I was fortunate to know my grandparents well into my adult life. Knowing them as an adult gave me a new perspective of my parents as children and even my own childhood history. My maternal grandparents never graduated from high school yet they pushed to ensure that my mother and her siblings completed high school. Both my dad and his mother only completed the eleventh grade but my dad went on to get his high school GED. His father’s hard work and dedication earned him a position as lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. I’m proud to say that my brothers and I are college graduates, each of us putting ourselves through school.
What I do know is that they all gave us a sense of purpose, pride and determination. Our father taught us to lead and cut our own path in life. He said following your peers is easy but being unique is what makes you special. My dad wore many hats when I was a child. He had a long military career in the United States Air Force, sold insurance, was a bartender, a security guard and finally retired working as a budget analyst for the United States Army. His greatest teaching tool was he never gave us the answer to any question we asked. Instead he would tell us to go find the answer and come back to him. Even after we got the answer, his response was to steadily question it and then ask “did you consider the gray factor?” My dad was an only child so as children we spent more time with his parents than my maternal grandparents. Each summer visit was filled with going to the museums and learning about different cultures. My love of music, entertaining and reading comes from them. My passion to know my history and pass it down grew from them. My step-grandmother was the director of the East Orange public library for many years and I remember each summer following her around the library gazing at walls and walls filled with history and adventure. My dad’s mother was a seamstress by trade. Most of my clothes wer made by her. She loved the simple things in life, giving back to those less fortunate. She used to throw the most amazing get-togethers and parties. Every detail had to be just right. She always made every guest feel that she planned just for them. My paternal grandfather was a tall stern man. When he spoke there was always a lesson learned about determination. “Keep digging” he would say, “if one way doesn’t work find a new direction and try again”. At 95 he was my last grandparent to depart this earth. One of his proudest moments he said was meeting his only great-grandchild. All of my grandparents were able to meet my son except my paternal grandmother, but I know she smiles upon him everyday.
My mother’s parents were hard working and their family was close knit. Everything revolved around family, being productive and knowing your self-worth. My MawMaw believed in honesty and was very opinionated. She always said she rather the truth hurt and being able to move on than to make a mistake you can’t take back. My mother who never went to college went on to become a social services director in my hometown. She’s now studying to become a minister. Her passion has always been about helping people. My parents divorced when I was twelve. I was use to my mother staying at home and not working. My brothers never had that luxury for she worked. I remember my childhood going from being waited on to helping out and being mini mom to my brothers. We had many challenges yet she never wavered in her faith or her determination to provide for us and ensure we went on to make something of ourselves. Pity had no place in our house. She remained positive and optimistic about everything. This is the most valuable thing I’ve learned from her. No matter the obstacle, no matter how long it takes to overcome there is a silver lining in every situation.
My childhood web represents the most important people in the world to me, my parents, grandparents and brothers.