Someone should write a book of her life.
It wouldn't be a romantic story of a charmed life.
It also wouldn't be a woe-is-me story of crappy life events creating a pitiful life saga of a victim.
Hers would be a story of perseverance, family, hard work and a whole lot of feisty sassiness. These traits helped her overcome real-life tragic events making her a strong, resilient, 85-year old mother of four, grandmother of fifteen (at least), and great-grandmother to about eighteen children.
Despite her bent arthritic fingers, my grandma has the most enduring strong work ethic you'll ever encounter. I truly admire her. She can still clean, weed, garden, and do laundry better than anyone reading this. It's the TRUTH!
I also admire her sense of family loyalty. She's the Queen Mama Bear. It is my heritage! Don't mess with Mama Bear or Grandma Bear or you may just have a knock-down-drag-out on your hands.
Looking at her tiny frame, yet strong appearance it's hard to imagine the hardships of life she's experienced.
She was born in Minnesota to Native American parents. Losing her mother and baby sister to tuberculosis and contracting it herself, she was sent to a sanitarium to live for three years, from ages 5-8. While at the sanitarium she did not see nor have visits from family or friends. I can't even begin to imagine the pain of separation she experienced.
She survived tuberculosis, only to return to her reservation to be once again separated from family. According to government policy of the time, Native American kids were shipped off to government schools. Life there was challenging and disheartening to say the least. She was forced to deny her native heritage and forbidden to speak her native language.
Depending on the year, she was at various government and/or Catholic schools until she was 16. During the school year, she wouldn't see family until summer. During the summers she would return home to be care-giver to her half-sister's family. Because of her strong work ethic and survival skills, she was more valuable as child-care-provider to the kids than a student.
Despite being only 16-years old and a flourishing student, during World War II, she was pulled out of school put on a train by herself and sent west to Seattle to become a nanny to her niece.
I'm told during this experience she was scared and shy. She was placed on a train filled with soldiers in uniform.
Why did they send her?
She was told she was ambitious. She had no choice, but work.
Being ambitious, hard-working, and driven doesn't come from having everything handed to you. It comes from discipline, doing without, trials, and overcoming them. I think we have a heritage of determined hard working people. We're raised this way.
I'm so proud to be the worker I am because of the blessed heritage I've been given.
Little tidbits of her life come out when you spend time with her. On her recent visit she told me she had a beautiful sister. Hollywood came looking for her sister, but she wouldn't leave her home. Interesting.
My Grandma did have a first cousin, Floyd Red Crow Westerman who was in the film industry. He was a country music singer, actor and activist. She was very sad when he passed away. I look at photos of him and see a family resemblance.
I was blessed to spend last week with my Grandma. She flew down to spend seven days with us. I wanted to do all I could do to make our time special and memorable for her.
She loves watching Andrea Boccelli on PBS. I thought she'd appreciate seeing him in concert.
He had a scheduled performance in Anaheim at the Honda Center.
I bought tickets and asked her to bring some nice black clothing. We were going see Andrea Bocelli in person. After watching him, I realized it was not just a concert; it was an "experience!"
Words cannot describe how cute she was! She was ready to go at 4:00pm. The concert started at 7:30. I told her we didn't need to leave that soon.
We still left early.
|Ready to go|
|She's so cute!|
|The empty stadium|
|Entertaining ourselves while waiting for the concert to begin|
|We shared popcorn while we waited.|
|Popcorn and Andrea- what could be better?|
|The orchestra arrives|
|Our neighbors took this for us|
The music was indescribable! My sweet grandma had to wipe a tear from her eye a time or two. When music brings you to tears you know it's beyond special.
My grandma told me she used to love to sing opera when she was young. She said in school they sang in Latin. She doesn't remember it now because so many years have passed.
I hope singing along with Andrea made her feel like she felt as a child desiring to become an opera singer.
Hoping she was able live the dream...in little ways.