A Tribute to One Tough Woman
by Klinton Henry
If I were to tell you all of a woman who was working with three children, most people would think that’s tough. I would agree, it’s tough to find a good paying job today when you’re a working mother with three children. If I were to tell you about a woman who did the same thing during the great depression, tough would become an understatement. Today I’m giving tribute to a tough woman. A woman who not only raised three children as a working mother during the great depression, a time when working mothers were nearly unheard of, but has also lived through most of this past century. This woman was a tomboy, a painter, a poet. But to me this woman will always be my great grandmother, Gladys Parker, more lovingly referred to as my Grandma Park.
My Grandmother is one of the most deserving people I know of tribute. Since she lived to be 96 years old, she must have had something in her character that made her tough. She was born into the middle of 6 boys. One can only imagine how much they must’ve tortured her. I was only told brief stories of the things she did with her brothers. They teased her, taught her to shoot a gun and how to drive a car at the prime age of eleven.
Her life, at times, was hard, which made her tough and enriched her soul. My Grandmother got married during the great depression to my great grandfather (whom I’ve never met). He was a tugboat captain, and would leave to New York for long periods of time. He would end up passing away there in New York at age 47. That left my grandmother home by herself to raise the children AND to make a living. Years later her only son and my great uncle, Billy, died, taking a toll on the entire family. Since I have no children of my own, I can only imagine what kind of toll it took on my Grandmother.
I believe it’s these tough times that allowed her to bloom as an artist in her later years. After she retired from work, her three children were grown and married so she decided to learn how to paint. Several books later she was making beautiful works of art and many of her paintings adorn the walls of our home. Over the years she sold and gave away many of her paintings, so there’s no telling exactly how many paintings she’s actually made. Poetry was something else she took up during her retirement and in 2000 she had her poems published in a book called “Then and Now”. Her paintings and poems show the softer side of a very tough woman.
Up until her last day, Grandma was in excellent mental condition, she could recall these events as if they happened to her yesterday. She said it was the things that actually happened yesterday that she had trouble with. When she was 95 years old, I visited her in the hospital after she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. When it was time to leave, I gave my Grandma Park a hug. She told me she loved me and when I said I loved her too, she smiled and said “How in the world did I trick a hunk like you into saying you love an old woman like me?” Even being 95, even with congestive heart failure, she found a way to not only compliment her great grandson, but also found something to joke about. That, to me, is tough.