My maternal grandmother helped raise me. That is relevant to this narrative because, as I was growing up, I spent a lot of time around her. I heard all the stories of her family and of her childhood growing up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The love of my grandmother’s life was her first husband. I don’t recall how they met; probably at church. He worked as a truck driver for the ice company. They “kept company” for a time and married in 1913. He was 18; she one year older.
As she described it they were happy. Unfortunately they had only been married a little over 2 years when he suffered a head injury in a baseball game and died a few days later. They had no children. His parents were living and he had a brother and 2 sisters but I never heard her mention having any contact with them after she became a widow.
As a child, there were two parts of this story that fascinated me. First, I was astounded that someone could be mortally wounded playing baseball. Secondly, his mother’s name was Mattie and her maiden name had been Bobo. As a little boy I thought the name Mattie Bobo was hysterically funny. So much so that I still remember it 50 yrs later.
Eight months after the death of her first husband, my grandmother married my grandfather. He had been briefly married to another woman who became pregnant with another man. I never learned all the details of that story. I guess there are some things people won’t tell a child. As my grandmother told the story, my grandfather, who had been a close friend of her late husband’s came to her and proposed. Specifically, he said’ “I don’t love you and you don’t love me but we both need to be married so let’s get married.” They married on January 29, 1916.
They had their first child 19 months later, a baby boy, but he lived only 2 days. A year later they had their second child and over the following 10 years they had two more.
My grandmother said their feelings never really changed toward each other very much. He was a good man who supported his family as a coal miner. In retirement he spent most of his time fishing, working on outboard motors and growing vegetables. He was always in the garage and she was always in the house with her parakeets or in the yard tending her roses. He always called her “Dutchman”. I never heard an explanation for how she got that nickname. No one else ever called her that. They’d been married for 48 years when he died in 1964.
While my grandmother may have felt no great passion for her husband, she loved her sons and, truth be told, her grandsons. After losing her first son as a new-born, she doted on her second and third sons. Objectively they both struggled in life but they were her pride and joy until the day they died. Unfortunately she outlived them both.
I think my mother had a difficult time growing up as the only girl. My grandmother’s preference for the boys was never subtle. On the other hand, my mother was much closer to my grandfather than either of her brothers were.
My grandmother had 4 grandsons and two granddaughters and the hierarchy was always clear in that next generation as well. She liked the boys better. I was a half-step behind my 3 male cousins because they were the sons of her sons. I was the son of her daughter. Still, in her eyes, we were all a full step ahead of the girls.
She has at least 2 great-grandsons. There may be more since none of the cousins have remained in contact. Unfortunately she didn’t live long enough to get to know them. She died in 1984 at the age of 91; having outlived both husbands and all three of her sons.