Facebook and the web have made me aware of some truths that have slowly percolated to the top of my mind especially in my final years. I say this because I am 80 years old and statistically have only a little more time left.
The impetus for this article was a student in our Patrick Henry HS orchestra class, which because it is Orchestra is more like a family rather than a class as students often began with me in grade school and stayed through until graduation. I lost track of her until Facebook and somewhere along the line we reconnected. She was a smart student, did well in University and has a career in rocket design for the military in Maryland. She loves riding horses and so has managed to acquire the farm situation which allows her to enjoy her hobby…..except it seems that she is the one who does most of the physical work such as feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls, all heavy manual labor! She has an adult daughter who has a kidney disease that requires dialysis and frequent trips to the hospital. I am profoundly impressed at this woman’s courage.
….this led me to think about other women whose lives directly impinged on my own or were
influential one generation up. My Grandmother Garst was such a woman. She bore at least 8
children, experienced 2 fires which set the family back financially and her farmer/preacher husband died early in life before I was born. My mother and several others lived with other relatives part of their adolescent years. And yet the family lore was upbeat.
My Mother was an attractive young woman and married my father who was not her first suitor.
They married in 1929 or 1930 just after the “Crash of 29” not an auspicious time. She helped put my father through Bridgewater College and he accepted pastorates in the Church of the Brethren in Highland County and later in Buena Vista, Virginia. In 1937 the really mind blowing decision to do “missionary” work in India was made. Family tales relate that I was 3 months old when they arrived in Bombay and Gujarat. There were dangers from disease, from insects and animals and the possibility of a Japanese invasion of India during World War II. She nursed us through childhood bouts with malaria and at least one motorbike accident by my father before he switched over to horseback. She was the quiet bulwark of the family and if and when she was afraid, never let us see it. It was always smiles!
There was a second trip to India, something I will never understand. She had at least one very
bad scare when a gang of young men who were angry at Americans invaded the compound
where she was and threw rocks and epithets at the house one evening when our Father was gone on mission business.
Our Father’s health deteriorated rapidly and they were advised to cut short their work and return to America. Again, it was the quiet courage of our Mother that helped our family of 7 get safely home. There was luggage to pack, health papers to complete,
ship tickets to arrange, many items that as a 15 year old I was not privy to.
Lib and I married in 1956 and she helped put me through college and graduate school. Our beginnings were very similar to how my parents began their married lives. I see this praise of courageous women being in several installments…so stay tuned! Just don't want to overwhelm you, dear reader, with my story all at once.