Lessons From My Grandfather

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My maternal grandparents died before I was born in the 1980’s. I have never seen a photograph of my grandfather. He passed away when my mom was 12 years-old in 1959. My grandmother died in 1973.

My grandmother was Correen Hudson and her husband was Spencer Harris. Grandma Correen was born in Carthage, Texas in 1905. Grandpa Spencer was born in Deberry, Texas in 1903. It’s suspected their parents were born either during slavery or at the end of slavery in 1865. Both were born, late in their parent’s life which makes our family believe they were slaves.

My grandparents were married in 1921. Both worked for white people in various capacities. It was the norm then, for Black people living in the piney woods of East Texas. They had 17 children, with 3 stillborn births. Today, only four children are alive, three boys and one girl, my Mom.

Growing up the baby of five kids, I feel like I heard my Mom’s stories more than the others. Often it was just she and I, as a child. The advice she imparted to me from her parents come to me at various moments in my life.

Two years ago, I began missing my grandparents. I would see young kids or teenagers with their grandparents and immediately want to break down and cry. My grandparents all died before I really knew myself as an adult. I never got to enjoy this part of life with them. There is a void in my life not having grandparents. I long for a relationship with them that can never be. But thanks to my Mom, she has passed on the wisdom, her parents taught her.

Grandpa Spencer was illiterate but he had an awesome memory. He would sit and remember historical facts. “On this day, five years ago such and such happened.” He would often give my Mom a run down of historical facts any given day. This was remarkable seeing as he only had an 8th grade education.

My Grandfather saw into the future. Having passed away in 1959, he could not know the turmoil and assassinations the 60’s would bring. But he did. He constantly warned my Mom as a little girl to be careful of the 60’s. He warned her about race riots and that Black people would rise up and take to the streets. After he’d tell my Mom these things, he’d say, “Of course I won’t be here.” That last phrase never struck my Mom till years later. He was telling her about his death. But as little kids do we always listen to our parents?

Grandpa Spencer had 6 daughters. He begged and cautioned them never to leave their daughters alone with men that are not their father. He told them to those men your daughter is just another woman. Single motherhood was frowned upon during this time. It would often bring shame on the family. More mothers today in 2017 need this advice. It is a familiar story of boys and girls molested by Mom’s new boyfriend or husband.

Grandpa Spencer taught his kids to get an education. He cautioned them that machines would one day take the place of man. Farm work has changed since my grandfather passed away. Indeed there are more machines to help assist farmers.

My grandfather had a few sayings “..the time of day is due any man.” You should greet him “Good evening,” or “Good morning.”

“Give every man his due.” Which simply meant whatever you owe someone, you give to them.

A person may die, but their words live on forever. Through talking with my Mom, I get to know a little bit about my Grandfather. Thank you Grandpa Spencer!

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