The little girl had a lot of things working against her. Her parents were 16 years old when she was born. Her mom, whose education didn’t go past junior high, stayed home with her while her dad worked for his father-in-law, learning the plumbing business. Things went along well for a couple of years. The young parents tried but things didn’t work out for the marriage and they split up.
The little girl was 2 years old. She lived sometimes with her mom and sometimes with her mother’s parents. Her mom struggled with alcoholism. A few years after her parents separated, her dad died under mysterious circumstances and there was never a satisfactory resolution to the case. It was ruled suicide but those of us who knew him did not believe it.
The little girl moved in full time with her grandparents. They gave her love without bounds. But their method of parenting involved a lot of freedom for the girl. She had plenty of opportunity to make her own decisions at an age that did not equip her with the skills to make them.
Her mom moved into a mobile home on her grandparents’ property. She brought with her an abusive boyfriend and they had another little girl. The first little girl continued to stay in her grandparent’s house.
She was just becoming an adult when her mom died from complications of alcoholism, leaving her and her little sister without a mother.
Had she drifted aimlessly into trouble and despair, no one would have been surprised and those of us who loved her would not have blamed her. But this little girl was made of sterner stuff than that. She was not defeated by what life dished out to her.
What this little girl had was not something she was taught. It was what was inside her. It’s what makes a person carry on and succeed without bitterness in spite of hardship. Without it a person can fail in spite of every advantage. It was courage and it was determination and it was some unknown quality we sometimes call “guts”. That’s what this little girl had.
She grew into a beautiful, talented, artistic woman. She married her childhood sweetheart and had two beautiful sons. She worked hard at a stressful job and the family purchased a house and she decorated and painted and did carpentry work and made it her home.
But hardship and heartache were not through with the little girl. One day her husband was on his way home from an event family and friends had gone to. The family had gone ahead of him in the car and he was riding his motorcycle home. There was an accident. A friend drove past it and saw the EMS and police and recognized the motorcycle. He went and picked her up. They went to the hospital. Things did not look good. He had been traveling at a high rate of speed and had no helmet on. Word went out to family and friends that they were at the hospital and the outcome was very bleak.
She railed against the injustice of it. She had already lost her parents, the grandfather that raised her had died, and the grandmother had recently been admitted to a nursing home. She cried out wondering what more could be taken from her. We prepared ourselves for the worse.
But we underestimated the power of the little girl. She stayed by her husband day and night. She talked to him and pushed him through therapy and carried him when he could not carry himself. She continued to work when she could at the stressful job; she was now the only financial support the family had. She brought stability and hope and strength to her little sons as they struggled to deal with what they did not understand. She bathed them with her tears and by leading her family through this nightmare she brought herself to the other side.
The husband came home; his recovery was remarkable. The sons moved on from the pain and things got back to a routine, with some changes to accommodate the husband’s recovery. There were happy times again in the little girl’s home.
This little girl is my niece. When I need someone to look up to, I look to her. She’s a woman of substance.