September 9, 2013
I actually wrote another rumination for today but I don’t like it yet… maybe some other time. I would like to write a little bit about my grandmother. Not because you need to know about her, but because there may be some parallels in your own life with someone in your family.
Mary Louise Fowler Taylor was born on October 31st …I think 1901 but I’m not sure. Almost all of the information I have of her early life (which isn’t much) came from my aunt. Unfortunately I was too young to care much when my grandmother died to ask her questions about her life. I know that she was raised in Barnesville, Ohio, the only child of a single mother. Her mother wasn’t always single but her husband was an alcoholic and a “no good blanket-blank,” so he was thrown out by his wife. That is the end of his story as far as my grandmother knew. From what I have gleaned she never saw him again. Nor do I know how old she was when he was unceremoniously dumped.
Her mother was a seamstress and made a living for the two of them by taking jobs in her home. I don’t know what sort of woman my great grandmother was but she always looks stern in the few pictures I have seen of her. Even the candid shots make her look unhappy. I have seen their house in Barnesville. It is strange to stand outside of that place and know that my grandmother was a little girl playing on those sidewalks long before I was ever even thought of. I think my grandmother was raised in the Methodist church but that is just a guess.
My grandfather (William D. Taylor) was also raised in Barnesville. I have no idea how they met. They were married at a young age and shortly thereafter (but the required amount of time) had their first daughter, Mable Louise. Mable died in her second year of a respiratory ailment. After many years of hearing about her I found her grave sometime ago. I stood and wept over her marker. Not because of the loss of a baby as tragic as that is, but because I envisioned my grandparents standing on the same spot with their hearts breaking so many years before.
My grandmother had two addition children… my aunt born in 1921 or 22, and my mother born in 1923 or 24. Sometime before my mother’s birth the Taylor family moved to Castle Shannon, PA. My grandfather was offered a job working at a nursery. At the same time they opened a small store. The building is still standing. I always think of my grandparents when I pass that old place. I don’t know how long they lived in PA but eventually they moved back to Barnesville where my mother graduated from High School. Then it was back to PA again.
Sometime in the mid 1940’s my grandparents bought a farm near the Gibsonia entrance to the Turnpike. My grandfather never really farmed the property and eventually sold lots for a housing development. My mother married my father in 1947 and they built a house on the property. When I came along in 1954 my grandparents lived beside us in a small house they had built for themselves.
I’m not sure but I think Mary Taylor was born to be a grandmother. Every picture I have of her even as a young woman… she looks like a grandmother. Some of my greatest memories of childhood were spent alone with her when I was 5 and everyone else was at work or at school. I learned to whistle when I was 5… but not melodies. Just random sounds would continually come from my pursed lips. (they still do!) My grandmother was regularly heard saying “Willy, quit that fifing!!” I often slept at her house so I would not have to be awakened early in the morning when everyone else left for work and school. She had a “roll away bed” with starched sheets. Every night she read to me from a large Mother Goose book. I always asked for the same story: The Little Gingerbread Boy. I can hear her pleading: “Don’t you want something else?!?!” My children got back at me years later by asking for their own favorite stories night after night after endless night. Each night I slept at her house we prayed together: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and it ended with a short caveat that she would always remind me of “…and Jesus bless mommy and daddy and all the little boys and girls. Amen.”
It’s odd for me to think that when I was 5 my grandparents were the age I am now. I always thought of them as so… well… OLD. And I guess to some degree they were older back then. I remember once we convinced my grandmother to play wiffle ball with my sisters and my cousins. She hit the ball (eventually) and ran straight to third base.
My grandparents moved away when I was 7. They bought another farm outside of West Sunbury, PA (north of Butler). But that didn’t mean they were any less a part of our lives. We saw them regularly and spent considerable time with them in the summers. My sisters and cousins would likely agree that the best times of our young lives were spent at that farm. There were many reasons for that I’m sure, but not the least was the fact that there was something comforting and safe about being with my grandparents.
It seems like they owned that farm for a long, long time but it couldn’t have been much more than 5 years. Sometime in 1966 my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. To make a long agonizing story short… she died in April of 1967 on a hospital bed in our living room… she weighed 55 pounds.
Without wanting to be disrespectful to anyone in my family… my grandmother was the only “spiritual” person there was. My mother sang in the choir on occasion but by the time I came along as the 4th child we didn’t do a lot of church. My only exposure was when my grandmother took me. Since they had moved away… well that wasn’t very often.
Sometime after she died my mother came into my room with three books and said my grandmother wanted me to have them. They were all religious books and one was by Billy Graham. Frankly, a 12 year old boy wants religious books as much as he wants a girlfriend… which wasn’t much back then. That being said, if I had those books today (which I do not) they would be some of my most prized possessions. I honestly don’t know if those books had been designated for me… it could be that my mother was just trying to make me feel better. It did overwhelm me at the time that my grandmother had thought enough of me to leave me something. And maybe she had some sort of premonition of this whole “minister thing…” I don’t know.
I do have some memories of being a small child walking down the lane hand in hand with Mary Taylor as we made our way to Hampton Presbyterian Church. I’m told this past Sunday was “Grandparents Day;” I guess I should have known that. So here’s to you Mama. Thank you for being a loving witness for Jesus to me and others around you. I love you and still miss you.
2 Timothy 1
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.