“The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On”
My grandmother Essie Dean Taylor was fiesty but silent when it came to her family. In her mind family consisted of those left behind so long ago in Marshall Texas.
For several years my kids and I would drive to Los Angeles from Arizona where my grandmother lived, take her to the store and load up on groceries.
The last couple of times we drove down, we tried to get her to come back with us. We could see things were changing with her mental stability.
I received a call from my brother Bruce expressing some concerns so the kids and I hopped in the car and drove down.
Our store trip ended up as a family kidnapping.
When my grandmother realized that she had been in the car way to long, that the landscape had changed from lots of freeways to cacti she became furious. The only thing I took from her house was her Bible, the picture of her father and a little yellow duck that she liked so well. Everything else, I left for others to take care of.
Yes grandmother I kidnapped you and I am glad I did.
Those days and nights of worrying eased more than you ever know. All the weight you had lost now began to hug your body because you had someone to look after you.
The onset of Dementia was somehow not as it had seemed when we visited you those days in California. You had always been a very humorous person with a wit that had your grandchildren laughing up a storm.
My regret is that my mother, your daughter did not live to see you here with us. You unknownly asked me often how was Zepher Lee doing. I always answered you with a smile and said she was resting. I know that she would have been very proud because she had always asked you to move to Arizona with her. Her daily long distance calls with you would have been changed to a person to person chat.
Once here and settled, I remember sitting on the front porch with my grandmother asking all sorts of questions. Oh how she hated that! Her mind was telling me that it was none of my business and that I was too nosey. Her family was her business and hers alone, and then she would clam up. How was I going to thread that needle and find out my family history that I so desperately had been seeking since the early 1990's.
On one of those last "sitting" on the porch days, I said to her something like I wonder what your daddy's mother looked like. She looked up and said, "You mean my grandma Mariah" I thought I would jump for joy.
Halleluja,Halleluja I silently thought. After all those years of asking, I finally got a name.
With a quiet voice I said to her, what about your grandfather, was he a nice man? Her reply was that her step grandfather was lawrence. She mentioned her father Joseph's funeral and two cousins.
I was too afraid to get up and get a pencil.
The names she mentioned was Hallie, her husband Willie and another cousin Millie. They drove down from Louisiana she said. She laughed out loud because Willie was afraid of Hallie and towered over him.
Then I made my mistake......I asked if Lawrence is your step-grandfather, what was your daddy's fathers real name?
She looked at me, stared me down and said. "You will never make any money off of my family," and zipped her mouth closed. She never mentioned names again.
I never got another hint about our family from her again. I do suspect though that something deep happened so long ago and the family kept those things within themselves.
I did go to the 1900 Harrison County Texas census and located Mariah/Maria living several doors up from her son Joseph and his wife Frances Dickerson Taylor, my grandmothers parents.
I also found Mariah/Maria and Lawrence in the 1910 Harrison County census living in the same place. I have not found Hattie, Willie or the other cousin Millie nor any last names to go with them. No death certificates for Mariah or Lawrence. I do have a death certificate for her son Joseph but no parents are listed.
My grandmother passed away two years later at the age of 95.
If that day's talk is called an interview then I guess it was. I got names that I never knew, and started another another journey in finding my Mariah's roots. Now if she would only answer me in the way ancestors do, I would be estatic.
After all I did name my blog Mariah's Zepher after her. Halleluja!!!