I was fortunate to have known all four of my grandparents. Many of my friends never knew any of theirs.
Some of my friends’ grandfathers had been killed in World War II, while other grandparents had died during a flu pandemic, childbirth, or had passed away of old age before my friends were born.
But, what was truly a blessing for me was that I also knew many of my great grandparents. Six of the eight were still alive when I was born.
This happened in part because people married quite young in those days (there’s an Arkansas joke in there somewhere), but genetics also played a role.
Life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th Century was not long. Men lived to about age 46 and women to age 48. So, marrying young wasn’t unusual. Obviously, neither was dying young. Often, women and children died during childbirth.
We are blessed to have the medical care we have today.
My mother’s grandmother married at age 13. She had many children, and most of them married young. My mother married young.
I am the oldest grandchild born on both sides. Consequently, many of my great grandparents were not only still alive when I was born, they weren’t really that old. Luckily for me, the last one lived until I was in my late teens.
This allowed me to hear first hand about history, play dominoes with them, eat the food that their grandparents had taught them to cook, and in general, just spend quality time with them.
I took my time with them for granted then, but I am so grateful for it now.
My dad’s father, Parmer Moore, was a blacksmith. He learned that trade from his father, Thornton Moore.
I have a picture of my great grandfather standing in his shop. The photo was likely taken during the 1940s. It shows a tall, skinny man with a hat. He looks frail, but he was anything but. You couldn’t be a frail blacksmith.
The one memory that I have of him, I was around 7 years old. By then, he was in his late 70s and had become frail. We went to see him in a nursing home. He was kind to me and told me what a good looking boy I was. He passed away not long after that.
His wife (we called her ‘Mom Moore,’) died when I was just two. I don’t remember her, but was told that the last thing she said as she lay on her deathbed was that I was a fine boy and that my dad was to take good care of me.
My mother’s mother was the strongest person I’ve ever known. Her name was Leona, and since I also knew her mother, I see where she got her determination and strength. Her mom, ‘Granny Roberson,’ dealt with a lot.
Granny Roberson was married to an alcoholic, so she had to bring home the money and handle the household. They didn’t have much. I remember going to see them on a homestead where a man allowed them to live in lieu of them keeping the place up.
It was a small farm on Highway 41 between New Boston, Texas, and Foreman, Arkansas. They had no electricity or running water. There was an outhouse.
They raised what they ate. It had to have been very hard work. And this was in the mid-1960s.
My great grandfather got sober late in life. So, I never knew the man he was before he quit drinking. He was kind to me.
They moved from the farm into town, close to where I lived. He died when I was 9, but my great grandmother lived on until I was in junior high. Granny Roberson babysat my sister and me quite often. She taught us how to play dominoes.
I still to this day do not know how she always knew which dominoes each of us had in our hands.
My mother’s father delivered ice to people’s homes before electricity became available to the masses. People had an ice box and they’d leave a sign on their door showing which size block of ice they wanted him to bring inside their homes and load into the ice box.
While he was making his living doing that, his mother, ‘Mom Pickett,’ owned the one, small general store in the same area where he delivered ice. She was way ahead of her time. For a woman to not only work, but own a business, was pretty unheard of. But, she knew what she was doing and amassed a good savings and land before she got rid of her store.
I have a picture of Mom Pickett and me that was taken at church when I was about 3 years old. She was holding me and smiling, which was unusual. She didn’t smile much. I suspect that by the time I came along, she was just, flat tired.
My dad’s mom lived to be 90. She must have gotten the longevity from her mom, whom we called ‘Granny Callicott.’
Granny was widowed young. My great grandfather died from Alzheimer’s before I was born, so she had lots of time on her hands. Granny happily spent it with all of her great grandchildren. She used to sing me a song, called “Jack and Joe.” I recorded her on my cassette recorder when I was about eight. I’d give anything if that tape had survived.
I lost most of my great grandparents fairly close together, between when I was 10 and 17. All of my great grandparents and grandparents have long since passed now. But, I know that I was afforded something that most are not. Time with both.
I am thankful to The Good Lord for allowing me to know and learn from them, be loved by them, and to have many memories.
They truly were great and grand.
©2019 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.