Today would have been my grandmother’s 102nd birthday. Happy Birthday Grandma! My dad reminded me today, with a tear in his eye, that she would have been 102.
She was born Elsie Mae Cooley in Blackgum, OK. She was raised at the bottom of Tenkiller Lake, before it was evacuated and flooded in order to create a man-made lake. She married her childhood sweetheart , Richard Davis. That began a long, hard journey of marriage, kids, grandkids, war, and poverty. They were Okies who headed west to California in order to find work. They returned to Oklahoma and bought a piece of land in West Tulsa, and lived out of a tent with their children until their house was built.
My grandfather was a machinist. My grandmother was a stay at home mom, giving birth to 10 children who lived past infancy and into adulthood, and possibly 2 more that did not make it past their first few months. Grandma was a Pentecostal woman, with a deep faith in God. Grandpa was an alcoholic who knew that no matter what he did, he had a faithful wife waiting at home for him. He may not have been faithful, and he may have been abusive at times, and he may have been a scrapper, but she loved him.
She became pregnant with my dad, her youngest, when she was 42. Ashamed at being pregnant yet again at such a ghastly age, she tried to keep the pregnancy very low key. Dad was born April 29th, 1950, right after she turned 43, a preemie weighing under 2 lbs. Both nearly died, and both spent the years following with health issues. My grandmother had a weak heart, and my father grew up in fear of losing his mom.
Grandma was a rock for my dad, and she shaped who he is today in so many ways. By the time my dad was born, my grandfather had mellowed with age. Grandpa died in 1970, when my mom was pregnant with my sister. Grandma died after my sister was born, in 1971. My dad was 21 and had lost both of his parents.
I was born in 1972, so I missed out on ever seeing my grandmother. But I know she sees me. I have heard so many stories of her, and I am filled with admiration for her. She held her head high, through some horrific circumstances. She always had faith in God. My mom loved her almost as much as my dad. When I was a kid, age 11, I remember suddenly being overwhelmed with a feeling of her presence. It was a hard time for me socially, and I remember just sensing that she was near and watching over me. I never discussed it, because I knew it sounded weird. I just knew in my heart that someone very comforting was with me.
So, happy birthday grandma!