Thursday, January 3, 2013

Silence

Some of my more observant readers may have noticed that there has been much silence lately on this blog, as well as it's Facebook and Twitter accounts. I'll be honest, December, even with all it's pomp and circumstance, tinsel and candles, has been a dark, depressing month. The month concluded with the sudden death of my grandmother, a woman who symbolized strength, determination, and love; my one connection to a generation that will soon be silent.
Four Generations (me, my grandma, Elana, and my mom)
My grandma grew up a child of the depression, in the deep south. Along with the stories of dancing the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug with friends named Sadie and Dot, she told me about the plight of her black (she still used the word negro) neighbors; once witnessing a vigilante squad of white men execute an innocent black man.

Observing these injustices towards members of her community fueled her need to be part of the change.  After college she enrolled in a Southern Baptist seminary school, where she met my grandfather.  Soon after marrying, they moved to Japan where they spent the next thirty years as missionaries- the first few years were working in the aftermath of Hiroshima.

After over three decades of marriage, my grandparents divorced and my grandmother opened up to her family that she was gay.  After years of missionary work, she started a new life.  With little savings, Grandma moved to the Bay Area where she applied her strong Southern work ethic into becoming an international consultant and human resources executive at Applied Materials.  It was also during this time that she met her partner of over 27 years, Linda.  Together, they fought for the acceptance of gays in the church and were a poster couple for marriage equality.

I was about nine years old when I first learned that my grandmother was a lesbian, and remember a strong reaction of shame and anger.  The small Oregonian town where I grew up was not a tolerant place. I worried about what my peers would say and I was nervous that my brother was right- lesbianism could skip a generation.  After the big reveal, my first few visits to my grandmother and Linda's home were intimidating. The bedroom they shared became eerie.  Their casual pecks on the lips were threatening to my preteen reputation.

It took me a few years to realize how wrong I was.  By the time I reached high school, I was able to see that the shame I once felt should be nothing but admiration.  While my grandmother's sexuality did not ever define me, her continuous fight to tear down the injustices did. 

When I quit teaching to become a mother, I felt the burden of my grandmother's disappointment.  Then, when I took up knitting (a very "old-fashioned and anti-feminist hobby", she told me), the burden grew.  But, that is was ok.  It is because of her strive to never sit back and watch, to stand up and be heard, and to always do a little more that will never leave me.  She will always be there, encouraging me to do bigger and better things, and never be silent.

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful. Sorry for your family loss.

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  2. I'm so sorry about your grandmother's passing, Rhianna. It sounds like she lived a life true to herself, and that is amazing and admirable.

    (And I agree 100% with this comment: "The small Oregonian town where I grew up was not a tolerant place.")

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  3. I had a hunch you were brewing up some beautiful words, since you've been so quiet. A heavy way to end the year, I am sorry.

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