Monday, September 13, 2004

I remember Mama

Minnie Ashworth was born on September 13, 1888. She was never afforded much of a childhood. Her mother, Mary Heard, was only about 14 years older than she, and it fell to her to help her mother take care of her brothers and sister.

Her life was not easy. Her father, Owen Ashworth, went to prison in 1898 and died the same year. Her mother married another man whom she subsequently divorced for deserting her and her children. Young Minnie and her mother worked very hard to keep the family fed and clothed.

She was a pious woman. My grandmother raised me to believe the word Christian was a verb, not a noun. Christian is the way you act, not what you call yourself. My grandmother walked the Christian path all of the 40 years I knew her. She never wavered.

She wouldn't have a television in her home until well into the 1960s. She said it was a tool of the devil. I sit here 50 years later and have come to the same conclusion. In 1952, she was newly widowed, living in a 4-room frame home with porches across the back and front, each room with a door to the rooms next to it and one out onto the porch. While it had electricity, it did not have indoor plumbing. That would come at the end of the 50s, just before sputnik.

I remember my grandmother's bed which was a metal frame with slats and about six or seven mattresses piled one on the other. When cousins stayed overnight (which was often), a mattress would be pulled down to the floor around the bed, sometimes as many as three. My brother and I shared a rollaway bed, but I more often than not slept with my grandmother. Usually I would be asleep by the time she came to bed, but if I was awake when she came to bed, I would ask her the kind of crazy things a five-year-old asks his grandmother. If I cried for my mother and father, which I'm sure I did, it was into this generous bosom I was hugged. We were very poor in material wealth, but rich in family and tradition. My grandmother was genuinely loved by hundreds of people, all of them related in some way. Day in and day out, cousins, whose genealogy would be explained to me by my grandmother and her oldest daughter, Elsie, came calling on her, bringing her gifts of food and love. By the time I was ten I was convinced that I was related to everyone in the world. I believe that all of the good that I am comes from this time when I was being raised by her.

Minnie was married Joseph William "Bud" Droddy for 46 years. Minnie had told her cousins that she wasn't going to marry until someone came along and gave her a gold watch. Bud gave her a gold watch. They had eight children, my mother being their youngest.

On the night of December 7, 1952, on a foggy highway in East Texas, my father was killed along with several others in a terrible car wreck. Fate had delivered two young boys, one 5 and one 8, into her hands for raising.

When I speak about my grandmother raising my brother and me, I almost feel like I'm being disloyal to my mother for remembering my grandmother's sacrifices. My mother never abdicated her responsibility for my brother and me, fiercely protecting her rights and responsibilities as a mother. Sometimes that fierceness clouds from her vision the contributions made by others.

My grandmother grew weak and feeble the last ten years of her life, losing her eyesight, her ability to move around independently. She became so very frail. These are very painful images in my mind. That is not how I choose to remember her. This is how I choose to remember her, out in the garden working.She died on May 15, 1986, just a few months before her 98th birthday.

1 comment:

Ray Bridges said...

The information at the bottom of the photo is incorrect. The photo was found by one of her grandnieces who wasn't sure of the exact kinship. She was Charlie Ashworth's sister, and aunt to Bernice Clark.