A is for Ancestor
Melissa Edna Morgan
born 3 August 1878, Jennings County, Indiana
married 3 October 1904 Galveston, Galveston, Texas
died 12 November 1963 Hanford, Kings, California
my paternal grandmother
Note: I am focusing on things about her that start with the letter A. Those subjects are in bold print.
Melissa, or Lis, as many people called her, was always attired in a hat when she was in public because she lost most of her hair when she was young due to having a very high fever. Her hair never grew back except for a few strands. She put a net over those fine strands of hair, and then her hat.
She suffered from many adversities in her life. She was the last child to be born to her mother who died of lockjaw when Melissa was between two and three years old. She had no memories of her mother. One of her Dad's sisters and her husband took Melissa to live with them in Kansas. After spending some time there with her aunt, she went to live in a boarding house owned by a German couple. The couple treated her kindly and Melissa grew to love them as if they were her parents. Her father, a miner, meanwhile married at least two more times and moved to Colorado. She had very little contact with him.
She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, painful varicose veins, and had one of her eyes removed because of a tumor. When the eye was removed, she was left with an eye socket that constantly required at least daily cleaning of matter from the eye socket for the remainder of her life. I was fascinated watching her remove her glass eye and putting it in a cup filled with water when she got ready to retire for the night.
Although not considered an adversity for some people, her height caused her to feel out of place. Her husband and his siblings were not tall people. Although Melissa's own father was described as being a very tall man, over six feet, with large hands, and Melissa probably took after him in height, she felt very self conscious about being 5'8" tall.
Some time after Melissa's youngest son was grown, their house burned to the ground. The things that she missed the most were the family photos they had that burned in the fire. She was able to obtain a few photos from some relatives after that, but the total fit in a small stationery box. She enjoyed showing the photos to me as much as I liked seeing them and hearing her explain who the people were.
Most people considered one of my Grandmother's abilities as being an excellent cook. Some of her cooking skills may have been learned while living at the boarding house. She like many women in that day canned their own food. She also made quilts.
Melissa was easily amused. I remember clearly how she and I would find something funny and how we would giggle to the point it was hard to stop. I hear that same giggle in my own daughters laughter. One of her favorite shows to listen to on the radio was the Art Linkletter People are Funny show. I suspect she enjoyed the sound of his laughter too.
She was an affectionate grandmother. Since she had two sons and no daughters, and no other grandchildren other than my brother and myself, she may have felt especially close to her granddaughter who was also her first grandchild. I remember her rocking me as she sat in a wooden rocking chair. I doubt that I had started school yet. I distinctly recall her looking at my little hands and telling me that she hoped that my hands would never become like hers (crippled from arthritis). Perhaps she wanted to be the kind of grandmother she may not have come to know. When she was taken to live with her aunt after her mother died, she most likely never saw her grandmothers again, as they lived in Indiana, and she lived in Kansas.
The actions of others, even if they are negative actions, can often teach something of importance to those around them. I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was in the second grade. She had asked me who I sat with on the school bus. When I told her the name of my friend, she was shocked to hear me say the name of a girl who had a Portuguese name. That was when I felt disappointed, learning that my Grandmother was prejudiced. Deep down I knew her way of thinking was not correct. I don't know why she had this kind of prejudice. Perhaps had she known her mother and her mother's ancestors she would have felt differently. Some of them were involved with the Underground Railroad efforts. What I learned at this early age was that it is possible to still love someone when they have disappointed you, but you don't have to embrace a negative action or thought the person has. You can choose to think and act differently.
Although I only saw my grandmother twice a year after our family moved to another state when I was seven, I still felt quite close to her because I wrote letters to her frequently, and she wrote letters to me. As an adult when I started trying to learn more about my ancestors, one of the first things I did was search for the name of my grandmother's mother and to learn about her mother's ancestors. It brought me a great deal of satisfaction to do what my grandmother had not been able to do, and it also made me feel even closer to my grandmother.