My grandmother, the activist
When I was growing up, I thought my grandmother was the meanest woman on Earth. I don’t recall any good memories of her at all until I was around 19 or 20 years old. I have one funny memory of a time, while at my Aunt’s house, my cousins and I played a practical joke on my grandmother. The joke went smashingly well! The aftermath … not so well; we got into so much trouble for that one! But at least it was memorable.
I have fond memories of my grandfather, even though he died when I was 6 years old. I remember times spent at their little corner store, and a flash of a memory or two about times spent playing with my cousins in my grandparents’ backyard.
My grandmother moved to Arizona around 1980 when I was about 10 years old. I don’t even remember the occasion of her actually moving! I just remember that she lived in Tucson, and I had the worst time remembering how to spell that word.
Some time in the early 90’s, my grandmother came for a visit. She brought her “friend” with her – a man named Joe. I was living in my own place, and dating the man who would be my first husband. I remember my grandmother taking a bit of an interest in me and my life, and asking me to show her and Joe around town a bit. They both sat in the back of my car like teenagers while I drove them around. It was kinda cute.
The next memory I have of her is when she was quite ill, and came to live with my father for a period of time in the mid 90’s. I remember visiting a couple of times, and how miserably grumpy she was, and not wanting to visit with her much because of her bad mood.
She ended up moving back to Arizona, where she eventually died in 1998. By that time, I was 27, divorced from my first husband, in a committed relationship, and my Son was just over a year old. I don’t even remember if she met my Son, or even knew I had a child.
As you can see, I wasn’t very close to my grandmother at all. Most of what I know about her came from stories I heard after she died. I’ve learned a good bit more about her since I’ve started doing genealogy research, which ironically started because I found out her side of the family came from Native American ancestry. I wish I’d known that growing up, and had taken the time to talk to her about what she remembered.
I’ve discovered that she and I have very similar qualities to our personalities. We both have a love of learning. We are excellent typists. And looking back, I’m thinking she wasn’t mean as much as she was someone who embraced her inner bitch, just like I do. In fact, I think she’d be pretty damn proud of me if she knew the person I’ve become.
The best evidence I have for this conclusion are the letters I uncovered while going through old photo albums. It looks like my grandmother was also an activist, in her own right! And that makes me grin from ear to ear!
The Case of the Missing Bandshell and Broken Lights
a.k.a. – The Verbal Bitchslap My Grandmother Gave the Mayor of Wilmington DE
Rockford Park is in Wilmington Delaware. It is one of the sites for the Summer Concert Series – free concerts in the park during the summer. This was something my grandparents enjoyed doing together in the late 1960’s.
There were some problems that occurred that must’ve made my grandmother downright furious, judging by the letters she wrote to the Mayor of Wilmington and the newspaper.
She received a note back from Mr. George Sargisson, on a membership letter, which is undated. The note at the bottom reads:
Many thanks to the [surname redacted] – thanks, too, for your letter to mayor, Frank, etc. It’s to the point & should get some positive results. Hope future concerts go OK & without a hitch.
George Sargisson -
Things didn’t go any smoother the following week, prompting my grandmother to show her skills at persuasive writing yet again. I may have to try this tactic some time in the future!
Finally, she received a reply from the mayor’s office. I must give proper kudos to the mayor’s Administrative Assistant, Allan C. Rusten, for a brilliant and funny reply!
Things seem to have been very different 40+ years ago … these days the typical kind of reply you’ll get from someone in office is a canned response that usually doesn’t even address your reasons for writing to them in the first place.
I’m also very impressed that the mayor remained calm and objective in his reply to my grandmother, even though he launched a bitchslap right back at her for her insinuation. (an insinuation that really pissed me off when I read it, thinking that not much has changed in 40 years when it comes to the vitriol aimed at those less fortunate)
And lastly, another written note from the Executive Director of RP&S, Wilmington DE. The note reads:
Thanks Mrs. [surname redacted], for showing Hal’s letter. You certainly got ‘em “moving” (slowly) – saw Hal yesterday at Rotary & told him that there were still 3 lights out! Hope remainder of concerts go well. Thanks again.
Incidentally, there was a write up about George T. Sargisson in 2007, about what he accomplished in Wilmington. There’s also a little bit at the end about the permanent bandshell that my grandmother was talking about. He appears to have been quite an extraordinary guy. I’m sure my grandparents were lucky to know him.