My grandmother, Pauline, was born on January 2, 1915.
She passed away on May 24, 2012 at the age of 97.
We called her Memere. And Memere was talented. She was
fantastic cake decorator. She taught herself how to play
the organ without taking lessons. In her 60’s she started
making her own rugs. In her 70’s she taught herself to
paint after watching Bob Ross on PBS. Memere was good at
it too, painting until her eye sight started to fail her.
What always amazed me was how she was a strong,
independent woman even though she was born before women
had the right to vote. I’ll miss her. I’ll miss her
stories and her wisdom.
It’s tough losing a family member
and with Memere I’m losing a sense of history too.
Talking to her was literally like going into a time
capsule because she carried an old world sense about her.
Honestly, when I was a kid it just reminded me of how old
she was. But, as an adult she brought me to places in
history I had never been.
Now, I feel privileged to have
heard stories and perspectives about her life that almost
spanned 10 decades.
In her 97 years, Memere lived during 17 different
Presidential administrations, including almost four
complete Franklin Roosevelt terms. When she was born,
Woodrow Wilson was the Commander-in-Chief. This was two
years before America joined the war to end all wars (World
War I). Memere then lived through the Great Depression,
Pearl Harbor and World War II. Her oldest son, my Uncle
Tommy, served in the Korean War. Then it was the Cuban
Missile Crisis. After that her youngest son, my Dad,
joined the Navy and served as a flight engineer during the
Vietnam War. After Vietnam came the Cold War, the Iranian
hostage crisis, Grenada and Panama. More recently Desert
Storm, the September 11th attacks and the War on Terror.
I think of all the major changes in technology that
occurred during Memere’s life. The automobile and
airplanes became commonplace. Televisions. Computers.
Cell phones. The Internet. Wireless technology. My
grandmother was 5 years old when women were first allowed
to vote. She lived through the Civil Rights movement.
She watched as man landed on the Moon.
Memere is older than Time Magazine (1923). Talking movies
(1923). Bubble gum (1928). The first Mickey Mouse
cartoon (1928). Cheesburgers and Monopoly(1934). Social
Security (1935). And the Microwave oven(1945).
My grandmother is definitely from a different era. Not
the Facebook era. Not the era of instant gratification or
of ultimate consumption or the era of the participation
trophy. Memere knew what it was like to scrape by and
work hard. She worked with my grandfather in their
grocery store. They exchanged goods for IOU’s during the
Great Depression because they knew their customers as
neighbors and believed they would make good. She knew
what true sacrifices were. She sent her sons off to war.
My grandfather worked two or three jobs at a time. She
lived long. She saw tons and learned even more. Memere
gave me a glimpse into the window of the past. I just
hope, in her passing, those lessons or hard work and
sacrifice aren’t lost on all of us.
Rob Hunter contributes on the Bruce St. James Show and
co-hosts Rob & Mark, Saturdays from 12-3pm on News/Talk