13 September 2012

The Fortitude of the Southern Woman

Southern women are a breed all their own – especially those deep rooted ones whose genealogical line traces back to the Civil War {or better yet, the American Revolution}.  Stoically proud to recite their genealogical history, these Southern women wear their DAR certificates like badges of honor, as they should.  It’s these women, those who have had civility, culture, tradition, & family honor spoon fed to them from the day they could sit on their mother’s lap that I speak of – the true Southern Blue Bloods.

They are a dying breed, for sure, mostly ending with the generation from the 50’s.  But you’ll still find a handful busily skittering about their communities.  If you’re paying close attention, you can spot them in flocks, usually in your local church or any of a number of your community’s charitable organizations.  Their characteristics are unmistakable and their qualities are many – not the least are their incredible strength, faith, empathy, and a strong fortitude to forge on during the hardest of times.  Having spent my entire life amongst them, I have full knowledge of these women and the pride they carry.

I am DAR eligible, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a female of the South, but note that I’ve not followed through with my entitlement.  I’m one of those who read the history of America in the back of the school book rather than in the front.  As new history replaced the old and the world became more homogenous, the story of America was placed farther & farther back in the school books as has its relevancy in our modern world.  I didn’t hear straight from my elders the stories of their fight for freedom, I only read it.  And although there is a family book that tells of the horrors my ancestors endured during the Civil War, I know none of the people mentioned.  Too much time has passed and its importance plays much less of a role in my life than it did my grandparents.

Growing up in the South, I remember many times sitting at the kitchen table amongst the generations of women in my family.  Whenever our family history became a topic of discussion {in between the 5 o'clock gin & tonic and the never-ending discussion of new recipes}, there was a phrase my grandmother always said to me.  “Never forget who you are & where you came from.”  This was repeated to me from the time I was a little child.  I never was really sure just what that meant, or even cared, until recently.

So, just where am I going with all of this rambling you’re probably asking?  Well, I’ve been blessed to see first hand a true Southern women in action when my husband’s aunt suffered a recent series of strokes.  And as stoically Southern as his aunt is, it’s not she of whom I speak.  No, it’s my husband’s sister.  This wonder of a human has been by her aunt’s side the entire way {going on two years now}, dropping everything to be there for her aunt and making sure that she was taken care of in every possible way.  She has spent many weeks away from her own home & her numerous community activities to ensure that her aunt had all the support she needed.  Her strength and sacrifice is amazing, and the fortitude she has to push an ornery, stubborn 86 year old life-long smoking retired elementary teacher to do her rehab each & every day – all while making sure she was cared for, bathed, & fed - is beyond sainthood.  And to top it off, when she isn’t completely hands-on with her aunt, she’s in the background paying bills, dealing with the daily grind of household chores & responsibilities {none of her own}, and writing a ongoing list of thank you’s to friends & family {because, among all else the “thanks you’s” must be sent}.  It’s an amazing site.

I know I’ll never be the true Southern woman my sister-in-law is, but I think I now understand fully what my grandmother was saying to me.  It all makes sense now.  “Never forget who you are & where you came from.”  It wasn’t that she wanted me to be proud of my heritage, as I once thought.  No.  It was about honoring family, especially our elderly, and about being a strong individual, like the matriarchs in the generations before us.

Totally inspired by my sisiter-in-law’s her selfless generosity, I am taking this week to be with my husband’s aunt during this, her most recent stroke.  It’s the least I can do for such an amazing family.  As you may have noticed, I’ve not been posting this week.  It’s been incredibly busy & I don’t have very reliable internet access.  Besides, as I have seen first hand, family always comes first!

See you next week!

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