Vesper Smith was my maternal grandmother. She was born in Russell County, Kentucky in 1918 and died in Johnson County, Indiana in 1999.
My grandmother had a difficult life. When she was 8 years old, she peeked around the corner of the bedroom and watched as her mother passed away from tuberculosis. She became a mother to her 2 younger brothers especially when their new step-mother proved to be quite hateful toward them. Step-siblings were permitted to eat first while Vesper and her brothers waited for left-overs. They were never allowed to be ill, but had to sneak outside at night to be sick. When Vesper’s father moved the family to Indiana for better job prospects, he bought 2 houses – one for Grandma and her brothers and the other for his 2nd family.
Vesper met my grandfather, who was also from Russell County, in a church in Franklin. She recalls that he had the largest Bible in the church. After they were married, the hard truth came out – he was an alcoholic. As a colicky baby, his mother had added alcohol to his bottle to induce sleep. Life with an alcoholic husband was a difficult one and raising 5 children was a challenge. Some family members have hinted that Grandma may have “turned him in to the draft board” around 1944 in order to have a reliable income to support the family. Eventually, my grandparents divorced.
In spite of these years of hardship, my Grandmother had a gentle, caring spirit. She was a dedicated Christian woman and my most vivid memories of being at her house include the sounds of good old fashioned Gospel music coming from the radio in her kitchen as we spent evenings sitting on her front porch. We lived far away from her while I was growing up, so I didn’t get to spend much time with her. When I think of Grandma, I can taste the “church gum” and smell the Jergins lotion!
My mother says I look like her when she was young. I’ve chosen to make her picture my Twitter icon in honor of her!