She never considered herself a feminist. In fact, she often spoke ill of them and their crazy ideas. She considered herself a solid Evangelical Christian who had no time for new social movements. She attended church regularly, tithed, joined various Bible study groups, prayed often, and watched Christian television.
Still, the influence of militant Feminists clouded her thinking, causing her to make choices that belied many of the virtues she claimed to revere. Like most Americans, she easily accepted the mores of the people around her without really examining the logical implications of ideas.
In the early seventies television, magazines, newspapers, and movies spoke earnestly and authoritatively on the need for people, especially women, to find themselves, to follow their dreams, and to seek their own happiness. These ideas were always presented as settled science. Finally, after all those centuries, women were beginning to learn how oppressed they had always been and now they were escaping to full self-development. Everyone who was anyone agreed.
Thus, after the death of her second husband, she made a feminist choice based on what seemed to offer self-fulfillment, not a Christian one based on earnestly seeking ways she could help others.
So she chose to stay in a small city where she was Mrs. Somebody instead of moving near either one of her children, to reinforce family ties and, most importantly, to influence her grandchildren while they were still influence-able. Never mind that her own mother had had a powerful effect on her children who had been one and seven when she was first widowed. Never mind that this son and daughter revered their grandmother and appreciated her contribution to their lives. They fondly spoke of her foibles and métiers many times. But the grandmother’s most notable appearance in the local paper was her own obituary.
No, this woman wanted to be important, to be Mrs. Wonderful. And so she was for a while: President of the Antique Glass Club, President of Women’s Federation, President of the Book Club, speaker and book reviewer at various meetings, hostess to many parties for the town’s Prominent People. She was frequently featured in the local newspapers and occasionally received nice plaques for her service. She made trips abroad every year with local groups. However, as macular degeneration set in, her fan club slowly faded away. In everyone’s mind, she was a very nice person; someone to hug at large parties, but never someone who profoundly affected their lives. Never would she be someone they would share stories about fifty years after her death.
Almost every year, her children had asked her to move near them – first into a house nearby, later into some type of duplex arrangement, and finally into a bedroom. She angrily refused each offer.
Finally in the last few years of her life, her former fans began calling the children. “You must do “X” with your mother.” “You must come take care of your mother, she’s doing “X” all the time.” “Her house is so filthy, it stinks. I see insect carcasses on the floor.” “Your mother is wearing dirty clothes.” “Your mother belongs in a nursing home.”
Oh, my dear, dear woman, why couldn’t you see that social fads/clubs/status come and go, but the family is forever? Why did you refuse to understand the truth in the old adage: that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Did you never realize that no one has more power than when they are bringing up children? Didn’t you understand that happiness never comes from seeking it? It is always a by-product of serving others, just like they taught you back in the one room schoolhouse you first attended. If something has worked for millennia, then it has a lot going for it. It can be improved, no doubt, but throwing it out completely is usually a mistake. This generation may well have the most formal education, but it surely is the most foolish in our nation’s history.
And how many are there just like you who grow increasingly angry, but remain mystified about the cause?