Sunday, July 14, 2013

getting older... my grandmas and I

Most summers our family trip to Michigan includes going to visit my grandmothers.  Seeing them only once a year, makes their aging and my own so much more present for me when I am with them.  Listening to my kids talk to their great grandmothers about our family history, looking at old pictures on the walls and spending time in the same houses I spent time in as a kid makes me feel that life is ephemeral, fleeting... before I know it, they will be gone and this part of where I come from won't be there any more.  How can I stop time from barreling forward?  Enjoy my kids being young, enjoy my pain free body and my husband at my side.  I am sure that my grandmothers cannot believe that they have lived for almost a hundred years.  When I spend time with my grandmas, it makes me feel like I should slow down, worry less about meaningless problems and call and write them more often.  I ask them a lot about their life stories because I want to remember.  I want to hear it from them.

My Grandma Jacqueline Cotney is 88 years old (top photos).  She is my mom's mom and they share a birthday.  She was an only child and so is my mother.  She was raised in Port Huron, Michigan surrounded by extended family.  Her mother worked as a seamstress and was a single mother until she married my grandmother's stepfather.  Her family relocated to northern Michigan. She came to Detroit to work where she met my grandfather downtown.  He worked as a heating and cooling technician and eventually got a job at a General Motors parts factory where he worked his way up to being a foreman.  They had my mom, moved around a bit and eventually ended up in Westland, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  After my mom was married and had my brother and I, they moved to Algonac, Michigan into a house that my grandfather built himself.  It is on a canal that connects to Lake St. Clair.  My grandmother still lives in that house.  My grandfather passed away a few of years ago.  My grandma is involved some local community groups and depends heavily on friends and neighbors for assistance since she has no family nearby her.

My Grandma Juineta Glenn is 92 years old.  She is my father's mom.  She was born and raised in St. Mary's, West Virginia near the Ohio River.  She married my grandfather when she was 17 years old and had four kids.  My dad is the youngest.  They moved to the Detroit area where my grandfather worked drilling wells and eventually became a master plumber.  They lived in a low-income part of Farmington Hills called Hell's Half-Acre which had large, almost rural lots (the neighborhood no longer exists).  They always had a garden and lots of undeveloped land to roam around in.  They relocated to Howell and then eventually to Gladwin which is in northern central Michigan.  They bought a cattle farm and raised beef cattle and hay to feed them.  The farm has a forest in the back where my dad has hunted deer since I was a child.  My grandfather passed away last year after being with my grandmother for over 70 years.  My grandma Glenn still lives in this farm house and rents out the farm fields to other farmers.  She drives, bakes and makes a lot of quilts.

I am grateful that I get to see my grandmothers but I wish I was closer so that I could see them more often and help them.  When I was younger and could have spent more time with them, I didn't realize how important it was.