I wrote this column in June of 2012 for my Granny’s 90th birthday. I don’t think I can improve on it much except to say I didn’t truly realize the impact Mildred Josephine Green Shackelford Ward had on this Earth until I saw the long line stretched out the door at the funeral home this past Monday. Change all the 90s to 91s. That’s how many years the good Lord let us have her, and she made the most of every one.
On Saturday my family will gather in Mississippi to celebrate my granny’s 90th birthday.
Ninety years. Twice my lifetime and then some.
She’s been through a lot in those 90 years. Great Depression. World War II. A few wars after that. Seen two husbands go on to their reward.
It’s pretty hard for those of us less than half her age to get a grasp on the lifetimes of these Greatest Generation folks. Despite the struggles of the past few years, the Great Recession is a pretty far cry from the Depression. Not eating out as much and staycations are a long way from living in tents and not knowing where your next meal is coming from.
I have a handwritten cookbook my granny gave me several years ago that both makes me long for a simpler time and humbles me for how easy we have it now. In addition to all her favorite meals, it has recipes for things like base sauces, bread and pickles — things we now just run to the store to get. Back then, if you didn’t grow it or make it yourself, you didn’t have it.
Our war and her war are not the same either. Americans today have no idea what it’s like to sacrifice for a war effort. Rationing of food, fuel and materials has never been a concern of this generation. Maybe we would’ve put more effort into winning it and ending it if it’d hurt a little more at home.
The only people who come close to understanding are the military families who know what it’s like to have a family member gone overseas in harm’s way for an extended period of time. I think that’s one of the things I most admire about my granny. Granddaddy was gone for two years fighting the Germans in Africa and Italy. That must’ve felt like a lifetime.
It’s one thing on a long list of things to admire about my granny, who worked full-time while also working on the family farm and raising four children.
In fact, it’s been a full 90 years.
Granny was a Green, then a Shackelford and then a Ward.
She is a great cook. A painter (I have five of them hanging in my house) and a quiltmaker. A grower of flowers and vegetables. A dedicated chronicler of our family history. She mowed the grass at the cemetery where my granddaddy is buried. She took care of my aunt Annie for years. She’s a great story-teller and a joker. (Legend has it she once charged the people she worked with a quarter to look at her second toe, which is longer than her big toe, just like mine.)
But what she’s been most is dedicated. Dedicated to her friends and family and steadfastly dedicated to her church and God. And they all love her for it.
As of today, Mildred Ward has spent 90 years on Earth. And Earth has been mighty blessed.
Email Nate McCullough at email@example.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.