Day 6: Losing It, Part 4

In my family I watched my grandmother juggle her many lives: part-time domestic or cook; full-time homemaker; block club secretary; church missionary, Sunday school teacher and trustee; wife; mother; and friend. She did all with pizzazz, I thought. She was the tower of strength that we all leaned on. But the day my sister witnessed her “breakdown,” I knew that the pressure from being all things to all people, particularly her husband, had worn her out. During a usual moment of historical pride about providing for his family and never having to go on welfare he mentioned being “the head” of the house. Like a mother scolding her child for the umpteenth time for the same offense, my grandmother uncharacteristically cursed my grandfather and told him she was the head. She was unapologetic, self-satisfied, for claiming her place, one she believed she walked in without the proper recognition.

But my sister and I were in shock. She called me right after she left their house. We talked about all the years my grandmother, then in their early 80s, had given service with a smile, submission with gladness, yet subversively had been hiding her true feelings. We reflected on the clues of her marital dissatisfaction: the whispered conversations about his ineptness, the hidden stash of money, and the short silent treatments when she was annoyed.

I believe my aunt and mother saw all these clues of her misery through the smiles and pledged to live domestic life differently. My aunt was vocal about her role as a wife. “I’m not doing like Mama. She worked herself to the bone and served Daddy. Unh, unh. Not me.” My mother’s actions said the same. She did not clean; my daddy cooked; and she was always involved outside the home, rallying for women. Her love for women really began as an undergraduate student.

Copyright 2006-2010 by Rhonda J. Smith

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2 responses to “Day 6: Losing It, Part 4

  1. Black women are very strong, outspoken, articulate, kind and loving. They have a variety of characteristics but their strength should not be recognized as negative nor should they lash out negatively. All in all we are positive beings that have to take on many responsibilities which sometimes makes us rash in our statements.

  2. musingsofastrongblackwoman

    Thanks, Nubia, for your perspective. It definitely adds to the discussion.

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