When I decide to sit down with my grandmother, I had no idea if she would really tell me anything. My family talks, but they seem to leave out the important stuff. For example, I found out that my grandmother had breast cancer because I was in the room with her while she was dressing and I noticed that she did not have breasts. It had been about 20 years since her mastectomy and I knew nothing about it. I am no better about being open. I mean, I did not go to her and say, "I heard you have brain cancer so I'm going to record you before you die." I would not have been that blunt, but that's what I was doing. Besides that, I really wanted time with her. So I picked a none holiday and drove to her home in Calvert.
We were both shy about the tape recorder when I started, but eventually, we were able to talk comfortably. She brought out a box of pictures that she had underneath her bed. Not the pictures we gave her. The school pictures with the generic blue backgrounds were lined up on her shelves and covered her walls. Poor grandma! Having to find a space for at least 40 grandkids, 40 great-grandkids, and three great-great grandkids. She couldn't do it, so some of us fell out of rotation once we graduated high school. The pictures that she showed me were the ones she really treasured.
I recorded our conversation on a cassette tape. A few years later, I found a device and software that allowed me to convert our conversation to wave files. I have added bits of our conversation to this post. Click on the links and they will take you to a page that should allow you to listen if you would like.
I love my grandmother's voice and the words she used to talk about things. Listening takes me back to that day in her little house in the country. She was lively and beautiful that day and that's the way I always see her when I think about her.
Here is a link to the audio of my grandmother talking about the picture of her parents. Then she tells me about how she got together with my grandfather. One of the most shocking things that she revealed to me that day was that the man who she grew up with was not her biological father. She showed me a picture of her real father. My uncle Eugene, the youngest of the 11, looks a lot like him.
About two minutes in to the next audio clip, my grandmother talks about a scary incident and how she was ready to protect her children.
I asked my grandmother to tell me something about her 11 kids. Here's what she said about my mother and I my aunt. My mother's name is Verma and she was the second born, and Delois is the oldest family. The voice in the background in my aunt Shirley, the youngest girl in the family. She stopped over while we were talking. When I was a kid, I thought she was as beautiful as a movie star.
I am blessed to have my grandmother with me this way.