My grandmother would not have won a parenting award. She was extremely strict and stingy with hugs and kisses. Her background contributed greatly to her mothering style. She lived through the depression and married at 17 a man she met when she was attending the University of Georgia. At 19, she gave birth to twins, one was a stillborn daughter, the other, my father. When Daddy was 4, Grandmama divorced my grandfather, which was a shameful act in 1929. As a result, she left her home and went to live with her grandparents in Homestead, FL, to spare her immediate family social repercussions of her decision.
Grandmama grew up quickly and worked extremely hard to provide for herself and her little boy. There wasn’t room for coddling. Daddy grew up knowing he had to fend for himself and handle fears and insecurities on his own. At 17, he asked his mother to let him drop out of the Citadel and go off to war. She signed the papers to send her only child off to WWII.
I’ve read the letters Daddy sent to his mother during the war. He loved her dearly. I’ve also listened to him talk about her and her talk about him. Their relationship was so very complicated. Daddy was never totally certain about his mother’s love. She held him at a distance. But – she was one of my closest friends. I have a lifetime of letters back and forth detailing our relationship.
All the affection and affirmation she withheld from her own son she gave freely to me. Being a grandmother gave her a second chance at being a loving and giving adult in a little one’s life. Thank God for second chances!
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