Back in 1998, I gave my “Grandmama” a book called The Story of a Lifetime which was a 383 paged book with questions which prompted her to record her life story so far. On my 25th birthday, 10 months later, she gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received—the entire book completed in her handwriting.
As we have started preparing to move, I came across this book and felt compelled to share a little about Grandmama’s life. She is still living and very active, at 83. Grandmama is incredibly special to me. I grew up living next door to her and she was my primary babysitter for much of my childhood. Her heartbreak in 1984, was really the catalyst for my involvement in the church and ultimately my Christian faith. Since I have the gift of her words, I am going to allow Grandmama’s writing to tell much of this story.
“Buck came home from leave after being overseas with the Navy for 19 months. He called me for a date and we dated during his leave. When he got to his new base at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, he wrote and asked me to spend my vacation with him. I refused to go alone so his Mother and my Mother went with me on the train for a week. Mama stayed with old friends of hers and Mrs. Dobbs (Granddaddy’s mother) and I shared a room in a home near the hospital. On Sunday night, before we were to catch the train home Monday afternoon, we were swinging on the front porch when he asked me to stay and marry him. The boys in service could melt you down with, ‘I don’t know when they’ll send me back—and then I may not come back.’”
They were married the next day, August 23, 1943 with both mothers as witnesses (and using Granddaddy’s mother’s ring). Over the course of the next 40 years, Buck & Betty had 6 children and 12 grandchildren. Then, after 40 1/2 years of marriage, Granddaddy gave Grandmama the shock of her life. He informed her that he did not want to be married anymore. She was completely blindsided and utterly devastated.
Granddaddy worked varied hours, hunted alone frequently and had the complete trust of Grandmama. She had no idea he had reunited with his “first love,” Gloria, whom he had dated immediately before Grandmama. According to family legend, Buck had proposed to Gloria before he went off to the Navy and she turned him down because she was too young. The story continues that when he returned on leave, she was married to someone else and had spent the money that he had been sending home to her.
I was away at Summer camp when Granddaddy left. I was 9 years old. I remember Mom cooked spaghetti for me the night I returned from camp. She always cooked spaghetti, my favorite, when there was bad news to share. I was completely dumbfounded by the news that Granddaddy had left. It simply defied reality as I understood it. I was hurt, confused, sad. My world was rocked. I remember thinking, if Granddaddy could leave Grandmama after all those years, no marriage was safe.
My Grandmama’s heart was broken. Her self esteem was shattered. Had he loved Gloria all those years? What had those 40 years meant to him? But, Grandmama is smart and strong. She pushed through. She was left with an automobile and the house, but knew she would have to work to pay her bills. She worked 2 jobs, refusing handouts from any of her children. She went back to college. She was at the church whenever the church doors were open…and ultimately, I started accompanying her.
I know you are wondering why I am posting such a bummer Valentine's post. It will make sense tomorrow. There is more to come...