My mom came from a large family. We often talk about the fact that she is so different from her younger siblings, especially the youngest. I was talking to my friend Erin of Nagle5News and I realized just way.
A little background:
My grandfather was 18 years old when he met and married my grandmother. He’d been married and divorced twice. Married a third time and had three children with the love of his life. She died in childbirth having their fourth child. She and the baby are buried together. My grandfather is buried beside her now, but I think figuratively, he buried himself beside her the day she was put in the ground.
He met my grandmother, 18 years his junior at a school dance held by the orphanage where she was living. She turned 18 in February and was able to leave the orphanage. They married in June. When I asked her once why she married a man 18 years her senior with three small children, still very much in love with his first wife, she answered, I was dating a young man who was an alcoholic. Bill seemed settled and grown up. I married him instead. Imagine her shock upon her marriage to learn my grandfather was also an alcoholic. But she fell in love if not with him (though she never said she didn’t love my grandfather and I do believe that she did), she did fall in love with his three children and soon 6 more followed in groups of three. The last child, a baby died at six months, leaving the youngest a baby once again.
My grandfather died in 1961, just a two years after my parents had married and had their first child. They were newly weds and were enjoying grownup life. At home, my grandmother still had small children, my youngest Aunt was only 6 years old when her father died and so the three youngest would come to my parents house as often as possible to spend the weekend with the young couple and the new baby. Mom welcomed the extra hands with my brother who was sickly and needed the interaction. My grandmother welcomed the freedom. She was 37 years old, and a widow and had never held down a job. She never would.
Mom often talks about how different she and her youngest sister was and I often put it off to the fact that momma was raised by two parents. My grandfather was very strict, and was a foreman for his company. He had a good job and that allowed his family to have a fairly good lifestyle. By the time, my aunt came alone, he was very sick and could no longer work. His family was living on Social Security and Daddy wasn’t as strict as he once was and then of course, he died and left them with a mother that wasn’t capable of caring for young children by herself.
But looking at it today, I realize there were more issues at play here:
My mom, born in the 1940s, not only grew up with two parents, in a fairly affluent home, but she also spent her teen years in the 1950s, a relatively calm period of history. She takes her family to church, volunteers, rebels by eating ice cream before dinner.
My aunt, born in the mid 1950s, grew up with a single mom, in a fairly poor home. Her teen years were the end of the 60s to early 70s. She grew up on rock and roll. She did not take her family to church, volunteer. Rebellion was her middle name.
I adored my aunt, of course, growing up. She is ten years older than me, the perfect age for a big sister. By the time I was born, she practically lived at our house. When I was seven, she gave me the greatest gift a seven year old girl could get, a living baby. When I was eight, she repeated the process and again when I was seventeen. But alas, her lifestyle and diabetes caught up with her and she passed away when she was just forty-four years old. I miss her every single day. Mom on the other hand? Sixty eight years of clean living have allowed her to see her children grow up and she’s watching her grandchildren grow up as well. In a few weeks, we are going to be celebrating her birthday around here in between graduation and #2’s birthday. Sure, genetics plays a part in who we become, birth order plays a part, economics plays a part, and it seems even the time period in which we are raised may play a part as well.