She Survives

Today would have been my Grammie’s birthday. I kissed her gravestone twice today as I passed it on my run. I live on the land she raised her children on and there was no doubt I was closer to her than any other grandparent. I think of her often, especially when I sit on my porch and look down my yard to the apple trees. This was the same view she had when she sat on her deck–which she didn’t do that often. She was always busy (Mom was so much like her!) although in her later years she took more time out to sit and chat and read and crochet.

My sister and I talk about the “Thibeau Women” sometimes. Grammie’s first marriage was to my grandfather, my mom’s father, and he was a Thibeau. Although really we should talk about the “Bonney Women”, that was Gram’s maiden name. Her mother was an incredibly hard worker like all of her descendants. But they were all more than that. They were survivors.

Myrtle, my Grammie, buried two sons and two husbands. One of her sons died as a baby and another as a toddler. She did raise 4 daughters and one son, most of whom were strong individuals. As I look at them with my eyes now, I see the trauma they all suffered and dealt with in their own ways. My grandfather was an alcoholic and all the stories I’ve heard tell me he was not an easy person to live with, whether you were his child or his wife. He had a heart attack and died on this land I’m living on a short time before I was born.

After that Grammie worked in a local mental institution as a cleaning person. She eventually met her second husband through work. Bruce seemed to be pretty good to my Gram, although his incessant fat comments to me as a 7-year-old contributed to my low self-esteem and self-image that still reigns today. But he was not an alcoholic and he took Grammie traveling around the country which gave her much joy. That’s the one thing I’m grateful to Bruce for. Shortly after I got married, he also had a heart attack and died on this land. (My husband mentions these two deaths often lately. I can see why!)

Grammie has been gone for 18 years now. She died one month before her 85th birthday. Throughout my struggles these past few years, I often wish I could ask her how she did it. How did she get through it all? So, so many women and men dealt with these tragedies and war and food insecurity and they survived. Or many did. I wonder what Grammie thought about when she went to bed at night. I wonder if one reason she was always busy so she didn’t have to think of all she’d lost. Especially her children. I know that her many grandchildren made her happy and her living children did, too, but my god, so much happened to her. And you know, Grammie was very small–under 5 feet tall–but her inner strength seemed immeasurable. All of her children had a healthy dose of fear when it came to her anger, because Gram RARELY got angry. When she did? You better not be at the other end of her wrath because not only did you anger her, but you disappointed her. And that was something no one wanted. We loved and respected her too much to ever want her to feel that way about us.

Grammie, I know you didn’t drink, but I’m toasting you tonight with a margarita. I love you. So damn much. If there is some kind of afterlife, I know you’re there with your children and grandchildren. Hug Phil tight, ok? I can imagine you’ve never left his side. And tell Mom and Dad I love them. And miss them. I miss all of you.

Yes, Grammie is in a wagon.

Cheers to you, Grammie, the Matriarch of the Bad-Ass Bonney, Thibeau and Williams Clans. ❤

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