My grandmother led a unique life growing up. One thing that she remembers was her education. Her catholic grade school was the location of a few significant events that changed her view of religion. The “there is one answer” attitude drove her away. In third grade she was accused of lying by a nun. The story went that she was drawing two people facing each other, but the nun thought they were kissing. This was unacceptable conduct for a third grader’s drawing. Even though my grandma insisted that she had not done any such thing, the nun refused to believe her.
Fourth grade brought another instance that disillusioned her further. In catechism she was asked the question why she was catholic. As the procedure the answer was already prepared and she was supposed to recite it. However, she insisted in answering, “because my parents are” instead of “because it is the one true apostle church.”
Still, other’s describe her as a very happy child. Her play included hiking in the countryside, going swimming with her niece and nephew, and fishing. My grandmother’s father was a worker at a brick kiln, and she remembers taking her father his lunch and also later playing on the brick piles. She could stack them and climb on them. Her father started a union for the members of the brick company. This was before unions were widely accepted. At home she remembers her mother gardening, sewing, and cooking. They raised chickens, grew potatoes, brewed root beer, and kept wine in the cellar. My Grandma B. was the youngest of eight children
One interesting experience she had as a child that indicates the social situation was seeing a black man. She was stunned when she encountered the man because she had never seen someone like that before. Their neighborhood was completely Caucasian. After staring intently at Mr. Bently, she asked if she could touch him. He let her. The neighbors did not accept the black family, but my great grandmother did and even had Mrs. Bently over as a babysitter.
In ninth grade she remembers her unhappiness with the church continuing. She viewed it as brain washing and even though she still respects the faith, she disagrees with the idea of there being a ‘one true church.’ In her view, the ‘true church’ is any faith where a person believes and practices living their faith. There is no one answer for everyone. It’s how you live, not the name of your faith. She also dislikes the way the faith demands that someone ask forgiveness for sins. She doesn’t like the idea that sin is inherent in an act and that there has to be communication with a priest when god knows and understands it all. That our duty on earth is to live the best life we can. If it’s a mistake or needed to be committed it isn’t always sin. Only god and one self can determine if there is a god. My grandmother is no longer Catholic, although she still considers herself Christian.
Later, when she got out of high school, she worked for her brother in his grocery and she remembers the work fondly. She always wanted to be a nurse, but she needed the money for the schooling. It was partly wishful thinking and partly her goal. She finally got into the necessary school after saving and working toward it. At school she worked as a nurse and so she got paid while she was receiving her education. Looking back, she thinks that she learned fifty percent from her schooling and fifty percent from the working experience she got while she was in medical school. She also received room and board and $10 a month for her work. She would have school in the morning, work in the afternoon, and sometimes have a night shift. Even though it was a small school she believes the teachers were good.
After she graduated she engaged to my Grandpa Roger. She believes they were too young, although she admitted that its impossible to imagine what might have been. When my father was born she was very very happy. Roger didn’t want a child yet, but grandmother wanted more children. Still, she only had one: my father. She recalls having the cutest maternity clothes and could describe them to me still: Black corduroy pants and a polka dot top. She had an unusual experience giving birth as she was getting pain every five minutes and realized that she was almost ready to go into contractions. When they arrived at the hospital the pain completely stopped, but soon they started again and very heavily. No nurses were around, but a nurse stopped in, sized up the situation and rushed off to get a doctor. He barely had time to arrive before the delivery went ahead and it was over very quickly. She recalls that the entire thing felt natural.
She remembers in her work one particular time that she blessed to have been involved in. The doctor was about to give a shot, and my grandmother happened to look up and realize that that shot would have killed the child and probably the mother as well. In one instance my grandma threw out her arm and said, “What are you doing?” In that one moment it was burned into her memory, and she managed to make the difference between life and death. Everyone in the room jerked as it dawned on them what could have happened. The doctor was completely shaken. She was a young and inexperienced physician, and she had to leave the room to cry for awhile. My grandmother was not even supposed to be in the room at the time. She was not permitted to help with the procedure, and she cannot help but think that there are too many coincidences for it to have occurred without some outside intervention.
Bits and pieces of the rest of her life she also told me about. She remembers Thomas breaking his finger and chipping his tooth. Both times he wouldn’t tell her and she noticed it at the dinner table. When my father had grown she helped him get his house by putting money down. It was a tough time, and he had recently lost his job. She was glad that he went back and finished his degree and remembers her family not encouraging her in her education. She also remembers Christmases with me as a child and how she always got me clothes and I always would open up the present before chucking it over my shoulder. My father, she believes, was not quite an adult until he had me.