The girls and I spent the afternoon hanging out with Grandma. We gabbed about family matters and the pros and cons of homeschooling, while the girls greedily shoved handfuls of popcorn into their tiny little mouths.
Our last gab session was when I interviewed her at StoryCorps, “a national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others’ story in sound,” and boy was I inspired!
My Grandmother is 85 years old and awesome! She regularly descends and climbs three flights of stairs to do all sorts of tasks that should either be put off or re-assigned to some other less aged body, and yet I still have to call before visiting to ensure that she’s actually home. She’s a mover and a shaker; the quintessential Matriarch of our family, and she exemplifies patience, forgiveness and unconditional love.
As we settled into our folding chairs across from one another in the small dimly lit sound booth, suddenly I felt an abundance of gratefulness. Maybe it was the soft light shining on her face as she gently clutched her purse in her lap, or maybe it was the sudden realization that in all my life I had never sat directly in front of her with quiet anticipation of what gems of history she’d unearth…just for me. Her voice crackled with the weight of age and wisdom as she stated her name, birthdate and birth place. “My name is Erma Jean Bennett, I was born on February 15, 1928 in Brownsville, Tennessee.”
My eyes welled up and I felt my chest tighten as my mind lingered on the comforting familiarity of her voice. Finally, I could keep her with me…always.
I learned that my Grandmother’s family owned and operated a farm in Brownsville, Tennessee that supplied all of their food (except flour and sugar), and I mourned with her over the tragic loss of that very farm for a mere $50 debt. She shared with me that her first boyfriend was named Roscoe and that my Grandfather Ira’s first words to her were simply “I’m likin’ you!”
We giggled about how difficult it had become for her to name all 13 siblings and 10 children and we dared not enter into the realm of naming grandkids and great grandkids. She went on to discuss the tragic scenario of the destruction of the West Side of Chicago following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, but emphasized that she was most disheartened by the murder of their beloved neighborhood Alderman, Benjamin Lewis, who did incredible things for their community; his case has yet to be solved.
She fervently expressed her commitment to raising God-fearing and obedient children, in the midst of poverty, and repeatedly confessed her love for God and her home church (Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, where the souls of men come first).
She even shared her personal mantra, “When you do right, right will follow you.”
I nodded in agreement.
We sang her favorite song “Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross” and closed our interview affirming our love for one another.
She trusted me with her story…and I was so honored.
As this holiday season progresses and family and friends gather to celebrate and appreciate one-another, I’m committing to having authentic conversations about life and love… and I hope you will too. Whether you decide to head to StoryCorps to document those stories or if you decide to simply file them away into the recesses of your mind, you’re guaranteed to transform every relationship you have… one authentic question at a time.
When’s the last time you’ve had an authentic conversation with someone you love?
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