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“Over the course of the millennia, all these ancestors in your tree, generation upon generation, have come down to this moment in time—to give birth to you. There has never been, nor will ever be, another like you. You have been given a tremendous responsibility. You carry the hopes and dreams of all those who have gone before. Hopes and dreams for a better world. What will you do with your time on this Earth? How will you contribute to the ongoing story of humankind?” ~ Laurence Overmire

Grandmothers - The Lessons

Posted by TonyaKeittKalule

I now realize how important it is to have family.  I was fortunate enough to have both my grandmothers until I was well into adulthood, even though both of my grandfathers passed on while I was a little girl.  I was also fortunate enough to have both of my parents in the same household, where they still are today; grandmothers are the best.

Often the random sayings of my grandmother Esther comes to mind, many that I didn't understand at the time, and often thought to be just old lady talk.  When I would ask her what she was talking about or what one of her sayings meant, she would just tell me to "just keep living", which was another one of those things that didn't make sense to me at the time.  So I would often just smile, while thinking what in the world is this old lady talking about. My grandmother Esther was right, 'just keep living', because the longer you live the more of life you will experience along with life's lessons.
Susie Esker (Esther) McMillian
She was not a liar, so to stay true to that, her statements would be worded in such a way to make it  true.  An example would be, if she was on the phone talking to someone and she was ready to end the conversation and I was sitting in the room with her, often the living room, she would tell me to walk over and knock on the door, and then she would say to the person on the phone, 'I  gotta go now,  someone is knocking at the door'.  We got such a kick out of this, and thought it was the funniest thing ever. She would make you do it so she would not be lying. Both of my grandmothers would tell me stories of their childhoods, which is probably when I started to be interested in family history. They were great stories too.

From Esther, I learned patience, but most of all I learned that whatever mistakes you made in your life,  you were not the first one to make that mistake, and that life would go on and that you needed to go on with it;  leave your mistake in the past, because you were not going to be the last one to make that mistake.  She would let you know if and when you were wrong, but she never made you feel bad about what you had done. Often times whatever it was that you had done was never mentioned again.  You felt the love even when you had done something that was unacceptable.  She would just tell you to brush yourself off, hold your head up high, and keep living. She taught me patience for people and how to accept others for who they were and not for who you wanted them to be.  She was a straight shooter, never mincing her words, you always knew what she was feeling about things.  If you were wearing a dress that she thought was hideous, she would ask you, 'where did you get that ugly dress from?'  The way that she would say it would be funny, but it would not hurt your feelings even though you thought you were looking good in that dress. She would just laugh and say,' don't wear that anymore'.  Most often she would not offer her opinion without your asking her, but if you asked, you were going to get the truth as she saw it.
I was her first grandchild, therefore I spent a great deal of time with her. She has been gone for over 20 years now and there is still not a day that goes by when I don't think about her, or one of her sayings rings true.
Irene Sapp Keitt

My dad's mom, Irene, was very different,  but equally family oriented. I was one of ten grandchildren, but the only one that lived in Savannah, and as a little girl I lived right around the corner from her. I spent a great deal of time with her as well and learned so much.

 She was a true business woman. She owned several business and a great deal of property. Ownership and the power of the dollar was important to her.  I now understand that she was trying to build something that she could pass on to her family.  She too was very patient with me and taught me many many things.  As a little girl of probably 8-10 years old, I would go to her house after school, where she ran two businesses from home; Eastside Cab Company and a beauty shop.
  I would answer the phone and dispatch the cabs via cb radio.  I don't remember her teaching me how to do this, but she must have. She would often times be in the front of the house in her beauty shop.   I can remember her having a gas pump at her house, yes just like the ones at the gas stations, and the huge petroleum truck would come to fill it.  The cabs would come to fill up, and she had this book where I would write down the cab number, the starting and ending point on the pump, and figure out how many gallons it was. All of this was recorded in this ledger.  Again she must have taught me to do this, even though I don't remember her doing so.

My grandmother Irene had the philosophy, that if you were old enough to eat, you were old enough to work. Now don't get me wrong, this was not child labor, it was lessons for life.  She never made me do any house work, other than wash dishes, and whether they were clean or not, I never knew. I don't ever remember being corrected by her, other than a couple of times when I was being smart at the mouth, and then she called herself spanking me with a patent leather dress belt. I just jumped around and hollered like she was killing me when what I truly wanted to do was laugh.  Now you know that a patent leather belt that goes around a dress was nothing that would hurt anyone. But I played the part so she would not tell my father, because that was going to be a leather belt.  Anyway, it only happened a couple of times, probably because I knew that I could get away with it, because talking back would never have happened with my parents.

My grandmother Irene was good at making money and good at keeping money.  She truly knew the value of a dollar. I didn't get that lesson at first, because like many of us I learned about credit and how to use it, not knowing that it was using and controlling me. It is not until now that I get it. I learned the lesson the hard way, when all I had to do was pay attention, but I didn't.
Grandmother Irene had a peice of property in Richmond Hill, that was just a lot, but she bought an RV trailer to put on the property for the comfort of her family, and we were welcomed to go there anytime we wanted to. She also had a cement slab poured there, with a brick barbeque pit, like a patio, then built a screened in gazebo, with picnic tables, and a sink.  This is where we would get together every year on the fourth of July and have a great time.  This property was in a recreational park, where there were lakes for fishing and a community playground, tennis courts, and swimming pool. This she did for us, her family.  By this time she had several great grandchildren, and the trailer was perfect for sleeping babies.
My Parents

I am talking about this now because the lessons from my grandmother Esther were obvious, because she was a talker and she shared things verbally.  Grandma Irene was a doer, soft spoken and not as much of a talker.  It is only now that I am painfully aware of all that I learned from her.  I feel extremely blessed to have had these two women in my life.  I am also grateful to have had the parents that I have as well. They taught me the value of education and great work ethics.  These two things have served me well in my life.  I am sadly aware of how many people do not have good work ethics.

I know that many people have not experienced the love and company of their grandparents, but it is an experience like no other.  When my grandmother Irene remarried, I had a step -grandfather. We called him JB, and he spent a great deal of time with us as well. Teaching us things, playing with us, and loving us.  I thank God for him everyday as well.
Irene and JB
They are all gone now, but I still feel their presence in my life.  I still feel their love and guidance.  My heart is full from them all.

And if you want an even more soulful versions with some commentary, here it is


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