It's the heart that really matters

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By Ed McAteer

Sitting in the musty smelling living room, I looked around at the aging duct tape and hardened carpenter's glue that I used over the years to hold together this fragile, cement-block, 1930-something house.

It's a small, two-bedroom, 600-square feet abode that my grandmother, Brennie Love, having lived there since 1939, insisted that she would remain in until she dies.

At 92 years young, her brownish black hair has only about 25 percent of it turning gray. She has a beautiful smile with her store bought teeth, is as spunky as she was at 18 years old, and just as hardheaded as she ever was about many family matters.

Granny is amazingly charming in her special way. With a soft-spoken voice always aimed to please, I never knew her to hurt anyone. She is generous with her love and compassion toward others. I often wondered if Granny ever gets mad at anyone. I never observed that type behavior coming from her even to this day.

When I was 14 years old, I started working at the local Western Auto store after school. I got off the school bus uptown and walked home each day after work. My family was poor and I needed the money to get through school. I did not have a choice - I had to work. Granny loathed seeing me walk everywhere I went.

Occasionally, I would catch a ride if someone was traveling my way. I did not mind walking and told Granny I was young and it was good exercise. She looked at me and with that big bright smile gave me a loving hug, then sat down on the chair beside me, and cried like a newborn baby.

Granny's father was a hard-core southern Baptist preacher who made her stop school and start working in the local cotton mill at age 12. Papa was old fashioned and believed a woman should be working and tending house.

If you were not married by age 15, you were considered an old maid. Granny worked hard in that sweat factory, and by the age of 29, she was medically retired with brown lung disease. I never heard her complain, not even once, although everything in her life from then on came very hard.

At age 16, I read in the paper about a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle that was only $400. I wanted that car badly but did not have money for such a large purchase. My passbook savings account reflected a grand total of $73.50.

Granny asked me to come see her. I did. She encouraged me to continue with school and always work hard. Go make something of yourself she said as she handed me four $100 bills from her life savings of $1,000 and told me to go get that Volkswagen.

She gave me the money gladly and with all her love. I learned a valuable lesson that day - it's the heart that really matters.

E.G. McAteer grew up in Lancaster. He is now with the Northrop Grumman Technical Services at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.