It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with my daughter being sick with cancer, but it is a great relaxation to blog about someone in our family who reached a milestone that no one else on Mom’s or Dad’s side of the family has ever met. My sister Brenda and her husband Ronald celebrated 50 years of marriage last year September 25, 2015. Their children surprised them with a 50th Wedding Anniversary banquet. It was just beautiful. And just this past Sunday they celebrated 51 years of marriage! Let’s all stand up and applaud. She was 19 years old and he was 24 when they married. She just turned 70 and he’ll be 75 in December.
No one else in our entire family has ever reached that milestone, due to death of a spouse or divorce of a spouse. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and siblings. Mr. and Mrs. Wilbert Ronald Evans have the distinction of being married 51 years this past Sunday, September 25, 2016. That record gives one hope in this non-committed society where anything like a shoe size is cause for divorce. It’s an honor to know anyone who has weathered the storm and came out wiser for it.
If you remember, my sister Brenda was named after one of my dad’s sisters, and she has the distinction of being the oldest of all the grandchildren on my Mom’s side, too.
It has been a whirlwind of activity and emotions with my daughter being sick. I have been examining my own reactions and thoughts about her condition:
I wondered why I wasn’t screaming, yelling and crying uncontrollably. It’s because first and foremost, “it’s not about me,” it’s about my daughter and her welfare and getting better. I don’t have time to indulge myself. Yes, at the beginning I cried for about 10 minutes. Then I stopped. She needs me.
I wondered why I didn’t say, “Why me or why my daughter?” It’s because I know that pain and heartache and sickness and disease inhabits this entire world. It’s because others that I love and know are suffering, too. I watch them and how they quietly do what is necessary to endure and get better. I think that it’s unfair to say why me when sickness comes to all of us. By me saying why me, I suggest that it’s alright for others to go through but not me or mine.
I wondered why I was exhausted and would fall into the bed sleeping heavily. It’s because, as a mom, I am anxious for my daughter. It’s because if I could, I would take the pain for her, but I can’t. I can, however, be there for her and do all I can do to make her trial of illness a little better. I can do that for sure.
I wondered why I am not out of my mind with worry. It’s because in that state of mind I cannot be of service to her. I can’t even pray for her like that. If nothing else I can be a support for her and comfort as much as I can. Worrying my hair out keeps me from doing that. She means more to me than my biting my nails down to the quick. I don’t have the right to do that. I have to be there for her.
Ultimately, I have a grip because the God whom I serve has already taken care of this situation.
If you grew up watching T.V. when I was young, there was alway a commercial or it was called a station break or even a word from our sponsor. I like that last phrase: Here’s a word from our sponsor.
I’ve enjoyed sharing my family’s history with you. You’ve all been sharing with me, too. I love it. But since I’ve shared with you almost daily something about family, I have had to take a station break. I want to give a word from the sponsor (me).
I don’t know where you are in your relationships with family and close friends, but if it is a broken or even shattered relationship, try to mend it. Circumstances can change so drastically and so suddenly and you don’t want anything to get in between you and your loved one will may come to need you.
I have three daughters and one son and for so long they have made me proud. The illnesses we’ve all endured to this point have been ‘fixable’ and not too severe, but now my youngest daughter was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it for about 3 days. But since that time she’s gone through surgery, and will soon take Chemotherapy. My heart is broken for her and my husband and I are with her. She is the quietest of all the children, and she has a strength that the others don’t necessarily have. She will never have children, which in and of itself doesn’t bother me—she said more than once as a teen that she never wanted children. She is content to be an aunt. It’s at times like these that I find the faith that I’ve let you hear in my posts from time to time is strong. I have no doubt that God has picked her out for this particular test—and me, too. I’m a mom and feel as a mom would feel to hear her child is ill like that. But my faith in Jesus the Christ is solid and He’s brought us through other trials. He won’t fail now.
What can I say about my Aunt Ella? So much. She was always so animated to me. She was a person I looked forward to seeing. We all loved to go to her house and stay overnight. If we couldn’t stay overnight, we’d stay just for a visit. No matter, we love her to this moment. Now she was not without her own set of idiosyncrasies:
When a child is 5 or 6 years old and Aunt Ella comes over making you smile and laugh you warm up to her. So, as a child you ask, “Aunt Ella, how old are you?” She would answer, “I’m 19.” Whenever she said that, we would believe her. We were 5 and 6 years old, so 19 seemed a BIG age. Plus, no one ever refuted her statement. But when you are about 10-12 years of age and ask Aunt Ella, how old she is and her rely is, “I’m 19,” you begin to wonder whether that statement is true or not. When you turn 18 or 19 and ask that same question of Aunt Ella and she replies, “I’m 19,” you know that for many years she had been pulling your leg. Check this out:
Whenever she came over she made all of us kids stand in line as she gave us all a big spoonful of COD LIVER OIL! Yuck.
Whenever you stayed with her your breakfast was Ralston Purina Hot Wheat Cereal, there was never an exception
She always made you work, but never called it work. She said, “take this into the basement, while you’re resting.”
She always taught us to marry for money: “Looks can’t feed ya.”
She called my daddy “Son.” All the time. He was her brother-in-law.
She was color struck: “Only marry ‘white meat’.” One great niece did that. No one else.
You have never been disciplined until she used a switch on your legs.
She is royalty: She calls herself the Queen of Spain!
After all these years, when asked how old she is, she says, “I’m almost 20.”
There’s no one like her. Love you Auntie. More tomorrow.
This is my grandmother, Jimmie Marie Thomas-Jordan, as a youth
My grandmother was born in Birmingham, AL and she along with her parents moved to Detroit, MI in the early 1910s She was 2 almost 3 years old when she became ill, and lost her hearing. I don’t know the illness that did it. I know that my great-grandmother called to my grandmother and my grandmother never answered or indicated that she heard her mom calling her. That’s when great-grandmother took her to the doctor and discovered she was deaf.
In the picture above she is attending Michigan School of the Deaf in Flint, MI. She is about 9 or 10 years old (about 1920 or 21) in this picture.
This is a picture of the Michigan School of the Deaf about the turn of the 20th century.
Here is something quaint: When my mother was a little girl and attended school, the teachers thought that she was a deaf-mute because she never spoke. They finally realized that she could speak. It was the fact that her parents were deaf mutes and used sign language to communicate that she didn’t speak.
During that time, my mom said she was embarrassed that her parents couldn’t talk and she hid the fact that she knew sign language until my grandmother came up to her school and began talking on her hands to mom. After she left, the teacher, bless her heart, raved about the fact that my mom could communicate like that. From that time on my mother was never ashamed of sign language again. More tomorrow.
You know what, I think that in this technological age, this hustle and bustle environment in which we live; along with this instant gratification genre we’re all susceptible to, it’s easy to lose out on things that are important and lasting. That’s why I am enjoying talking about my family’s history. With that being said, please meet my grandparents on my mom’s side of the family:
My grandfather James Shephard was born in 1895. My grandmother was born in 1910. Granddaddy passed away in 1970, and Grandma passed away in 1997. They were married for 41 years. This is a really beautiful picture of them. My grandmother was so very lovely. Here is a fact I want to share about them:
My grandparents both were deaf mutes. In our family on my mom’s side, we have two traits: One is that we have twins that show up every other generation. I know because I gave birth to twins myself. And we have that deaf gene I guess you call it, that also shows up every other generation. My grandfather was born deaf, and his brother right behind him was also born deaf. My grandmother at the age of 3 years old had an illness that left her deaf. They had 10 children and all of them were born hearing and speaking.
When my mom and aunts and uncles began having their own children, my oldest sister, Brenda, was born deaf in one ear. Now the interesting thing about that is she is the oldest of all of the grandchildren on my mom’s side of the family. The last grandchild to be born to my aunts and uncles, who would be the youngest of all the grandchildren was born totally deaf. Family history is a curiosity that begs to be gratified. More tomorrow.
Here are some things I know about my dad’s side of the family:
He had a brother named Steven, who was lynched as a teen. I don’t know why.
His brother, Uncle Jesse was also killed and lynched. His story can be Googled. Uncle Jesse was married and had one child, a girl.
Uncle Amos ran with his mom and sister to save their lives when people wanted to kill them for their land.
My dad was on the chain gang as a young teen.
Aunt Lucy Mae never had children of her own.
My dad had a sister named Brenda. (My oldest sister was named after her). I never knew her or saw a picture of her. She worked as a maid doing day work. She was killed while working. Her employer, the husband got into an argument with his own wife and started shooting his wife. Bullets were flying and my Aunt Brenda was killed by a stray bullet.
My dad’s great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Native American.
Uncle Jesse was a soldier in the Army
Uncle Amos was a sailor in the Navy
Daddy was a United States Marine
Here’s information we got from the 1935 Census Bureau about my dad’s side of the family: (1867 – 1945 Florida State Census)
Will Payne – Born in 1893 approximately (Grandfather)
Lucy Ann Payne – Born in 1897 (Grandmother)
Ages in 1935 Census
Will Payne – 42
Lucy Ann Payne – 38
Amos Payne – 12
Lucy Mae Payne – 8
Charlie Payne – 14
Jesse Payne – 16
Ruby Thurston – 25
Henry Hunter – 36
Both Grandfather and Grandmother were born to former slaves.
This is my dad’s mother, Lucy Ann Payne. One of my sisters is named after her. In the picture with her standing on her way to church, you can see Aunt Lucy Mae in the background. In the picture where she is hiding her face from the camera, that little boy is my older brother. (You’ll meet him, too). So this picture was from about 1950 or 1951.
If Aunt Lucy Mae was born in 1926 or 1927, my grandmother was born approximately 1897. Her husband’s name was Will Payne. I never saw even a picture of my grandfather. And oddly, I never met my grandmother in person before she died in 1963. I only have these pictures of her and what we learned that was passed down by word of mouth. A great woman, she was.
Go with me:
Her husband died in his early 40s.
She bore and raised at least 11 children
She buried many of her children
She was beaten by white men more than once
She was driven from her farm and land
She had to settle somewhere else in Florida so that she and her two children could live
She had memories of her dead sons hanging from the end of nooses
She never saw all of her grandchildren, just a few of them
She smiled in the picture above, anyway
A woman of strength is a formidable person to reckon with.
Also, the Scriptures say in Proverbs 31:30 “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”
This is my Aunt Lucy Mae Anderson (Payne). She was the youngest of all of my dad’s siblings—the youngest girl and the youngest child. She had to watch and bury everyone else in her family, including my dad and Uncle Amos. She lived in Syracuse, NY with my Uncle Amos. They were funny together. I enjoyed them.
In 1999, she moved from Syracuse, NY to the midwest where my sisters and I live.
She moved one year after Uncle Amos passed away. She just couldn’t stay by herself anymore. As I write this post, I realize that like my dad and Uncle Amos, Aunt Lucy Mae didn’t talk much about their childhood or family. If we asked her about it, then she would talk about it. But if we didn’t ask, she didn’t tell. Those times were difficult and tragic for them.
I do remember that Aunt Lucy Mae buried the last of her mom’s siblings. Her Aunt Rose. (I was named after Aunt Rose). I hear she was a feisty woman, too. Must run in the genes.
It was Aunt Lucy Mae who told us of all the tragic things she remember that happened to her family. She remembered her brother, Uncle Jesse being killed. She was the younger sister who took flight with Uncle Amos and their mom when men came to kill them and take their land. She was the one who settled down somewhere else in Florida after that night of flight. She was beaten along with her mom when they wouldn’t tell cruel men where “Charlie” was. She was the one who told us that “Charlie came in the back door, and Charlie left out the back door.”
She came here to bury her brother in ’87. From time to time she would visit us. When she would visit we all would get together and go someplace. The last trip I remember taking with her as a family was to an apple orchard/cider mill. She moved here permanently in 1999. She never wanted to be alone and so even when my youngest sister got her in a nice senior citizens apartment, age was taking its toll on her and she got real thin, not eating. She would tell me, “I’m drinking my Ensure.” She deliberately went into a nursing home, where others were, so that she’d be surrounded by people. My youngest sister saw to her needs and always cared for her.
June 12, 2012, I believe, is when we got the phone call that she was taken to the hospital. We all got there and she was on life support. The doctors had said that they would come and take her off of the machines. It took them so long to get there. I remember thinking, “Oh no. This is the end of a legacy.” All the children on my dad’s side of the family were gone, once they pulled the plug on Auntie. My mom and I and one of my sisters left before the doctors finally came. I saw my mom bend and take her sister-in-law’s hand and kiss it, before she left. It was after 11:00 p.m. when we got the official word that she had passed. We had a memorial for her at my home about a few weeks later. We sat and talked about what we knew of the family and vowed to get hold of our cousins, because we didn’t know any of them except cousin Fannie, at that time. Family is important. Don’t take it for granted. More tomorrow.
Say Hello to my dad, Roy Lee Payne Sr. He grew up in Florida and his real name at that time was Charlie Leroy Payne. He changed it after a time. Daddy passed away on Veterans Day, November 11, 1987 at the age of 66. He had a heart attack and when my mom found him, he was just laying back on the bed.
Growing up in Florida in the early 1920s and 30s was difficult for African-Americans to say the least. My dad, I came to believe, was a victim of those times and it translated into him being a cruel man most of his young life, as a father, and dad. No matter. Maybe if I had seen and experienced the things he did, I might have morphed into someone other than who I am now.
My dad only had a 3rd grade education and could only really write his name. I believe that is why he was so adamant that all of his 7 children complete high school. We all did and went further in our education and careers.
I remember a time when my dad got his first real good paying job, one that could have brought his family up a notch, if his mind had been on them. Like most people, he could do the job masterfully, but because of the 50s and 60s and the lack of rights for black men, the establishment used every tactic to get rid of him and other black men working as skilled tradesmen. It didn’t matter that white men worked as skilled tradesmen during that time and that many of them couldn’t even sign their names. They literally made an “X” on a line and someone who could write witnessed it. These men didn’t have to get their skills validated by reading a detailed text book, about 300 pages long and do the assignments in them and turn them in. Only my dad and others of his “persuasion” had to. My dad couldn’t read well, at all. So when he cursed and threw the book in the floor and stomped away saying he could get another job, my mom picked up the book and with her 9th grade education she read the lessons, did his homework for him; he copied it down in his own writing and turned the work in. To the chagrin of his superiors, my dad got his skilled trades certificate and license and worked at that job until he retired. Family is important, don’t forget that.
As a teen and young adult, he saw things that made him very private about his life. He never talked about it. My mom and my aunt, his sister would relay things about his family history from those early years. For instance, as a young teen he was on the chain gang. We don’t know why. He was a marine as a young adult and served in the Korean War, a war not many Korean vets talk about. Neither did he. He and some of his friends were walking home in the evening after working their jobs in the south where they lived. When they separated to go to their various destinations, some white men came and for no reason beat up one of his dear friends, and killed him. They put him on the railroad tracks for the train to run over him, but when the train came, it was moving very slowly and was able to stop before striking his friend’s corpse. Another time, while working for another white boss, the boss’s two sons kept throwing snakes on him. The boss told the sons to leave “Charlie” alone. They didn’t. They kept up this cruel game until my dad had had enough. He beat up both of the boys. Later, of course, a group of “interested parties” came to his mom’s home and wanted to “talk” to him about beating up two white boys. My grandmother didn’t tell them where he was. In traditional manner, during those times, they beat her and my aunt. What they didn’t know was my dad was coming through the back door with his knife. When it was all over, he left out the back door. Nuf said.
Daddy maintained a rough exterior that kept anyone from getting in. That is my one regret. I don’t know anything about being a ‘Daddy’s girl’. More tomorrow.