My grandmother was born to a century that was not ready for her skills, an era not prepared to acknowledge her talents as being those belonging to and being exercised by a woman. It is a shame because she would have done exemplary things, but a blessing in disguise by relegating all of her talents solely to raising a daughter and a son and grandparenting (and so many times simultaneously parenting) two grandsons and a granddaughter.
My grandmother, Eva Miller, was orphaned at the age of 9. Given away at the grave, her uncle Hezekiah (called by the informal names of Uncle Hezzie and Kai) took her in and raised her in Richmond, Kentucky which is the home of the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels. Hezzie was a pastor, fulfilling a promise he made to God when fighting in Europe with the American contingent of the Allies. Hezzie had been attacked in the trenches by mustard gas and doctors did not think he was going to survive the initial recovery stage, much less the trip back home. To their surprise, Hezzie made a full recovery. It was a recovery that Hezzie credited to God with whom he had made a deal: if God would allow him to get back to American soil and regain his ability to speak, he would dedicate his life to speaking God's Word. God upheld his end and Hezzie proceeded to return the favor. When Hezzie returned to Kentucky he went to Berea College and was ordained a minister. Hezzie was a good man with whom my grandma credits much of her moral upbringing and sense of right and wrong. In that, Uncle Hezzie has influenced my moral compass by helping my grandma set her's. While Hezzie was a good man, he married a woman that had mental issues that played a role in the physical and mental abuse of my grandmother. As sad as it is that my grandmother had to suffer it, she reminded me all of my life that "Kill 'em with kindness" is a maxim that ought to be lived when possible because it leaves one's soul clean and of clear conscience.
My grandmother worked at the Bluegrass Ordnance Depot, fulfilling yet again Kentuckians' role in the national defense industry as well fleshing one part of my family's history in it. In those post-war years the economy in Kentucky was being eclipsed by that of its neighbor to the north, Cincinnati. Industry was growing by leaps and bounds in this area which is what drew so many people like my grandmother. Kentucky lost many of its best and brightest workers as they drove and got rides up U.S. Route 25, which loops Richmond and deposited many a Kentuckian on the far bank of the Ohio River. Many Kentuckians from that group then proceeded further north to the city that I was born, raised and live in: Hamilton, Ohio.
Hamilton was a big paper and machine tool producer in the early 1950's Grandpa and grandma both worked at Champion Paper Mill and after a quick courtship they married on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 1953. Their first child followed, coming into the world as a boy named Michael Ray Miller. Mike was named after my grandpa's father, a man of German stock named Ray Miller. A daughter, my mother, came a couple of years later on July 24th, 1956 and was given the name Phyllis Ann because my grandparents liked it and thought it had a good ring to it.
The care and raising of children and keeping of a spotless house came to be my grandma's business rather than participating in the production of paper any longer. When Mel Sirk, of the Sirk Reality dynasty offered her a job selling real estate for his firm after meeting her at a fundraiser where she had convinced him to buy a gaggle of the item that was raising funds for the school that night the decision went home with them. The answer came back to Mr. Sirk as a "No thank you, sir," because societal mores had not advanced quickly enough in suburban 1960's Ohio for a woman to hold a higher status job than her husband and my grandfather was an electrician (and a damn good one that never missed a day of work) while my grandmother would have been a real estate saleswoman. I firmly believe that my grandma would have established her own real estate firm and created a small dynasty but fate intervened in other ways.
In 1972 my grandfather ran for Hanover Township Trustee and was elected on the strength of his and my grandmother's stellar booster support and volunteer work for Ross High School, her extensive social ties and the family of four's determination to hit every door in the township. His subsequent re-election campaigns still relied on her extensive social ties, the determination of the now-larger family to hit doors as well as the placement of signs urging the re-election of Gerald Miller to Hanover Trustee. Some of my fondest memories are of going door-to-door with my grandma when I was old enough (1984, 88, 92, 96 and 2000) and talking with Hanover Township voters, listening to their concerns as well as helping her craft answers to newspaper questionnaires about grandpa's stances on the issues.
In December of 1982 my grandmother slipped on some ice at the Ross High School parking lot and fell, herniating 5 of her discs. As she went into disability my mother was preparing to return to work from maternity leave as a the secretary of a top executive at Champion's International headquarters in Hamilton, Ohio. My mother would pack me up and take me to my grandparents' house and as mom headed off to Champion's headquarters, my grandpa would head to the mill as one of the chief electricians and it would just be grandma and me. She would let me "make tea" (which consisted of repeatedly pouring water from a teapot into teacups, then back into the pot, then repeating endlessly) and "cook" (bang pots and pans around mercilessly) as well as watch Sesame Street with me and read to me. This went on for the first two years of my life, by which point she was like a surrogate mother to me.
Over the next seven years to 1991 she variously read or sang me to sleep, sometimes rocked me to sleep happening less and less as the years went on as my mother did. Then in 1991 my grandma and grandpa split up. I won't go into specifics but it was just time for them to go their separate ways. My grandma got an apartment and I would spend the night over there frequently watching television with her.
As I got into 7th grade, my mom had to return to work. Prior to that she had been picking me up from school but now my grandma would be. Starting from 7th grade onward my grandma subsidized my growing curiosity in history, military science, the history of warfare and politics (its history, nature and great figures) by taking me to the library and then materially depriving herself in the process, taking me on monthly trips to Borders Books & Music so that I could select the books I would read that month and build my own personal library. If anyone wonders why my grandmother lived like a pauper it was so that I could live as an intellectual king.
While grandpa was an important part of my political education, it was my grandma that yielded the far greater portion of my political education by subsidizing my reading and by talking politics with me frequently, which became our little thing that we shared. She was always educated, always well-read and always up on the subject. Never did a night go by that she did not read her newspaper, have a cable news channel on in the background and do crosswords. She was the first person to teach me about lifetime learning and how it is integral to success. Pursuit of knowledge out of a love of it was a reward in itself. She taught me this by example.
After she became independent in 1991, she fell prey to a practice that many women who become divorced or widowed at that age do: they do not keep up on their medical tests. Let my grandmother be a warning to you: your grandmothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, nieces and granddaughters should be tested as suggested by the American Medical Association. My grandmother succumbed to full-body bone cancer because for ten years she did not have her mammogram and for the last five of those ten years a cancerous tumor was growing in her right breast, infiltrating the rest of her body and metastasizing the cancer throughout her body to a point that it could not be stopped. Don't let that be the person you love: stay on them to get tested regularly and get tested yourself. There is only pain and heartache when a lifelong mentor & teacher, someone you love dearly and someone you wish had more time is taken away by a disease that could have been detected and eliminated 5 years before symptoms started showing. If it is you that hasn't had your testing done, it's very simple: spare them the pain of goodbyes by getting tested and, if those tests show anything, get treated. Don't let someone you love fall victim to something that could have been discovered and eliminated years before through routine testing.
My humble suggestion is that the women of your family take a single day, schedule all their appointments back-to-back and then make a day of it and go out to eat afterwards like they do shopping trips.