2016-04-06 / Editorial


Don Lively

(Reprinted from 2012)

Diaries have been kept for centuries.

Eve probably wrote one complaining about Adam moseying around naked in the garden, before the serpent invaded Eden of course.

Folks have recorded their every day doings forever, so the passage I was reading was not by any standard all that old.

“Tend hogs, biddies. Set out some flowers. It starts to rain. Mr. Chandler came to sell me a tombstone. Kids came in said Cat had another boy. Van and I go to pasture. Then I go see baby. “

Cat was Mama.

The baby was me.

That’s how my grand entrance was immortalized by my Grandma Julia in her journal.

Notice that she took the time for her daily cow count before she made her way to the hospital. I totally get that. First things first. Grandma was a hardcore pragmatist.

After all, she had already welcomed over two dozen grandchildren into our clan and there would come another twenty some-odd more before that riptide of progeny finally ebbed. One of her thirteen children having another baby was about as routine to her as gathering eggs from her setting hens.

Grandma was crowding ninety when she died. I was in my mid thirties and had no idea that she kept a diary for a few years, her first entry at the bulls-eye of the 20th century.

My aunt and one of her daughters recently took on the painstaking task of deciphering hundreds of pages of Grandma’s handwritten notes and compiling them into a published volume while staying true to her words and thoughts. In the process they have presented our family with a gift of much more than simply a narrative of her life for a few years.

They have given us a treasure.

April 29th, 1954.“Go to Augusta with Eunice, Mrs. Chew, Mrs. Mead. Buy a glider chair.“

I remember that glider. My sibs and cousins and I lounged on it for hours whiling away the evening while the grownups visited. I can still picture exactly where it used to sit on her front porch. It might even still be there.

It’s kinda cool knowing exactly when she bought it.

Some of her written reflections were quite funny though I doubt she intended them to be.

January 10th, 1950.“Saw Byron Cullen. Told me Bud was better".

January 11th, 1950. “Hugh came, told me Bud was dead.“

Whoever Byron Cullen was, he obviously wasn’t a good judge of “better“.

As if Grandma didn’t already have her hands full with thirteen children, by that time several of them had married. One entry named two of her sons-in-law who had taken her youngest boy with them on a Saturday night on the town.

September 5th, 1953. “They came home 2 a.m. drunk as cooters“.

Between Jesus and Julia I suspect those two suffered for their sins that Sunday morning.

Some of her writing was notable for what was said, and what wasn’t.

November 4th, 1952. “I go to Shellbluff. Vote while QU sat with Dad. I went home. We get Dad up twice today.“

"Dad" is how she referred to her husband, my grandfather. Dad was dying. But she still made the time to fulfill her civic responsibility. The vote she cast was in one of the most pivotal elections of that century, when Dwight David Eisenhower became the first Republican president in twenty years, though I doubt that Grandma helped with his landslide victory since the Deep South contributed a total of 21 of his 442 electoral votes.

I daresay Grandma didn’t like Ike.

On April 18th, 1955 she wrote something but then scratched through it making it unreadable. That was the day Albert Einstein died. Could she have been commenting on his death? Extremely doubtful.

Perhaps it said, “Little Donnie is over two years old now and still my favorite grandbaby.“

Then, reconsidering, she obliterated it to avoid future discord.

Okay, perhaps not.

I did learn a lot about the woman I simply called Grandma.

That she often suffered from headaches but I can honestly say I never heard her complain of one.

That she wasn’t a perfect speller but usually she made herself perfectly clear and I find every misspelling endearing.

That she worked every day, Sundays included, rarely missed church and cooked a million meals.

And that she faced reality bravely.

January 1st, 1952. “Dad will probably go during the year. Dear God give me the strength to go on working to improve ourselves spiritually, physically and mentally.“

Mission accomplished Grandma.

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