Taylor.

My Dad's mom died when I was only 2 1/2 yrs old. So I don't really have any memories of her. Unless you count this vague recollection I have of the sound of her voice, which I don't know how much is my own creation and how much is really her. I just know that there have been times in my life when I've needed an extra angel, and its been that voice that I've heard, connected with an innate knowledge that it was her.

What I do have are stories of her, told to me (or overheard) from her sister, my dad, and his siblings. In all the stories I've heard over the last 30 years, I've never heard anything negative about her. So you can imagine how she could have become an idol in my eyes. The older I get, the more I know in my head that she couldn't have been perfect either, nonetheless, my appreciation for just how incredible she truly must have been only seems to grow with my age and wisdom.

Growing up, my sister and I yearned for our own rooms, and Dad would always remind us about how he shared a room with 3 of his brothers, and there was barely room to walk between the two sets of bunk beds. (It's true, we saw that with our own eyes.)

Now as my own kids have the same complaint, or whenever I start to feel the walls closing in on me in our 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 5 occupant apartment, its not my dad I think about, cramped in with his brothers, its Gma. Sure, she got the nice big room, mostly to herself (since Gpa often worked graves and liked the darker room/office next door), but she had 8 kids running underfoot. 8 kids in 2 bedrooms, and only 1 bathroom for the 10 of them. How in the world did she keep from going crazy!!!!!

I would love to ask her how in the world she found time to do all that she did. If 8 kids weren't enough to keep a mother busy, she worked outside the home to help provide. And somehow, she still managed to bake bread for the family each week, paint, crochet, create other crafty items, and bottle fruit.

So much fruit, in fact, that I remember mom and dad opening up bottles of her fruit for us to eat for dinner on hot summer nights for many years after Gma had died. And she did it all without modern luxuries such as wrinkle-free fabrics (ironing sheets...what were they thinking?)

Truly amazing!

But in addition to all that, She also had Gpa.

I love my Gpa.

Gpa died just before my 9th birthday, my memories have the luxury of that innocent childhood filter on them. What I remember was that Gpa was STRONG. The grip of his handshake was legendary. And he loved to put his grandchildren on his lap and hold them. He had really bony legs, so it was really uncomfortable, and we were anxious to get down and play. But he'd hold us there, and at times get downright grumpy about it. I'd give about anything to go back and 'endure' that time to hear more of his stories. After you'd been on one leg for a while (and squirmed a lot), you'd just start thinking you were finally going to escape, but he'd just switch you to the other side, proclaiming that was his 'bad' leg. (Though I swear he was moving me to his bad leg, not the other way around).

I also knew that Gpa had seizures. I knew he took medicine for them. But I don't recall ever witnessing one.

I knew Gpa couldn't drive. Despite making a living as a mechanic, he didn't own a car. He got around on an adult-sized tricycle with a basket on the back that made me quite jealous.

Gpa lost his leg, not long after he and Gma were married, when a heavily-loaded freight train ran over it at the local steel plant. I never considered my gpa to be disabled. He got around just fine on his prosthetic. (never saw him run on it, but I think I contributed that to his age more than his ability, if I even thought about it at all.) After all, I was little, I couldn't drive either, my main source of 'independent' transportation was also a bike.

What I've realized more and more lately are all the gaps in the stories I've heard about Gma. The stories I've gotten from her sister largely cover her growing-up years, right on through Gma and Gpa's courtship, the roll-over they were in while they were dating, how she visited him often during the long months he was in the hospital. How she later went to Nevada to help another sibling for a few months, and she and Gpa would write back and forth. Gpa being the great wordsmith he was (which I wonder now how much was him and how much the injury/recovery) would write these "lengthy" letters something to the effect of:

Dear Vi,

Hope all is well


And then the stories kind of skip until the point when her children were old enough to remember/realize things.

I can fill in the timeline. I know Gpa was supposed to be reporting to the draftboard the week he lost his leg, and that it would have been about the time Gma was pregnant with their oldest. I knew their house was built somewhere in that timeframe. But that's about it.

I wonder now, how she would have coped with the loss of Gpa's leg. How hard that must of been on him, sure, but her too. She'd met, and fallen in love with, this handsome curly haired boy at a dance in the hall near her home. Did she ever mourn the loss of his leg and all that meant, or could have meant, for them, and her personally, or was she just too glad to even have him alive to think beyond that?

If she had mourned the loss, or ever resented the life she led, would she have ever let anyone know? Or would she have kept those feelings all locked up inside? Did she resent being the one that had to drive the family around, during a time when most women didn't drive?

Did she see Gpa as disabled? Or was she bothered by others who did?

As science discovers more and more about Traumatic Brain Injuries, it becomes more and more apparent that TBIs probably caused Gpa's seizures, and that his seizures probably weren't the only symptoms he experienced. The more I learn about TBIs, the more saintly Gma becomes in my mind, if that's possible.

But how did she handle that? Did she realize what caused Gpa to be the way he was? Did she long for that handsome curly haired boy? Or did he never leave her? Did she just see through everything else to that diamond? Or did she ever cry herself to sleep at night?

For better or worse, she stood by her husband for 39 years. From the time she met him, when she was still in High School, until the time she died, he was her sweetheart. That alone should speak volumes.

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