And because of it, my herstory is forever incomplete and undernourished
Some time ago, a dear friend asked, “If you could spend 24 hours with anyone, who would it be and what would you do?”
Pondering this question has unearthed deep cravings in me that I didn’t even know I had. It seems that I’m famished for connection, family history, and continuity. I suppose I’m greedy because I would want 48 hours: 24 hours with my maternal grandmother and 24 hours with my Dada.
Jeanne Anne Elisabeth was born on December 19, 1904 to Eugenie Elisabeth and Abraham. And she was affectionately known to all as Dada.
Tragically, in the latter years of her life, Dada was bed-ridden and lived with constant pain. But in spite of these sucky circumstances, her faith, kindness, and love were not dulled or diminished.
She was taken from this life in 1966 when I was still too young for memories to take root. It is said that her three eldest sons, who were everywhere else, chartered a plane and came home to say their final goodbyes to their mami.
Dada must have been an amazing woman and mother!
There are only a precious one or two faded photos of her that exist. And although I have no memories of my own of her, she is more than a picture in a frame to me.
I know that she was kind and loving to my mum when so many in my daddy’s family made her feel like an “alien.” And when I was a baby, she would ask my mum to place me in her arms on the bed that was her “prison” so that she could play with me. From this shared memory, I know that my Dada loved me.
Not too long ago, I asked my daddy what was his favorite memory of his mami. He murmured, “Every memory of my mami is a favorite memory. Every. memory.”
My daddy will only eat his eggs one way, scrambled soft so that each luscious mouthful melts instantly in his mouth. I, too, will only eat my eggs one way, scrambled soft.
So any time I stand at the stove “turning” lightly beaten eggs over a very low flame for what seems like an eternity, I cannot help but smile and think of my daddy with every turn.
Once, he shared one of his fondest memories. It’s a memory that is over eight decades old but still fresh and vivid for him. He confessed that when he was a young boy he played sicker than he was just so he could stay home from school and be close by his mami’s side. And how she scrambled soft, pillowy eggs to comfort him. For me, this tiny fragment is connection and continuity — and it’s priceless.
If only I could be gifted just 24 hours with my Dada. How wonderful it would be to be wrapped up in her warm, loving embrace again and hear her sweet voice whisper her nickname for me.
We would just be together, chatting, giggling, getting to know each other and sharing our deepest secrets. Yes, trying to relive two lifetimes in just 24 hours.
And, of course, I would have to ask, “So Dada, tell me. What was my daddy like as a boy?” and “Why was he so special to you?”
And when we finally and reluctantly separate, I would look deep into her eyes and say, “Dada, I’m overjoyed to finally meet and spend time with you. Because whenever dad, his brothers, his sisters, and my mum speak of you, their voices –without fail– go quiet and soft like white pillowy clouds and their eyes get glossy with tears and filled to the brim and overflow with love. And I always, always imagine how amazing you must have been!”
As with my maternal grandma Mary Mathilda, Dada was here and she was worthy. So I want it written that between the date-dash-date on my Dada’s headstone:
- She lived.
- She loved well.
- She suffered.
- She lost more than she deserved.
- She had faith.
- She was kind and gracious.
- She embraced my mum with her whole heart.
- She made the most heavenly, pillowy soft scrambled eggs and fry cake.
- And she was — is — loved.
Life didn’t see fit to honor me with a personal experience of my Dada’s herstory. This is one of my great sorrows.
So if you’re luckier than I and have a “Dada” in your life, isn’t time you open that treasure chest of history, connection, and continuity and explore it while there is still time?