No. 251 – On Legacy

Uncle John, Grandmama, Uncle Arlen

Protect them from all hurt, harm, and danger.

Gertrude Liverman

Coming up as a young boy, my Grandmama would end her prayers over me and my younger brother with that line. Gertrude Liverman, my Grandmama is an amazing woman. She came up on the coast of North Carolina, worked picking crops before getting jobs cleaning people’s homes. She was in her early 40s before she was able to legally vote.

I think about my Grandmama a lot. As I learn more about what has happened in this country over the time she’s been alive, I wonder what her life was like at the time. She didn’t get past middle school with her education. How did she process the changes in the 50s as her kids went through their elementary and middle school educations after the passage of Brown v. Board of Education? A single mother of eight children, what was going through her head when social workers came threatening to put her children into different homes? What was going through her mind once news got around that Lyndon Johnson had signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Unfortunately, I won’t get those answers. She’s been living with Alzheimer’s for several decades. Listening to the stories my mom and her siblings share about Grandmama, I get a clear picture that her faith gave her the ability to navigate everything she encountered making her way through this country. What’s amazing is that in all the time I spent with her as a kid, I never sensed bitterness or anger about what she went through. I never heard her talk about what-ifs.

What I saw Grandmama do was visit neighbors to make sure they were alright. I heard her call folks and pray with them. I laughed with her as she flicked me on my head, joking at how hardheaded I was. It would be cool for her to see I’m just as stubborn and persistent as the kid who wouldn’t stop shooting the basketball against the imaginary hoop on the side of her apartment, until it felt like I was making shots.

I love my Grandmama very much. I’m grateful for the 95 years she’s spent on earth and for every bit of additional time she gets with us. She’s got a big legacy of faith, hard work, love, and endurance. Hopefully, I do it justice as I continue on.