My grandmother was a wise woman. She never said very much. I remember her presense most of all. That and the fact that at eighty years of age she had almost no gray in her hair, she had the most beautiful reddish brown "tan" of anyone I had ever seen, and the most beautiful cheekbones.
My mothers people were all German and Scotch-Irish so I was pale, fair, and redhaired. I never tanned. I burnt. or...I cooked bright red looking like a lobster. Thank heaven's as I have aged my hair darkened and now at almost 50 I have very little gray in my dark hair, but I still can't dare venture into the sun.
My grandmother cooked for everyone everyday as if she were having a feast. She had given birth to nine children that I am aware of, two which passed before they were a year old. I asked her about them, the dead ones I called them, just one time being curious.
She just said "They could not stay dear. They just could not stay."
Later my aunts and uncles would tell me the children died "probably of pneumonia and back then, no one really knew much to do with sick babies."
So my grandmother cooked for grandpa and six children and worked cropping tobacco or picking cotton before and after meals in the fields with grandpa. They were what you'd call share croppers now. They never had indoor plumbing until the last few years of their lives when all the grown kids "insisted" and built one onto the back porch.
Grandma saw no need for one, but I was scared of the hogs and the outhouse was in the pen beyond the fence and not far from the chicken coup. I was always in sheer terror the hogs would eat me, or the chickens attack and peck me to death.
And if that didn't happen I was terrified I would fall into that huge black hole in the outhouse or the snkaes I was sure were down there would get me. I was ready for the indoor "john."
With share cropping grandpa would have the house free to live in and would till the land and harvest whatever, he and all the young un's that were old enough to toddle and do anything. Wash day for all of us was this huge wash tub stuck out in the back yard and once I was old enough to be shy, I dreaded anyone that might drive by on the dirt road out front and "see" me.
Grandma would fix the meals and then not until after everyone ate would she quietly eata little, and that mostly as she cleaned the kitchen and put the bisquits in the pantry covered for later.
She named my daddy Jauquin. It is not spelled the way the Juaquin Valley was and I often wondered if it was just because she couldn't spell but when I asked her about the name she gently set me straight.
My grandmother told me that she had named him that because it meant "one who walks upright, bold like a bear". Now I have no way of knowing if grandmother was right. I cannot find the word spelled that way to look it up and she is long gone, as are both my parents and all of my family now.
I have often wondered what was in that name and what clan she would have been. Her maiden name was "White". I imagine that was rather common for the white man to just rename the Natives with whatever "christian" name they saw fit.
I look at my grandmother's pictures from time to time. There are only a small handful. She hated camera's for some reason and for that same unknown reason I don't like them either.
"There is something about them I don't care for." That's what she would say if I pestered her for an answer. That was the way it was with grandma, she never talked a lot unless you stayed on her heels.
I don't think I ever heard her raise her voice, but there were a thousand words in some of her looks. I think the day that I remember most is when mom and I rode up to the house to tell her my father, her son, had died.
She took one look at mom and I and this sound came from deep within her soul and heart like nothing that I had ever heard. My dad was her firstborn. I don't remember her weeping, I just remember that sound that came from somewhere beyond words and beyond human sound. I didn't understand then like I do now what it is like to see your child die.
She was never the same after that and my uncle found her in bed one morning, way past when she would have been up doing things around the house. She had gone to sleep, and I guess she "just couldn't stay here anymore."
I miss her. I miss all the things that I never asked her. I miss all the things she never got to teach me and I never got to learn. I even miss her silence, because it was filled with her presense.