Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beauty and the Bipolar. My Grandmother and Me.

This lovely picture is circa 1930 of a young Black girl who lived in Quincy, Florida.

She had the entire world to discover. She loved to sing, dance and worship God in her church. She trained as a nurse in school for ~2 years until she married her husband.

From that point, her life became devoted to God, her husband and her children.

She had 9 children.

There were times where this Black family could not make ends meet. Where the husband had to travel the roads in the United States to make money. There were times that there was little food and somehow by magic she was able to create a full course meal.

Then her husband gained stable employment with a very notable position, and eventually, the woman returned to college and got her bachelor's degree in education. It was after her last child was out of diapers. Then, she taught in the local elementary school.

The children who were in her class came from homes were the parents were worse off than her own family. By some mechanism, the kids in her class excelled. The children are now adults today, and they have fond memories of the teacher.

Then the grandchildren were being born, from the second oldest daughter to the first oldest son, and then the second oldest son, and more. Some of the grandchildren grew up near their grandmother and remembered how she loved them. It was with a strong 1930's-style of discipline. The grandchildren who grew far from their grandmother, did not quite understand her mentality until they got older.

I was one of the grandchildren that grew up far from my grandmother.

What was so remarkable about this woman? She was not famous. She was very opinionated. She sometimes appeared to be conceited. What was she about?

GRANDMOTHER was resilient in spite of it all...

She took the good with the bad. She prayed on it. The Bible was her reference book for all her decisions. Over time, she found her voice, and she expressed it with a pleasant astuteness. Her behavior for her generation was like that of Coretta Scott King. In fact she met her... Resolute, stylish, and inside toughness. When microaggressions occurred, she outmaneuver them like on the TV show, "Wipe Out" easily surpassing that obstacle course. People would say all kinds of mean things to her, and she should raise her head with pride and state quietly. "They talked about Jesus Christ, and you saw what they did to Him."

Living in the South, in the midst of white supremacy and overt racists, she recalls an incident when she returned home and was walking on a dirt road, when some white teenage boys in a beat up truck sped up to run her over to knock her off the road. She said if she did not jump out of the way, she would have been hit. She broke her coccyx tailbone, the last bone in her vertabral column when she jumped. I think that hurt her more emotionally as those were her experiences with racism, than the actually pain of breaking her tailbone.

Her education is what propelled her for debate. When she was a teenager, she could argue her points with logical precision. But during that time of the Depression, women, especially Black Women had little or no agency to move beyond their dreams. In 1934, she got married and learned a home was hard to keep without God driving the order. And then somehow, that system worked for my grandparents. How it worked, I am learning snippets from sources.

The reality is, it was no picnic with sunshine for my grandparents. Their forged in the might of God with fortitude to make choices. I believe both of them were very intelligent, but they had to be wise to survive. My grandfather loved the Bible as much, but he knew how to speak eloquently with his commanding voice. My grandmother was more reserved, but you HEARD her words.

When I became a young adult, I had a chance to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I did not grow up around them. I took every opportunity to leave Spelman on breaks and visit them in Daytona Beach. I would discuss ideas about life and for some reason, they would hear me talk and tell me things. I do know, I would not have graduated from Spelman if I did not visit my grandparents. My grandfather once told me his expectations of me graduating from college and for some reason that resonated with me more than my parents telling me. My grandmother told me how get through college and graduate school through the Lord using chapter and verse.

As I got older, I watched my grandmother's mannerisms, style and grace. They were not like my parents or my parents' friends. They were not like the stereotypes on television. No one can fathom a woman like my grandmother. She was too illustrious, too glamorous, and way too fabulous for simple character study of a storyline that television can convey.

When she would visit my parents, she would love to shop for anything in the mall. She would go to Neiman Marcus and test the pricey lotions. The snooty counter woman would remark with a microaggression. "You know, that's blah blah blah designer, it is very-very expensive..."

My grandmother would happily reply. "Oh? Give me some more!"

Very few of my friends had elder women like that that they respected.

I was fortunate to have her prominent in my early adult life. I see that today's Black women are finding their voice to achieve their dreams and I think that is amazing. While I am of a different generation from many of these Black women where my generation barely had a voice, we all now, have a lot of agency. In my opinion, the younger women have that WOW factor. However, I'm saddened to read their bitter tone and while I catch myself with those feels, I'm amazed they can say it succinctly but they offer little recourse from the pain. I wonder about the strides of these women throughout their lives. Life is already tought and to put on a happy face feels stupid. I get these young women are tired of cowtowing, yet, one can catch more flies with honey than with salt as the old adage says. However, is this mode of thinking for the battle or for the war? Because if it is only for the battle, then ranting on a blog to use one's powerful voice to being enraged to signify one's rage is short-lived and temporary, and is not a great strategy for winning this war.  Of course, that assumes if there is a war and if there should be one, not to mention that is a very male dominated construct.

I just go back wondering what my grandmother would say about all of this... She would say James 3:9-12:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Out of all the people who can work wonders on me without any formal degrees in psychiatry or psychology, my grandmother calmed me when I was at my worst bipolar mental stay. 

Then I have to remember one of her favorite Bible verses was Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

People around me can bash me, demean me, destroy me and hate me. But in the end, it is just me and they cannot touch that, because it belongs to God. 

I will continue living my life by the mere emulation of her, until I die.

"Beauty" at 90 years old