Happy Birthday July 14th

Another birthday…I turned twenty-four today! What a strange in-between age! I’m no longer a “kid” but a woman. But I don’t “feel” like it unless I try some of the things I did when I was twenty lol. It’s already starting to catch up to me! Yikes, how scary! What’s it gonna be like in ten years? Hmm…

Anyways, I was born on my Grandma’s birthday and she so happens to be 91 today. And that’s what makes this day so special for me. Not the fact I was born today, but that it’s a day I can share with just and only her. Knowing her and spending the day with her like I did today is always so humbling to me. We should pick our heads up and pay attention to that oldest generation, no matter if they’re senile or sharp as a tack. We could never hope to pretend to be smart and savvy as them about life. So I want to stop pretending that I am. I certainly haven’t “arrived” yet.

I know it’s something you just sort of learn the rest of your life.

I love my Grandma so much. She’s the only grandparent I have left since I’m the baby baby of my family and everyone else is a generation older than most kiddos families my age. But the thing I keep in mind every year I spend this day with her is, live it up, it might be your last together.

Her story is one of the most amazing of anyone I’ve ever known. She was a nurse in WW2, lived a year in England and France before being shipped home with terminal cancer. And that’s just the beginning haha.

She gave me all her journals a few years back. Eventually, one day, when I have arrived I’m going to write down her story and share it with the world.
For her birthday a couple years ago I wrote this. It’s only fitting that I revisit it.
It’s almost word-for-word her journal/interview “words”.

Your Story
Chapter 1
A Bittersweet Voyage
Music gives love and happiness, I learned years later. Singing alto in the church choir gave me such a happy feeling, whether it was solo or duets, trios and quartets with friends.
Our family always sang together. Uncle had a tenor banjo, a “uke” as we called it and we loved those evenings together. Singing by the light of a setting sun, to the twinkling glow of fireflies, our family gathered on the front porch. We learned later how much the harmony of our voices, our laughter, affected our neighbors. I like to think it brought them the same happiness it did us.
Music usually was a comfort to me. Now the comfort tasted bittersweet. The girls around me sang in an effort to bind us together, to hold to the places we came from, to lift our spirits for the journey ahead.
The titan iron ship rode the Atlantic waves, each rise and dip another stretch towards a land painted blood red.
It began with a phone call, or perhaps it began much sooner before that day.
My father kept his old medical books on a shelf. Grandpa was a horse and saddlebag doctor from the old school and thought my daddy should follow in the family footsteps. Ironically the son he intended them for abandoned them to dust eventually. My small, often sun burnt fingers were the ones leafing through the dusty tomes, my eyes seeking things that would weave ambitious dreams.
A dream realized in 1940 when I enrolled in Nursing School. So much there was to learn! At nineteen I felt so young, even more so when patients asked me questions as though I already possessed all the answers. Believe me, it was humbling to say the least. And the following three years continued to do just that, between text books and bed pans and infants, I realized each experience matured me. And the blessings I was able to share, to bring to the patients encouraged me when my education was put to the test.
By the time I was twenty-two it was 1943 and I was already inducted into the Army Nurse Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant at Tarrant Field, Ft. Worth, Texas. In America it was difficult to imagine the reality of what waited across the ocean, in that land riddled with blood and terrorized by a madman. Yet we were proud to fulfill our duty to our country. After two weeks of uniforms; shots hats, and my gold bars, our duty assignments appeared on the mess hall board. I was surprised to find my name paired with “7-3 duty on the O.B ward”… What? Our duty was to the soldiers and I wanted to be on the front lines of that duty.
Of course I soon came to love my new shift. I fulfilled my 7pm to 7am nursing duty in the nursery with joy.
It all ended with one phone call. Or perhaps, that is where my new life really began.
I had just ended my shift, called to the phone and shocked to speak with our Chief Nurse. “You will be assigned to an overseas unit. Ten of you will go by train. Report to Major Siever M.D and another nurse will be assigned in your place.”
The ten of us were boarded onto a troupe train in San Antonio. Several endless days and nights later and ten more nurses were added to our train, until twenty soon became one hundred nurses assigned in Camp Campbell, Kentucky. A fort surrounded in the sultry green pine clear air was a far cry from my front porch in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Our call of duty came later, after more marching and drilling of course. And the call came with only five minutes to prepare.
The “Queen Elizabeth” loomed monstrously enough in the harbor of Camp Kitmec, New Jersey. The big chunks of ice looming through the harbor did little to reassure me of the safety of our voyage. A patchwork of torch blown iron would have to be enough to carry us across the Atlantic.
I doubt this was the life my father envisioned the day I was born with a full shock of red hair and rubbed with oven heated lard in my parents’ front bedroom of Little John Street. But I can see the pride in his eyes, knowing I worked so hard to learn what few would have believed any woman could. I miss my father, my mother, brothers and sisters already, so much it aches. I try not to think of the tears in my sister Susie’s eyes, or the way my mother’s arms last felt wrapped round me.
And around me now sing the harmony of our voices, the women bound for the same harbor as I. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” as our swan song to home, tears in our eyes, we do not know where the Lord will take us before the end of our journeys.
Yet I yearn for the adventure ahead, however bittersweet the joy our music brings feels.
–to be contd….

Grandma,
I know this is a long time coming. I think only now do I have the courage to write it. Most of this was taken word for word from the journals you gave to me. I’ve tried to remain as true to the truth as I could. Forgive me any dramatic embellishments!
I love you so much Grandma, for the life you have lived and the journey you’ve shared. You are all our inspiration you know. Yet how can I tell you how much you’ve done for me personally?
I think I’m only now starting to understand how much you’ve sacrificed, how much you have to live without now. I know you ache for things I wish so desperately I could help refill Grandma. I pray so much that God covers you with His love. I know you have given so much. It’s selfish to wish God could keep you here longer just for us. So there must be another reason He has given you so many blessed years.
I can tell you one reason. Because tonight, while writing this actually, I have been challenged and impacted by you in a way I wouldn’t have been without you here. God has a plan greater than any of us Grandma. Thank you so much for being willing to lead a life for Him. If you hadn’t come to know Jesus all those years ago I very likely wouldn’t know Him now either. And for that influence alone I wish I could give you anything in the world!
You wrote that your inspiration was your Aunt Lela, that you patterened your life after hers.
I want to pattern my life after you Grandma.
But I also want to make you proud.
You mean so much I wish I could give you hugs and kisses for each way you influence my life.
I love you,
Jennifer
About jennifersilverwood (454 Articles)
Jennifer Silverwood was raised deep in the heart of Texas and has been spinning yarns a mile high since childhood. In her spare time she reads and writes and tries to sustain her wanderlust, whether it’s the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, the highlands of Ecuador or a road trip to the next town. Always on the lookout for her next adventure, in print or reality, she dreams of one day proving to the masses that everything really is better in Texas. She is the author of the Heaven’s Edge series, Stay and Silver Hollow.

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