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By Bobby Neal Winters
My grandmother’s family marked time by my grandmother’s marriage to my grandfather. They referred to it in terms of “back when Sam stole Lora.” My grandfather was Sam and my grandmother was Lora. When they got married he was 23 and she was 15. When you are a kid, you don’t think about things like this, but when you grow up and have certain experiences, like becoming the father of three daughters for instance, you do think about certain things. One of these would be, what would I do if a 23-year-old started sniffing around a 15-year-old daughter of mine?
I can’t tell you exactly, but the vision involves an arm-chair, duct-tape, a gag, and a very sharp knife. I invite the young men in my readership to meditate on that.
That having been said, my grandparents were from a different world. They were married in 1917, 90 years ago, and that was a different world. They lived in the Forks of Boggy in southern Oklahoma, a region which 10 years previous had been Indian Territory.
My grandmother lived through hardships that I wouldn’t wish on my daughters, but she lived a good life and was mourned by many when she passed, as was my grandfather.
They had five children all of whom are now gone with the passing of my Uncle Dave, who met his reward on February 5, 2009.
Sam and Lora, regardless of how we might view their union looking back through the lens of our times, were the start of something. They were a drop of water going into a pond and ripples from that are going out in a circle. They had 10 grandchildren of which I, at the tender age of 46, am the youngest. None of us are in jail (that I know of), all of us pay taxes (at least sales tax), and most of us are fairly interesting. We are all living our lives and taking part in the circle of live.
But in a very real sense, Sam and Lora were the ones who held it all together. Sam died in 1971 and Lora died in 1997 and with her death the center of the circle disappeared. There was only smooth water inside the ripple going outward. I would say that it’s been hard to keep up with the rest of the family since then, but that would only be to avoid saying it’s been impossible. Now their children are all gone and the grandchildren all live lives at the speed of light squared. With so many already dead, we don’t even get together a funerals.
Yet, I have a dream. I have a selfish dream. I want my wife and I to be the center of our own circle. We’ve got three daughters and one of these days I would like grandchildren. And I want my grandchildren to have children and so on.
Looking at this in black and white, I need to add that I know that I don’t have final say on that. Such things are up to God and my daughters. But I’ve seen what Sam and Lora have left behind them, I’ve seen the fruits of that event of over 90 years ago, and I’ve got to say that it is good. I could write 1000 books, I could become famous, but it pales in comparison to the life they’ve left behind them.
Given the uncertainty of the times ahead, there are those who are reluctant to have children. Sam and Lora had the advantage there. They weren’t uncertain; they knew they were poor and if they ever forgot, they had the dirt floor to remind them.
As far as my dream, what happens happens. It is in the hands of God and my daughters as I’ve said. But I’ve seen the reality of the vision, and I know that it is good. Time, that great story-teller, will let us know.
(Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Pittsburg State University.)