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the few things I know

So, it was my intention to write something here about my grandmother, not quite a eulogy, but something. Something short. And I've been running the words through my mind now for days. I can't quite find the right thing to say, which leads me to believe that there is no right thing to be said. I'll say this instead.

It's true, and that's close enough.

My grandmother was born Mary Elizabeth Satterfield on May 27th, 1914, to Will and Sarah Dovie Satterfield, either in Birmingham or somewhere in Winston County, Alabama (I'm still trying to find out which). One month later, on June 28th, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo, which is relevant if only because it changed the course of her life, as it would change the course of the entire world. My grandmother had no sisters, but she did have three brothers, Alfred, Lawrence, and William. I've only ever met Alfred. Lawrence died some time ago, and William was killed when he was only twelve years old. He was struck by an automobile, which must have been a fairly odd way to die way back then and in rural Alabama. My grandmother attended school through the eleventh grade, when her family no longer had money to pay for her textbooks. Her parents were too proud to accept charity that would have paid for the books, so she left school. She married my grandfather, Gordy Monroe Ramey, when she was nineteen years old. That would have been 1933, I suppose. That was the year that Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and F.D.R. became the 32nd US president. She would have three daughters — my Aunt Joanne (Sarah Joanne Ramey), who was born in 1934; my mother (Susan Elizabeth Ramey), who was born in 1944; and my Aunt Pat (Patricia Anne Ramey), who was born in 1947. She would eventually have seven grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and a great grandson. Her husband died in January 1977, when I was only twelve. She never left the southeastern US, traveling only as far west as Louisiana, as far south as Florida, perhaps as far north as Kentucky; during the last twenty-eight years of her life, she didn't leave Alabama. She lived through the world wars, Korea, Vietnam, etc. She read a lot and had a fondness for (and vast knowledge of) British history. She was Catholic, but she stopped attending mass after an argument with the local priest (I think that was in the '60s). She remained religious, though her brand of Catholicism incorporated some distinctly non-Catholic concepts, such as reincarnation.

When I was a child, she taught me about fossils and which snakes were poisonous, and how to find sassafras and watercress. She taught me how not to get lost in the woods, and which things I should be afraid of, and which things wouldn't hurt me. She encouraged my reading and bought me many books, some of which I still own. She tried her hand at painting, though she was much better at embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, and, especially, quilting. She was an amazing quilter. She smoked heavily most of her life. She was once an avid collector of antique bottles, and one of my earliest memories is her taking me out to the Birmingham City Dump to dig for bottles. We had hard-boiled eggs wrapped in wax paper for lunch. We used to play board games — Sorry, Scrabble, Parcheesi, Trivial Pursuit, Yahtzi, and so forth. She did a lot of crossword puzzles. She was fond of Charley Pride, Bob Dylan, and Luciano Pavarotti. She believed in ghosts and claimed to have experienced many hauntings. She did not approve of the profanity at the end of Gone With the Wind, or, for that matter, the profanity in my novels, which is not to say she wasn't prone to cursing. She could use a gun.

This is how I remember her. Others will remember her differently, I'm sure.

Towards the end of her life, after all those ninety years, she suffered dementia, but during a lucid moment, she spoke of me to my mother. She said that my ways might not be like their ways, but they were my ways, and, she said, I was the smartest one of them all, of my family. I don't believe that last part, but I am unashamedly proud that she did. This photograph, which my mother gave me Monday night, was taken shortly after my grandmother married my grandfather. They are both so young that it amazes me.

I've gone back to work. Moving on, which is what she would have told us all to do.


The phorum is back up. Spooky and I are beginning a new round of eBay auctions, to pay for the $100 Emory Library membership fee. This auction is specifically for those wishing to use "buy-it-now," not for bidding, please. I finally have DSL again, which is making my life just a little bit less frustrating. And I'll things to say about Daughter of Hounds later on...


( 14 comments — Have your say! )
Jan. 8th, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC)
What a gorgeous photograph. Thank you for sharing some of her story with us.
Jan. 8th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
That was a really nice eulogy, you really expressed yourself well which is an important part of the "grief process". I myself lost my father and my grandfather(within two weeks of each other) this past year. Nothing can ever replace the presence of a loved one in your life. But death cannot steal the many memories they have given us. There's really nothing much else to be said. During my one grieving I have heard every possible cliche from well meaning friends and family members. I especially hate the phrase "Let me know if I can do anything for you"...can't count how many times I heard it. The vicious part of me wanted to wait two months and then call everyone who muttered it to me on it and attempt to take them up. Nevertheless, sorry for your loss.
Jan. 8th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
What lovely memories and very close to the way I feel about both of my grandparents - who were more "parent" to me than either of my biological ones ever were. I learned so much from them and my heart often aches for those simpler, carefree times when the world was ripe with discovery and they were my guides. They were magic. Growing up, I preferred their company to children my own age. The acceptance thing is big. When I was ridiculed by the rest of my extended family about my looks and my lifestyle at my sister's wedding, my grandmother took me aside and hugged me and said, "I love you for you and I like the hair color, I think it looks real smart on you..." She's always been a support no matter what I'm going through, she'd never abandon me the way the rest of the family so readily did.

Anyway, I didn't mean to ramble, other than to say thank you for sharing and I'm really glad you had someone like her in your life. I think those few kind people make a solid foundation for what is good and decent in a person and they are certainly a source of power for facing an otherwise ugly world. I know you treasure each moment you had with her and I'm sorry that she's passed away.
Jan. 8th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. She sounds like a wonderful woman.
Jan. 8th, 2005 07:08 pm (UTC)
She said that my ways might not be like their ways, but they were my ways, and, she said, I was the smartest one of them all, of my family. I don't believe that last part, but I am unashamedly proud that she did.

That is probably the nicest and most caring thing she could have ever said about you, Cait. You know you have my sympathies and prayers, always.
Jan. 8th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
We should all hope to live on so well in the words of others.

Best respect and empathy.
Jan. 8th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC)
wonderful words
i would love to be remembered like this by someone someday.

i'm sorry for your loss... your words made me re-feel the loss of all my old grands, and cry a bit for what i never knew abut them.

rie (i am quiet on your blog -- i read regularly, but only commented once, long ago -- sent you an oingo boingo quote that resonated with you at the time . but i'm always glad you're here.)
Jan. 8th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)
That's absolutely beautiful.

There may not be the absolute right words to say, but I think you've done a damn fine job with what you did say.
Jan. 8th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful tribute. You were obviously very fond of each other. Thank you for sharing it - and the photo is lovely.
Jan. 8th, 2005 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing. I wish I knew as much about my granny who passed away in '78 and was a contemporary of your grandmother.

Jan. 8th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)
It's weird--I read this post twice and noticed different things about it the second time. The first time I was digging the historical perspective and, the second time, noticing your grandmother's interesting religious beliefs. It's really very cool she had such an independent mind, particularly growing up in an environment and at a time when it wasn't generally encouraged.

And she was very pretty. She looks sorta like a young Miriam Hopkins, only prettier, actually. Sweeter.
Jan. 9th, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)
I love the photo. Your grandmother looks so graceful.

I love that she took you to look for bottles, and taught you about fossils.
Jan. 9th, 2005 04:27 pm (UTC)
When I was a child, she taught me about fossils and which snakes were poisonous, and how to find sassafras and watercress. She taught me how not to get lost in the woods, and which things I should be afraid of, and which things wouldn't hurt me.

How much more of a treasure that is for a grandparent to give a child, rather than a mountain of merchandiise from Toys R Us. Thanks for sharing that, and the photo. She was both pretty and smart, especially with her words to you about your ways being your ways. That had to be an unusual attitude given the time and the location. Good for her!
Jan. 10th, 2005 08:52 am (UTC)
I never know the right words to say, or even the best words, or sometimes any words at all... when it comes to grief. I can't say I know where you are coming from, because that place is unknowable. I can't say my tears are like unto your tears because each tear falls for a different reason. Even when my tears fall in sympathy for your tears, they fall for my own dead more than yours for those are the dead who I knew and miss.

But I do want to say something, so you know I care and that I think about you and yours, not just when I'm online or when I'm looking at my bookshelves, but during the day when the memory of something you said makes me smile or when I wonder why more people don't dance like Spooky dances or why it is so difficult to find people I can just sit next to and feel contented in a crowd of many like I can when I'm playing helper monkey with the good doctor. I wish I had honest words, but my language is not deep enough to say what I need to. So I guess I'll just have to hug it into you when next we meet.
( 14 comments — Have your say! )