We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by sharing stories from personal and family history. I received a different but interesting and appropriate gift for Mother’s Day. One of my daughters gifted me with a subscription to “StoryWorth.” The idea behind the subscription is for me to write the stories of my life. Each week my daughter will select a question, and the company will email it to me. I am supposed to write the answer to the question and send it back. The company will send the answer to my daughter as well as combining the answers into a book at the end of the year.
Here is the question for Week 4: What were your grandparents like? I personally knew only one of my four grandparents because three of them passed away before I was born. I knew only my mother’s mother, plus my father’s step-mother known to me as Aunt Mary. I do not wish to sound critical about any of my grandparents as I share what I know about them.
Dad’s parents had four children – with Dad as the youngest – when Grandpa was called on a mission to Great Britain. Grandma worked really hard to take care of the children and earn the money to keep her husband in the mission field. When he returned from his mission, he brought a young woman named Mary and her brother home with him. He did not treat Grandma well, and they eventually divorced. Grandpa married the young woman, and they had four children together – two boys and two girls.
Aunt Mary was sort of plump when I knew her with long white hair worn wrapped around her head in a braid. Even though Aunt Mary was not always kind to Dad and his father was sometimes violent, Dad always spoke of them with respect. I remember visiting Aunt Mary as a child/teenager with Dad and Mom after Sunday School. He always treated her honorably. I developed a relationship with her when I was junior high school. My friend and I would walk the short distance from the school to her home occasionally to see her. After I married I did not think so highly of the woman who was instrumental in the divorce of my grandparents.
Grandma later married again. She encouraged and helped him to be sealed to his first wife. At the time a woman could be sealed to only one man, and Grandma was already sealed to Grandpa. I read somewhere that she said, “I am sealed to a man who does not want me, and I cannot be sealed to the man who loves me” – or something similar. She died on the way to a hospital – maybe from cancer. I was happy to hear that she was sealed to her second husband.
My mother’s father was a few years older than his wife. He had several occupations, first working for a saw mill and later becoming an Indian agent. The family lived in Oregon and Arizona before settling in Fort Duchesne. I understand that Grandpa helped to build the Vernal Tabernacle, now the Vernal Utah Temple.
My mother’s mother was tall – about 5 foot 8 inches – and slender. She too had white hair that she wore in a bun at the back of her head. She also had a large – about one-half inch in diameter – brown age mark in the middle of her left cheek. After her husband died she moved to Salt Lake City and found work at the Salt Lake City Library. She worked at the library until she was 80 years old. The local paper printed an article about her when she retired.
Grandma was always well dressed – like she was going to church - and even wore a hat with a hat pin holding it to her hair. She walked two blocks every morning to catch the bus uptown and two blocks home after work. She had a fun porch swing sitting on her front porch. I remember her being quite upset when someone stole some inserts from the arms of the swing.
Even though she always seemed happy to see me, I knew that she favored my aunt’s children. They lived with her off and on between my aunt’s marriages, so it was only natural. However, I did feel sad when I learned that she gave my cousin a stuffed animal and did not send me even a birthday card. One day when I was staying with my grandmother, aunt, and her children, we had lunch or dinner. Everyone started to eat but me, and I sat with my arms folded. Someone asked why I was not eating, and I replied that we had not said the blessing. I was asked bless the food. I think that my grandmother drank coffee or tea, but I do not know for sure. I do know that she heated water and made a hot drink that had a strong smell to it.
I believe that my father’s mother was the most faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She completed a lot of genealogy and made sure that her second husband was sealed to his first wife. Dad always said that if he ever had to choose, he and his family would go with his mother.
I am grateful for this Mother’s Day gift that encourages me to write the stories of my family. I feel certain that knowing a little bit about my grandparents will strengthen my family and thus strengthen our communities and nation.