As a wee young girl I remember clearly hanging out with my maternal great-grandmother at her condo in Long Beach. She had these seemingly huge walk-in closets with loads of hats. She and I would play dress-up for hours.
I learned only recently that she used to make hats. Hearing that made me wish I had some of her home-seen creations.
She also had this spectacular cherry four poster canopy bed. She had amazing taste.
I loved her in ways I can’t explain, and I love her more with each passing day, even though she is no longer part of this physical creation.
She lived a most interesting life. As a young girl she grew up on a poor plantation. She loved school but had to leave in the fourth grade to take care of her new siblings, something she always resented.
Her first husband (she had a few) and the father of my grandmother, cheated on her with a woman who had five children of her own and contracted syphillis. As the story goes my great-grandmother gave him much grief for his transgression. Seeing no way out he attempted to kill himself by ingesting poison. This failed but had related tragic consequences when my grandmother’s dog ate the poisoned vomit and died.
For years my grandmother thought her dad deliberately poisoned her dog and she never forgave him for that.
Shortly after the botched poison attempt my great-grandfather shot himself. His family blamed my great-grandmother and cut off contact. My great-grandmother then sent my grandmother to a convent and took to spending her time dancing with soldiers at the Coronado hotel in San Diego.
She married several more times during her life. All her subsequent husbands died of natural causes. One of them really liked my grandmother so they brought her home from the convent and by the time he died it was too late to send her back.
My great-grandmother loved me. And I loved her. I sensed her strength even as a young girl. I loved visiting with her. It was like having tea with the queen.
She outlived her daughter who died from a series of strokes before they really knew what to do for high blood pressure and strokes. Shortly after my great-grandmother turned 93 she could no longer live on her own and went to a nursing home where she lived it up and made all the Hispanic orderlies her boyfriends. She survived there for three months.
I think they buried her in a white casket.
She left my mom or my aunt a beautiful diamond ring. My mom never wore it as she has a diamond ring that belonged to her mom and she wore that.
I begged her for my great-grandmother’s ring for years and years but she refused until a few weeks ago. One day there was a robbery a half mile or so from her house and she realized then that it would be better for me to have the ring now than for a thief to steal it. On a side note my aunt had a beautiful gold bracelet that she never wore but refused to allow me to have. A robber stole that bracelet from her house one day, so my mom understood the deeper meaning.
I now have this amazing ring that graced my great-grandmother’s hand for so many years. In wearing it I feel as though I have a piece of her with me. A piece of an incredibly strong and vibrant woman who lived life her way.