Family Stories

My relationship with my father at its best was based on listening to him tell stories. Now he struggles to remember the details. He no longer initiates conversation but when prompted the stories do come back, and I think, bring him some comfort. When visiting my father in South Carolina, I reminded my father of one of my favorite stories so we could share it together. I think lately that if I was a good daughter I would work to compile all the stories I can before he is gone. I find that I’m afraid that I will never do them justice. Here’s the one I shared with my father.

My great-grandfather Waldrop had made a deal with my grandmother that she stay at home and help take care of the children until she was 18 and in return he would give her a watch. One day after she had fulfilled her part of the bargain, she asked her father to take her down the mountain into town to by a new dress. After my great-grandfather bought the dress, he was surprised that grandmother was wearing it as she walked out of the store. But he was even more surprised when she walked over to a tree where my grandfather was waiting with a preacher. The true plan was revealed. Great-grandfather reluctantly gave his blessing for the wedding and returned to the mountain on his own. My father said that grandmother claimed she received the watch she was promised, but he never actually saw it. He also said that apparently great-grandfather Waldrop forgave my grandmother because she visited him when she could and he worried about her when she was pregnant. He wanted her to come stay with her family during her pregnancy because he didn’t think the Wood family would feed her well enough.

I know grandmother did have some tough pregnancies, because my father has told the story (not one of my favorites) in which he had to kill a chicken when he 7 years old because my grandmother was bedridden after giving birth. He said that she would call out instructions to him from her bed on how to make the meal. Now my mother has referred many times to my father’s tendency towards embellishment, so there may be some exaggerations but I think the essence of it is there. From all I have heard my grandmother adored my grandfather and I love to think of them putting the plan together. I also get a kick out of imagining my grandmother’s determination to pursue the life she wanted and not only leaving her family but managing to get a new dress for her wedding day in the process! I didn’t get a chance to really know my grandmother. My best recollection of her was walking along the beach together when I was maybe 10 years old. She told me that it was good for the cut on her leg to walk in the ocean.

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  1. Pamela, just a footnote: The reason Grandmother’s childcare services were needed at home was that her stepmother had died – leaving a total of 13 children, of which Grandmother was the oldest. (I just ran this by Dad and he remembered and agreed.)

  2. Thanks, Mom. Feel free to add in any other details I didn’t include. I wish I could have heard the story from Grandmother herself and known more about what it was like for her.

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