June 27, 2009

Myrtle Jenny and LeNore Alice

Yesterday was my paternal grandmother's birthday. Myrtle Jenny Wilburn McVay was born on June 26, 1891. Tomorrow is my maternal grandmother's birthday. LeNore Alice Hoard Enz was born on June 28, 1908. Both are gone now, but I think of them almost every day.

This picture was taken on August 25, 1957 on the day of my Rite of Holy Baptism at St. John's Lutheran Church. In the picture include: LeNore Enz, me, Myrtle McVay, Mary Irene McVay Brown, and Marilyn Enz McVay. A side note about this picture: the covered dining room table is a Duncan Pfyfe from the early part of the last century. That table and the chairs shown in this picture are currently in my living room and used every day.

These Hoosier farm women were very different -- and had different life circumstances. I am grateful to each of them for spiritual and emotional legacies.

Myrtle was a tough-as-nails single parent who lost her husband to heart disease in 1935 in the middle of the Great Depression. At her husband's deathbed request, she "kept the farm for his boys." Keeping that promise meant living without electricity, driving a team of horses and a plow, butchering and canning and living off the land. My father always quotes Lincoln when he talks about his mother, "All I am I owe to my mother." She was only 42 when her husband died.

"Grandma Mac" as she was known by her grandchildren, also worked in a nursing home and as a waitress in later life to help her children. My father, who was born with a physical disability, was able to graduate from Purdue University and become a teacher because of the love and support of his mother.

My maternal grandmother did something that was uncommon in her rural farm community. She graduated from Lutheran Hospital School of Nursing in Fort Wayne in the 1920s. While working at the hospital, she met a young widower who had a small daughter, and they married in 1931. The young couple would have another child, my mother.

"Grammy" was quite a character and I am told I resemble her in personality and looks. She had a great sense of humor and loved writing. She wrote epic poems for nursing reunions or family gatherings. She had an unusual sense of style, once traveling to Los Angeles with my grandfather to present actress Amanda Blake of Gunsmoke with a purple beehive hat (I have to find that picture!)

While neither grandmother had much success in teaching me cooking or sewing (though it wasn't for lack of trying), I did learn to appreciate family history and treasures. Now the keeper of these items, I am grateful for their stories and memories which live on in my essays. Quoth the raven.