Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The End of an Era

Today, the Matron will be attending the funeral of her husband's grandmother.

Yes, that's right: a 48 year old man's grandmother.

Now, the Matron is a matron, signifying a certain age. Grandma Helen? She lived a complete century--100 years.

Years ago, when the Matron and her husband were still lush, Grandma Helen gave the Matron --then a Youngish Miss -- a book she had written in a class for creative writing for senior citizens. The manuscript recounted many horrors, but the one that struck the Matron was the birth of Grandma Helen's first (of 9) children.

Instead of being in anyway assisted during childbirth, the young Helen was tied to the bed by the doctor and doused with ether. The doctor wanted to speed the whole thing up so he could go have a drink (or seven) with the new father. In fact, tying up the laboring mother and silencing her with ether meant the men could start celebrating right there in the next room.

And once the baby arrived, they left within minutes, leaving the new mama -- just 18 years old -- alone with a new baby.

The Matron now flashes back to her own experiences with childbirth. With the first two, she instantly slept with the babies, tended to them, coddled and cooed (even while exhausted). John gave Stryker an warm sesame oil rub; he did the same for Scarlett. He slept on a cot by the Matron's side, happy to be with the babies and the mama.

Merrick?

Shortly after Merrick arrived on the planet, the OB/GYN nurse asked if the Matron would like her new baby in the room with her, or in the nursery.

Matron: "Nursery. And may I please have a sleeping pill?"

And she slept.

This was, actually, a rather singular event. The Matron can't remember many instances in which she put her own interests and needs above her children. But she knew that with a six and four year old at home --and an infant -- that eight hours of sleep would swing her towards sanity.

Friends, there was nothing sweeter than that sleep.

But Grandma Helen had no such options. Instead, she raised 9 children pretty much on her own -- had babies and immediately rose to tend to the three or eight others already there. She saw her 9 children and around 40 grandchildren grow into a list of great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren to create a legacy of people tallying up to over 130. Let's just say John's side of the family is not attuned to population control.

She did all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and child care. If someone needed to talk to a child's teacher, it was her. She kept up with all family obligations, sending the cards and letters. If the furnace needed fixing, she did it herself or called the right person. Child throwing up at night? Guess who is there. She sewed, mended, baked, and otherwise tended. Her husband pretty much went to his job every day and then came home to chill.

Good-bye, Helen. No grandma, no mother. Just a nod to the girl and woman, the spirit inside that needs no definition.

11 comments:

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Women like her were the true SuperMoms.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm sure it never occurred to her to ask for some "me time." It was a different era, for sure.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

What a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss.

Tom is 48 also, and his grandmother just turned 101 in October. Amazing women these!

Thinking of you and your family today.

Minnesota Matron said...

Cheri -- 101! That's amazing. I hope you get her story.

bethany said...

Lovely words, what an amazing woman and life. Sorry you lost her. My grandma is nearing the end at 94, and lived much the same way. Her dad was murdered when she was 12, she took over the house so her mom could work, and when married her husband never lifted a finger to help with the 7 kids. Can't imagine life without her, and can't imagine living what she has.

Daisy said...

She sounds amazing.

Deb said...

She sounds like she was a terrific person to know. My thoughts are with you and your family.

kcinnova said...

I'm torn between being sorry to lose her, even at such a so-called "ripe" age, and amazed that she lived such a long and full life. I guess that is a sign of a life well-lived.

carol said...

What a life force! You are lucky to have known her!

MJ said...

What strength she had! I admire women of that generation who had to endure so much. We have benefitted from their toil, dedication and love.

Mrs. G. said...

The strength of women continues to astound me. I hope that as she lived a century! that she had many years to indulge herself.

I am sorry for you and your family's loss.