Meet my grandmother, Jean.
As a young, pregnant wife, she loaded up her entire life, left her husband (a man who did not appreciate the gift he had in her) and drove back home to the great metropolis of Alexander City, Alabama.
She became a divorced, single mother in a time when women simply did not do that.
For a decade, she raised my mother while living in her own mother’s home and working at the local factory.
She then married my grandfather and she and mom began a new life with him. Traveling with Granddaddy, supporting him and protecting him through every crazy scheme and dream and drink he took.
Grandmother went on to have another daughter and a son. Though, she suffered multiple miscarriages and, later, the horrible loss of her eight-year-old daughter to cancer.
Still, every day, when she wasn’t fighting her own cancer, she went to the women’s prison to teach and serve the women in the prison school.
Teaching provided a steady income and good benefits. Both of which were desperately needed.
Grandmother never shared her hopes and dreams with me. It’s possible by the time I came into her world, she might not have been holding on to many anymore.
But because she loaded up her car that day and drove all the way across the country, my mother was born.
My mother and grandmother were safe.
As posts and tributes have flowed today, praising brave, bold women who have impacted the world around them, I want to remember my grandmother. And all the grandmothers and mothers and aunts and sisters and friends like her. Ones who gave of their whole lives. Quietly. Sacrificially. Completely.
Here’s to the women making hard choices. Women who have lost dreams but keep showing up. Women who dream for the next generation and hope they give us enough of a boost to reach higher than they did. Women who leave one terror and walk boldly into the unknown. Women dreaming of rest and quiet over breaking barriers and ceilings. Women who intentionally and doggedly do exactly everything they must do for the survival of their family.
The larger world may never know these women but in their own little worlds, they deserve celebration.
Love you, Grandmother.