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Monday, June 16, 2008

A Woman I Don't Know

I don't really know much about her, except a few of the stories told by others and two or three she herself quite briefly shared with me. She married a farmer in her early teens. She had ten children, five boys and five girls and raised them all in a small one bedroom house with dirt floors out in the country somewhere. As the children grew they watched over the younger ones as she cooked and slept in the afternoons. No finicky eaters in this house. The children ate whatever was served and often times one or two of them would go to bed hungry, too many mouths to feed I guess and not enough food to go around.

Her husband would leave, sometimes on foot other times on horse and carriage, for weeks to sell his crops and when he returned she was there. Everyone knew about his adventures and his travels, so of course she knew too. She once told me how he returned from a trip and candidly informed her how much he had enjoyed the women there. She, on the other hand, never traveled, shopped, attended a dance or visited a restaurant. Poor woman, she stayed home and made babies. This was her life as it was for many women around the world in the 1930's and 40's. She asked for nothing and expected nothing.

Once they turned twelve and thirteen, two of her daughters quit school and worked as maids in town. These young girls could not get an education because they had to feed themselves and their younger siblings because mother and father could not. After a few years of saving and with the help of one of their brothers the two girls purchased a small home with an extra bedroom and a floor. It took the daughters days to convince the father to move to this new home, for he was a proud man who insisted his home served them well. Eventually he accepted and the family moved. Now, when the lady of the house in town humiliated or treated the young women harshly, they could at least go home and sleep on a bed in a house with a floor, a reward they savored for many years.

In her 70's this woman awoke to find her husband missing. He had gotten up early, showered and shaved and dressed in his best. He took a rope, tied it to the tree in the backyard and took his life. No one knows why, and if they do they never told. In her 80's she lost a son and in her 90's she lost another.

She never wore fancy clothes, never had jewelry, never drove a car. She used no expensive creams to scare away the wrinkles, no dieting, no exercising and no vacations. This very tall woman that I really don't know very much has never had any aspirations, dreams or illusions; she just lives. And how does she live? In her late nineties, she still listens to the radio, sings and enjoys her afternoon naps. Occasionally, she mentions that she is tired and wonders why God has not come for her yet. The years have not destroyed her though, for she still dresses up and pats some powder on her face before leaving to the doctor's office. She jokes with the doctor and with the girls in the office before returning home to her rather large apartment where she has her own room, her kitchen, living room and dining room. Her remaining children watch over her, clean her house, cook for her and run her errands. Seldom is she alone. Yet, she asks for nothing and expects nothing. She simply waits patiently and quietly as she has all her life, never stressed, never hurried, never wanting and always accepting of her life as it is.


  1. such a sad story,,,I hope it never happened in real life.

    Keep posting.

  2. Cool blog you have here, must come back and visit often.

  3. That's sad. I can't imagine like without hopes and dreams. I can't imagine just waiting for death to grab me and take me away. I think when we lose our dreams we lose our meaning of living.

  4. This story represents some of my greatest fears: complacency, irrelevance and conformity as a prison. This woman no doubt evidences a certain kind of bravery and resilience that I don't have ... but I certainly could not live that way, simply surviving life as it is dealt to me. I have to be much more of an active participant in my world.

  5. My first reaction is this women has lived such a sad life...but then if it was all she knew...she didn't know it was possible for life to be any different...I could never live my life as this woman has, I'm far too opinionated and outspoken...but who is to say she was unhappy, maybe her life as she knew it was good, without stresses, or hurrying or wanting what she couldn't have ???
    Wonderful heartfelt story...:0)

  6. I do not want to skew the readers by telling you whether or not this story is true. I would much rather have you analyze and dissect any way you wish.

    Comments so far, except Azure Islands perhaps, have been quite critical of how this woman lived her life. But Azure raises some excellent points that I ask you all to consider.

    Thank you all so much for stopping by.

  7. Ignorant is bliss?

    Sometimes when we see others in "less fortunate" situation, we tend to put them in our suit of expectation and feel perturbed if it doesn't fit. But, it's our suit, and they are not wearing it. Anyway, "fortunate" is subjective. And so is "ignorant".

  8. I know this woman. She is many women from my past.
    My Grandmother lived through experiences I thought was sad and hard. She lost 5 babies before they were a year old. All she knew was being poor and hard work. This same woman could make a dead twig take root and loved all children and animals. She never said a bad word against anyone. Her face was so wrinkled it scared small children until she smiled.
    I asked her one time, Grandma, did you miss seeing the ocean,the mountains, all the places far away?
    She replied, no baby, you don't miss what you never had or what you never saw. I have all I need and want right here.
    Yes, I knew that woman.

  9. Hello there,

    I enjoyed my visit to you before and your comment to me and just had to come back for more.

    With that said, reading this reminds me of stories about the women my grandmother knew. She would tell me about these women's lives as if it was *matter of fact* - but it pained my heart. Even as a child it pained me to think of anyone being treated with any inch less than unconditional love and receiving happiness in their lives.

    As I grow up I sometimes get *hard* and say "that's the way life is", but I QUICKLY brush it off and know that I have every right to be pained at someone's experience.

    My grandmother lost her husband at a very young age with my mother (a four year old) to care for. She became mentally ill and couldn't care for herself or her daughter and was in and out of mental hospitals. There is a sad story in her life, and my mother's... but I can only give them each love. That's my part in it. :)

    But I loved her so... she saw so much grief.

    Thank you for this story - it's a reminder of what life is - to learn and to care.

    Hugs to you,


  10. You are quite perceptive buzzing j. I share your sentiments as well. Without giving away too much, I must say that I try, though not always successfully, to avoid judging others by my own standards. I have tried to depict this woman's life without incorporating my views. Except for the reference "poor woman" I think I remained pretty impartial.

    Thank you for your insight.


    It the story made you feel sad, then it is a sad story. Thank you for reading. :)

  11. @Gafarmwoman

    I knew you would understand my story perfectly. I too know this "woman that I don't know." Even though she was born 100 years ago, her story mirrors the story of so many like her. Still today, women in some parts of the world live as second hand citizens with no rights, no aspirations and they are treated with brutality and little compassion.

  12. Hi Monica

    Appreciate your visit and your commentary. As modern women living in the US, it might be difficult to understand these "old stories" of hardships. We have so much more than they ever dreamed possible. It never crosses my mind that I can't do something because I am a woman. Freedom makes me powerful; opportunity, education and laws make me strong, but what happens when you have none of that? What happens to the powerless women in the world?

    In the late 1800's, Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a meeting, spoke to a group of men and women and asked for the right to vote. She died before she could ever cast a ballot.

  13. This story reminds me of a woman I helped once in a while. She is in her 90s. She said all her friends are dead so are her siblings. She wish she never lives to be so old.

  14. Unfortunately, the clue to her survival is the statement "never stressed" which implies she simply didn't think. I also knew women of this era who are no longer with us. Thank God for people who did think and did something about it. Not everyone was able to. We must remember to take care of those who can't take care of themselves, and more importantly, we must remember to encourage and inspire our young people to once again believe that anything is possible.

  15. This is a well-written portrait of a woman who lived and did what she had to do. Sometimes having many choices can be oppressive -- too much to process, too much risk of making the wrong decision. Sometimes we live with the illusion of choice and control when we have none. If she is satisfied, what business is it of mine to judge her life and her decisions?

    But I'm glad I have alternatives.

    Thanks for a though-provoking piece.

  16. Wow! What a lot of emotions this evoked. I have so many thoughts and feelings but will try to only share a few here.

    It instilled in me a feeling that will ensure I don't waste any freedoms I have in my life as a woman in 2008 in the USA. Some countries the women still love like the woman in this story.

    It makes me deeply appreciate the kind kind man in my life who treats me as equal and always tells me: "It's our problem. It's our money, It's our car. It's our love. It's about you and me, together as a team." AND he lives that and doesn't treat it like he's giving me gift but an the norm and how it should be...always, in all ways. I am grateful and moved to tears.

    This story makes me send my love out to the souls of these brave women who lived in a different time, often under the repression of all women...nonetheless they persevered and often did so with dignity, courage, love and forgiveness. The ones I've known were strong strong women....inside.

    Because of these women I am here today. I am alive. I AM, because of them. So I send my love and thanks to their brave souls. They not only physically led to my own birth and arrival on Earth but they paved a path for me, one by one, like stepping stones laid down over the ages.

    I am not one to judge or say why someone does what they do. That is an often easy and cowardly way to gain self importance or false peace of mind. I cannot imagine from 2008 the time these woman grew up in. No voting, no smoking, no, no, no... And I myself have been in very hard situations at times that others judged, but they did not see what I saw or my reasons for doing what I did.

    Like the old saying..."Unless we've walked in someone else's shoes...etc."

    Mar, you are one AMAZING woman! I am so honored to have you in my life. Thank you for making me think and for inspiring me. Love, Rob

  17. Hi Jessieblogjourney

    Many of us have met women like this. I hope our lives are richer for having known them.

    HI Sandra

    You raise good points and I agree..thank God some women at the time did "think." This woman I write about was never stressed and still today is never stressed, and I attribute her incredible longevity to her laid back disposition.

    Hi Jennifer

    Unfortunately, I think you are right because she had very little choices. As you say...she did what she had to do. I,too, try not to judge her and unlike many readers of this story who believe her life was "unpleasant," I don't think she disapproved all that much.

    I don't know that given the same circumstances...lack of education, social constraints and the mentality at the time, that I may not have done the same. I don't know. I do know I feel fortunate to live where I live and how I live.

    Hi Robin

    Times have changed for many women in the US, but I fear that there are many women in other parts of the world that still live very constrained and limited lives; some suffer inhumane abuses at the hands of others who regard them as property, disposable and unworthy.
    I worry not for the women who "choose to live" their lives their way. I worry for the ones who want more, who want better but have no choice or escape.

    And you are right...we don't really know a thing about a person until we have walked in his or her shoes. :)

  18. I love what you have done with this. In the way this is written, one can derive a multitude of emotions through the caravan of non-emotional facts woven in story form. By doing so, I think each person receives a reflection of themselves, their life, their attitudes, their ideas, etc.

    The message I received is that good or bad, this woman accepted her situation. She did not live in anguish because it was not what she wanted from her life. At the same time she did not live in denial to create a false sense of joy. She let each day be what it was.

    After reading the responses, I realized that perhaps you didn't write that into the story at all. I did. Again, I love what you achieved with this. It is a creative inspiration!

  19. Hi Anna

    Your interpretation mirrors many of my thoughts regarding this woman I don't know well.

    "She let each day be what it was," you said. And you mentioned that I did not include that in the story. I may not have said it, but I was hoping someone would "see" it. You did. She was not angry then, nor is she angry now. She did not live in anguish then and she lives not in anguish now. That is what I find most remarkable about this woman.

  20. nice story. sounds like so many of my great aunts who lived on big farms and had 10 or more children.


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