My paternal grandmother, Gladys, was beautiful, smart, funny and a great example for me. She and her three older brothers grew up on a farm near Eagle City, in western Oklahoma. When she was sixteen she took a general knowledge test, received her temporary teaching certificate, and began teaching school in a little one room country school. After one year of teaching she went to the Normal School (the teacher's college) for two years and earned her life time teaching certificate. She was eighteen. She met and married the man who would be my grandfather and they both taught in schools in western Oklahoma for many years.
She had her share of suffering, as we all do; lost a breast to cancer; lost her job once because she refused to give a passing grade the star football players who didn't deserve to pass. They moved from place to place, always teaching and taking courses at the college every summer. She was always learning. She loved reading, and writing, and once told me that one of her great regrets was that she hadn't become a writer. I hear she was a wonderful dancer. Look at those soft, lovely eyes.
Living on two teacher's salaries during the depression (or any time) could not have been easy. I'm sure they 'made do' a lot of the time and did without, some of that time as well. I can remember her saying once that she grew up on "jack-rabbits and water gravy". Sounds good to me.
Her husband died far too early, when she was only fifty one, but she never remarried. The youngest of her three sons was still in his late teens at that time. She and two of her three sons kept the family restaurant business open for a few more years. Then she went back to teaching and from there, on to running a library before retiring to live in a little house across the street from an elementary school. She said it did her heart good to see the kids coming and going from school.
My daughter, Audra, was born not two months after my Grandma passed away. I didn't give Audra Grandma's name, but I wish I had. However, Audie took it and used it anyway, by her own choice, for many years, graduating high school as Audra Feliz Gladys Blakley. But her name, Audra Feliz, means "noble strength..and happiness" which described Grandma pretty well.
One of the things I most remember about Grandma is her laugh, light and joyous, lilting across a room, a lot like Audra's did when she was a child. On the day Grandma died, before I knew she had died, I was outside and heard that laughter ringing across the sky.
When we were at Grandma's house, for her funeral, I remember stopping beside her refrigerator and, taped to the side was a scrap of paper. Written on it, in her hand, was this: "Count your blessings. Write them down. " I think of her every time I see a plaque that hangs on my wall. It says that, and a little more, and is good advice for all of us to take to heart.
Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses;
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears;
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Love your neighbor as much as yourself.