Recently, I visited my aunt and looked through some photos. She has pictures I have never seen before of my grandparents and my dad when he was a boy. As I looked at a certain picture of my grandma I realized she was about the same age as I am now. When I was younger, I looked a lot like her but looking at a picture of her the same age as I am now I can see that resemblance has faded. My dad assures me though that I have many of her mannerisms and still carry myself in a similar fashion. That is comforting because I have always enjoyed having that connection with her even though I don’t remember her very well. She died when I was 12 but for the last three years of her life she was in a nursing home and her body became merely a shell of the vibrant woman she once was. But when I saw that picture of her of when she was close to my age I compared our lives and the different roads we have both taken to get to this age.
By the time she was my age she had lost her mother at the age of 9. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated shortly after and she was upset because all the children got to wear a white carnation in honor of their mothers except for the children whose mothers had passed away. They wore a red one. She was the only one with a red flower and she resented the fact at her young age because she wanted to be like the other children.
By the time she was my age she had worked in New York as a teacher. To help cure her case of chronic bronchitis she took a year off teaching and traveled west with a friend. Her friend needed to get to Reno to get a divorce. So, two women in their late 20’s traveling in the late 1920’s drove a car from New York headed to Nevada. This was before the Interstate was around. They traveled the Lincoln Highway. They ran out of money in Denver and needed to get teaching jobs. The superintendent for a Wyoming school district was in Colorado looking for teachers. My grandma and her friend were going to work for a year in Wyoming and then continue on their trip. Instead, grandma met grandpa and never made it to Nevada. She married when she was 28 years old.
By the time she was my age she had three children. She wasn’t a spring chicken when she had them either. My uncle was born when she was 29. Dad was born when she was 32. My aunt was born when she was 38.
By the time she was my age she had lived through two World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She was well acquainted with the effects of war.
By the time she was my age she had lived through the Great Depression. In fact, that was the start of her married life. Economic trends hit Wyoming at a slower pace than the rest of the nation so Wyoming didn’t feel the full effect until the late 30’s. At that time, she pawned her jewelry to her brothers to afford four train tickets (this was before my aunt was born in 1940) back east. Grandpa and grandma and their two young sons traveled to New York looking for work. They stayed for 14 months and came back to Wyoming. After that, Wyoming became their permanent home. Grandpa was able to find employment in the coal mines and grandma went back to work as a teacher. When my aunt was little she remembers going with grandma to work and being in the classroom while grandma taught school.
By the time she was my age she had almost lost her husband to sickness. Grandpa became seriously ill with an ulcer and almost died. Grandma took care of him, worked as a teacher, took care of the house, fixed the dinners, and basically carried a heavy load of responsibility. Grandpa pulled through but did die at a fairly young age twenty years later. In total, my grandparents were only married 34 years; the rest of the time grandma had to survive on her own.
By the time she was my age her life experiences had taught her to be a survivor. I wish I had the opportunity to talk with her and hear about her perspective on each of these events. But I know the day will come when I will get to meet her again and I hope she is ready to answer all my questions because I have a few.
Any comparison I get to this remarkable lady is a compliment and I value it greatly.