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Good Grandmas, Bad Grandmas

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“Good Grandmas”

When I think of Grandmas, naturally I think of my own, as the Gore family was basically a matriarchal family. Only my father and one brother, my youngest sibling were the male figures. When you are the only boy among all females, it isn’t an easy life.  However, Scott made it through and is doing well and married to “the other Donna Gore” LOL.

But, getting back to Grandmas, there was “Myrt” short for Myrtle (my mother’s Mom) and Betty short for Elizabeth (My Dad’s mother). Both were divorced women for years who fended for themselves and their families.  There were no Grandfathers giving sage advice. But, I did learn a lot from each of my Grandmothers.

“Myrt” had salt and pepper hair, was tall and thin, and on the quiet side until you got to know her. She smoked filterless Chesterfield cigarettes waaaaay before anyone knew it was bad for your health.   She was a very responsible, with easy going personality, ready to leave at a moments notice for any adventure.

Every summer we went to either Old Saybrook or Westbrook CT to the beach with lots of fun activities besides the beach. I remember her rustling up meals for us and lots of visitors. Myrt was a consummate card player, an obsessive crossword puzzler, and excellent at jigsaw puzzles and Jeopardy. Oh…. all of those card games and puzzles on rainy days at the beach – What fun!  Sadly, she died of lung cancer in 1983!  Damn Chesterfields! I hate cigarettes! And I miss Grandma!

Then there was “Nana”- Elizabeth N. Gore….. She lived upstairs from us much of our childhood and was a frequent babysitter with all the medical events in this family!  She was fiercely independent with many jobs throughout her life and very savvy having come up through the School of Hard Knocks.  Mostly I recall her endless patience in trying to “overcome my disability” with keeping things moving, my hands and my feet.  I remember not being allowed to be discharged from my many hospitalizations without a “giving a sample” and she sticking my hand in cold water or massaging my legs slathered with lotion to “increase the circulation.”  She had me typing on the old classic Royal Typewriter and knitting. But even then I chose to write stories. I recall her treating me to a milkshake and hamburger after we went on our every Saturday adventure to collect rents at her properties in the North End of Hartford. Her car looked more like a big hardware store versus a green Pontiac station wagon.

Nana had a very hard life as a single mother, which showed when she would tell stories of 50 years ago and recall each as if they happened yesterday.  She had definite sayings and definite swear words peppered her conversation of the “Hell and Damn” variety.  Her comments about people were not politically correct, but she was generous to the underprivileged.  One of my favorite sayings was “She looked like she combed her hair with an eggbeater.”  Ha!

I loved walking the shoreline with her looking for shells to make art projects using those green foam containers which package fruits and vegetables as a backdrop frame “for my sailboat creations.”  I remember razor clams, blue mussel shells and translucent golden shells worn down by the sea and strung on elastic to make a beautiful bracelet!

However, it was as if the black curtain came down on Nana’s life when my father was murdered in 1981. He was her only child.  She lived another 15 or so years…but she was never, ever the same… as if all of the wind had been sucked from her sails or when the “Tin Man” was forever trying to find a heart!

“Bad Grandma”

3c25405rBorn Arizona Clark, in Ash Grove, Missouri, Ma Barker was known as “Arrie, “Arizona Donnie Barker (October 8, 1873 – January 16, 1935) or Kate Barker.  She and her husband lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, as their gang lifestyle continued, they moved around the country. She was the mother of several criminals who ran the “Barker gang “from the “public enemy era. She was the “Thelma or Louise” of her time and extremely dedicated to her four criminal sons.

Although she had the reputation of a killer, she was never arrested or jailed despite her savage lifestyle on the lamb. By the time Barker’s two youngest, Doc and Fred, had reached their teen years, all four sons were repeatedly landing themselves in prisons and reformatories. But Kate Barker refused to discipline her boys and would fly into a rage at anyone, including her husband, who tried to scold them. In fact, her husband, George Barker, who appeared to have a moral compass, just “up and left” in disgust over his son’s escapades and Ma’s apparent lovers on the side.

Her legacy was one of contrasts in that J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”. However, others never gave her such credit as a “mastermind”, saying she had no active role in criminal activity and “couldn’t plan breakfast,” said one gang associate.  She was killed in a wild shootout in an upstairs bedroom with her son.

For a video regarding her life and her family: see this link: http://www.biography.com/people/ma-barker-14515515

Was Ma Barker a grandma?  OMG!  NO! I shudder at the thought!  But, we did have you thinking about it, right?

 

 

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