Mother to Seven, Hero to Many

December 13, 2009
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Life is hard, but Norma M., my grandmother, had it extremely hard. She grew up during the Great Depression and cared for seven kids mostly by herself. She lost a younger brother and two grandparents before she was even nine years old. Norma was wise, brave, and strong; she survived tough times and was always there for her family. Recently since her passing she has become even more of a hero in my eyes.

She was born on Friday, May 13, 1921 in St. Louis, Missouri. 1921 was two years after the end of World War I and times were harsh. Shortly after her birth the Great Depression started which made life even tougher. Her younger brother, Bud, was born in 1922. Soon after Bud’s birth, Norma’s mother had Tuberculosis. When she was three, her grandmother died; furthermore, when she was five her grandfather died of a heart attack while she was sitting next to him during lunch. In 1929 her brother Robert was born; Robert died from Pneumonia when he was 21 months old. Already in her young life Norma faced many hardships that built her strength and character.

In 1935 Norma started high school at St. Marks High School, and one year later her brother, Bud, went to Ben Blewett High School where he met Norma’s future husband, Earl. Bud was the instrument that brought Norma and Earl together. She graduated in 1939 and shortly afterwards World War II started. During World War II food and materials were scarce so they were issued rations points for food and gas. Learning how to live with rations would serve her well when she later raised seven kids. A few years after Earl had returned from the Navy he proposed to her, she said yes. They were married on August 2, 1947. Around this time she was 5’ 6”, had brown hair, and gray eyes.

Norma and Earl’s first child was Michael and he was born on September 19, 1948 and their second child, Susan, was born on August 16, 1950. Their third child, Gregory, was born on August 8, 1953, and their fourth child, Paul, was born on September 26, 1954. Their first four children were all born in St. Louis, MO and shortly after they moved to Memphis, TN. Their fifth child, Thomas, was born in Memphis on June 27, 1958. A few years later they moved back to St. Louis. Their sixth child, Robert, was born on April 28, 1960 and their seventh, and last, child was Karen and she was born on June 16, 1961. So Norma raised seven kids ranging in age from 12 years old to newborn. Unfortunately, Earl was a salesman for GM so Norma had to raise the kids mostly by herself. Those seven kids went on to raise eleven grandchildren, including me.

One reason Norma is my hero is because she was very brave and courageous. Throughout her life there were many moments where she was brave. The biggest example of her courage was moving from St. Louis to Memphis. This required a lot of bravery because at the age of 33 she had never left St. Louis. Another case of her bravery was when her son, Greg, cut his tongue with scissors which caused profuse bleeding. Because they had not been in Memphis for very long when this happened, Norma did not know where the nearest hospital was, nor did she own a car. She told her oldest son Mike to run over to the neighbors’ house and ask for help. This required loads of bravery because she had never formally met her neighbors before. When the neighbor arrived, Norma sent her children over to the neighbor’s house to stay with his family and he drove Norma and Greg to the hospital. One more instance of her bravery was each time she stood up to her husband on the kids’ behalf and whenever she saw or heard something she didn’t like, she voiced her opinion about it.

She demonstrated heroicness by surviving and thriving through great hardships throughout her lifetime. Her first hardship was living through the Great Depression and World War II. During those years the times were tough and materials were scarce. She also faced the loss of her youngest brother, Robert, and the loss of two of her Grandparents before she was 8 years old. Her childhood was probably depressing enough, but was made worse by the death of three family members. Later in life, she experienced the loss of her youngest daughter, Karen. Karen was diagnosed with cancer in 1989 and she passed away on January 12, 1999. She left behind two children ages 10 and 11. Norma’s displays of bravery were similar to those of Odysseus in the fact that they both lost close family members and that they journeyed to new lands.

Norma also proved to be heroic by her strength. Her strengths were not exactly physical, but they were psychological strengths. She was strong because, as her son Robert, said, “She added balance to the family.” It was hard having seven kids in one family and balance was an important part of how they all stayed together. “Always being there for when we needed her was one of her strengths”, as her son Paul said. She was there for them while they were little and were sick and she was there for them when they were older and had children of their own. An example of her being there for her kids was when her daughter, Karen, had cancer. When Karen was sick, Norma was by her side and took care of her and her kids during the illness. Like Odysseus, Norma also had her own share of physical troubles. As Odysseus did, Norma drew upon her psychological strength to deal with many physical troubles throughout her life. Some of the physical ailments she faced were terrible arthritis and multiple spine surgeries.

Norma’s most prized heroic trait was her wisdom. She was wise because she taught her children to stand on their own and to always believe in themselves. She taught her children that they should not be mean to one another and that all criticism should be constructive praise. She was also sensible because she knew that when Karen had cancer, she only had so much time left to live, so Norma used that precious time to stay with Karen and comfort her and her children.

Norma was a hero. She was a loving mother for seven children and a loving grandmother for eleven grandchildren. She used to say, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it.” She said this because she believed that each and every one of us should be nice to one another. She is like Odysseus because she is wise, brave, strong, and was always there for those she loved, just like Odysseus. She was and shall always be a hero for many.

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