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Warmhearted Woman

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As my Mawmaw sits at the kitchen table in her wheelchair, her fingers are pressed to her forehead, recollecting memories of the past about her childhood, her marriage, and her family. “My memory isn’t too good,” she says, but her stories pour from her one after another as I sit there and drink it all in.
Elaine Duhe LeBlanc was born on May 14, 1929, in the home of her parents, D.J and Lucette Millet Duhe, in Destrehan, Louisiana. I guess you could say she was a normal teenager, if you consider working at a grocery store from 5 A.M. to 7 P.M. normal. These were long hours for a teenage girl. My great grandfather, D.J., owned a small grocery store in Destrehan where my grandmother worked for most of her teenage years and the first few years of her marriage. She would restock canned goods, clean the meat cutter, and deliver groceries. Besides working at the grocery store, my Mawmaw did go to school. She attended Destrehan High School, when it was located where Harry Hurst Middle School now stands. My Mawmaw never finished high school due to an illness her senior year. Most of that year was spent in the hospital, so her parents decided that she would not finish high school, but continue working at the grocery store full time. It was a decision she regrets to this day.
My grandmother recalled some fond memories of riding into New Orleans on the bus with her friends. “There was no jumping into a car and driving to Lakeside Mall,” she said. A Saturday filled with shopping for my grandmother meant a day on Canal Street where the only department stores were located. “There wasn’t much to do in Destrehan besides going swimming and walking on the levee, so it was a treat to ride into the city.”
It was in 1951 when my Mawmaw first laid eyes on my Pawpaw, Erling “Buddy” LeBlanc. My Mawmaw was engaged to another man when she first met my Pawpaw at a ball game. After the game she went to a dance where she again met with Buddy. “He asked me to dance, and I said yes. I’m not going to talk you about the man who I was engaged to, only to let you know soon after we ended our engagement.” My grandparents danced that night in 1951, and eventually on Christmas Eve, they went on their first official date. “Buddy’s sister asked me if I wanted to go on a date with him,” Mawmaw explained. Most of their dates consisted of dancing, eating at St. Rose Tavern, bowling, and watching movies. They dated for almost two years, and then on Valentine’s Day of 1953, my grandfather gave my Mawmaw an engagement ring, which was hidden in a box of chocolates. “He was so nervous as he waited for me to open the one wrapped candy with the ring inside, but I kept selecting every other piece.” On October 17, 1953, they were married at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Destrehan, Louisiana. “This was the happiest day of my life.” I could see in her eyes how in love she was with my Pawpaw, still to this day.
My Mawmaw was the mother to four beautiful children, Butch, Pam, Pat, and Donna. “ I loved being a mother,” my Mawmaw stated. She was a stay-at-home mother, while my Pawpaw went to work full time at Charles Martin Inspectors. When my grandmother was pregnant and in labor with my Aunt Pat, my mother Pam, who had just turned a year old, placed her hands on a heater, severely burning them. “While we were in the emergency room with Pam, my doctor came and forced me to leave with him to go to labor and delivery where I delivered your Aunt Pat very soon after. Your mom was already causing trouble at such a young age.”
It was fascinating to discover that my grandmother never tested for her driver’s license. “The thought of getting behind the wheel of a car petrified me to death. Your Pawpaw had me drive from his dad’s house to our house. The experience horrified me to the point of never driving again.” My grandmother managed, to get her children wherever they needed to be. By relying on my great-grandmother Lucette for driving her and the kids everywhere.
Health became a major issue for my grandmother in the mid 80’s. My Mawmaw discovered she had cancer of the uterus. In November of 1985, major surgery was performed to remove the cancerous tumor. Weeks of radiation therapy followed after the surgery. While all of this was taking place, my grandmother focused on the upcoming event of the birth of her third grandchild. “ I knew I had to get better to see my new little grandson, your brother, Brandon.” She is proud of the fact that she has been cancer free ever since.
My Mawmaw always says that her memory is slowly fading away, but she told me stories about herself and the rest of my family that I had never heard before. Her stories are ones that I will never forget, ones that will live forever within me. I’ve always thought of my grandmother as a woman who is strong and warmhearted. Now I look at her as even more than this. She is a woman who cares for her family and has the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I hope she knows this. I love you, Mawmaw.
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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Mom's co-worker said...
May 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm
As a mom of 3, I hope and pray that I can be the model of love and strength so one day my grandchildren (who aren't even in the picture) will love me the way Emily has expressed in her article for her grandmother.
 
Jessica said...
May 27, 2010 at 9:54 am
Great Story Emily :)
 
Reader101 said...
May 27, 2010 at 9:39 am
Great story. Your grandmother must be very proud of you!
 
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