Friday, March 8, 2013

The Most Important Women of My Life!

I've been informed that March 8 is “International Women’s Day”…not sure what the significance is internationally.  I often think of how lucky I've been to grow up in the United States where I had no fear that I was to be married off at the age of 9, didn't have to worry about a father or brother having control over every aspect of my life or not having to fear that I would have conform myself to society’s more’s whatever they might be.  Instead, I've grown up with six wonderful examples of what a woman should be.  The day before I turned 12 years old, I had three great grandmothers and two grandmothers still alive – they along with my mother taught me lessons by examples that were priceless.

On that day so long ago when we lost my great grandmother, who was mostly called Mom Friddle.  I knew just a small part of the person that she had been.  By the time I knew her, she had lost a lot of mobility because of a broken hip and had a constantly shaking head probably from something like Parkinsons.  I knew that she told fabulous stories and was probably one of the most interesting people in my young mind.  I didn't know about her marriage at 14 and traveling west with a baby alone when she was 16.  It never occurred to me that this little woman was capable of building houses by herself or that she had gone from a spoiled child to a strong, capable woman by refusing to believe that she couldn't do something.  She taught life lessons to her daughter and granddaughter by illustrating to them that a woman was capable of doing anything necessary.

Grandma Cappy was definitely her mother’s daughter.  I always knew that my grandmother was strong willed and had a “spine of steel!”  As I grew up and learned more about her…I found that that steel had been forged through a lot of hardship.  Going to college during the depression and getting that first teaching job took a lot of sacrifice and hard work on her part as well as that of her parents.  When she saw her students who didn't have enough to eat…she made sure they had a meal by fixing it herself during the school day on the wood stove from vegetables from her parent’s garden and meat from her boyfriend’s hunting.  When she lost her husband to a hunting accident and had to face a life without the love of her life, she didn't waste a lot time feeling sorry for herself.  Grandma Cappy made sure that she could provide for her children through her own business.  When she remarried, there was much that she did on her own…not really thinking that she needed anyone else to take care of something that she was capable of doing herself.  I still remember with a great deal of admiration about the way she lived the last few years of her life.  Despite crippling arthritis, she never complained or stopped trying to do for herself and family.  The only time when I ever saw her really ask for help was when she couldn't sew a button on a shirt that had come off.  She would soak her hands in hot water to get them to the things that she needed to do and then get it done!

Granny was my step grandfather’s mother.  She died when I was 13 years old.  Every memory I have of her is sweet and loving.  I can remember sitting at her feet and listening to her and Mom Friddle tell stories of their childhood and making everything sound like an adventure.  I never knew how hard her life must have been until after she had died.  Granny (Nettie Pearl Moody Shearer) was married to Floyd Shearer and had three sons.  She did something in the early 1950’s that many women of her generation never had the courage to do.  Granny left her husband and got a job as a cook and supported herself.  Granny’s husband was if not physically abusive, definitely emotionally abusive.  The type of courage that it must have taken for a woman who was over 60 years old to leave her husband and forge a new life on her own was impressive. 

If you drew a picture or tried to describe the perfect grandmother, that would have been my Dad’s grandmother, Florence Shawver Gage.   She was well known for her cooking abilities and my Dad said that the only time she ever said a cross word to him was when he slammed the door when she had an Angel Food cake in the oven.  I don’t know how she did it…but she made each grandchild and great grandchild feel like they were special and important to her.  Grandma had over 35 grandchildren and around 40 great grandchildren as well as 10 great great grandchildren when she died at 93 years old.  There were a lot of things that made her special…her kindness, loving attention and her sweet smile.  This is a woman who began her adult life as a teacher in a one room school and taught until she had her first child.  She had to pick up and leave her home during the depression with six children in tow.  Within a year, they had to leave that home as well in order to move to Idaho.  Through being married for over 73 years, having 10 children losing two of them during her lifetime she never lost her faith in God and never lost her positive outlook.  She had a special talent for managing her husband and children without them really realizing that they had been managed.  Grandma Florence knew the art of subtlety and also the art of loving,  both are rare qualities!

I knew Grandma Marian the longest…having only lost her on Dec. 30, 2011.  Grandma Marian didn't have the subtle touch of her mother nor her patience…and she knew it.  I think that Grandma Marian was a lot more like her father…more apt to dive into something head first without a great deal of tact or patience.  Grandma Marian probably had a harder go of it than her mother.  Grandma Marian and Grandpa Frank never had financial security and it was always a struggle.  However, Grandma Marian was never one to complain about what she didn't have…she made the best of what she did have.  The most important thing in her life was her family and they all knew it.  Grandma Marian had a questing intellect and throughout her 91 years never stopped learning and educating herself.  She learned out to scan photos and to use a computer in her 80’s.  If you wanted to know something about the larger family – she was a marvelous font of information.  Everyone felt like they could talk to her and she was always interested in what was going on in her children and grandchildren’s lives as well as that of her siblings and their families.  Grandma Marian had the talent that her mother had had…she made all of her children and grandchildren feel special and important to her.  When we have our next family reunion…there will be an empty spot at our tables for her…but I know she will always be there in spirit.

The most important woman in my life was my mother.  We lost her over seven years ago.  If you are lucky…you have a mother like mine.  She was strict but fair...always interested in our lives and certainly willing to let us know what she thought.  Mom was shaped by her grandmother and mother’s ideas as to how a woman should conduct herself.  She was independent, strong minded and never allowed someone else to dictate what she should or should not do in her life.  Mom was also fun!  My brother’s friends used to spend a great deal of time at our house because Mom was always willing to be part of the fun.  Whether it was playing ancient video games, playing board games or cards or putting together a puzzle…Mom was in the middle of it all.  Mom struggled with health problems her entire life and she never let it get her down or stop her from living her life to the fullest.  I can still hear my mother’s voice guiding me and I believe that it is the most wonderful gift that a mother can give to a daughter – unconditional love and honesty.

I would like to think that I have tried meld some of those admirable qualities that these six women showed me during their lifetimes.  I try to keep a positive outlook.  While I might seek advice on many of the decisions in my life – I realize that I alone am responsible for my decisions and therefore must make my mind up on my own.   I would like to think that I have some of Grandma Cappy and Mom Friddle’s independence, the love of family that my Grandma Florence and Grandma Marian showed, hopefully some of the courage of Granny Shearer and hopefully I can keep the positive outlook and sense of fun that my mother always showed.  I am fortunate to be a woman who lives in the United States and have all of the privileges and rights that come with that…but I am wonderfully fortunate to have had women in my life who showed me how to be a woman.  I only hope I can live up to their examples!