These three pictures, more than any others, define my first sixty-nine years as Joyce Godwin Grubbs.The first collage is showing my freshman picture at Oklahoma State Univestiy, then my “mid-life crisis 40’s, followed by my” 65 and still alive: surprise” picture. The second picture is of my Matriarch mother, Marguerite, the “future author” and my sister Trula: Future Pioneer Police woman and decorated officer. This is my wedding day picture of 50 years ago.
Here are some of the life lessons I would chose to share with you on this auspicious occasion of turning 69.
Being born into the segregated times of the 1940’s had an unlikely (so I’m told) affect on shaping me into the rabid advocate I am for “peace, justice and the American way”. Be it racial, domestic violence or victims of rape/sexual assualt, my passions for justice run hot, and I somehow still acknowledge a deep and abiding “Okie” nature that reflects the demographic profiler of the map above. (Although I would have included a special designation for Missouri as “Ridgerunners” which was, in my childhood, the second most profane work I knew. #1 was Yankee.)
Life lessons I would share include but are not limited to:
I speak my mind mostly and tell everyone it is because it hurts to bite my tongue. There is no doubt I have been known to do this since I was young enough to speak (or so my relatives tell me.) It has been a blessing and a curse, but since I am known to despise “Milly Milquetoasts” and “Dolly Doormat” types, I still believe this is the preferred way to be.
Much of my life and my happiest experiences have included having a very large extended family: members of which are diverse and often controversial. But what I seek and received was loyalty, love, and the kind of people who taught me that it is not always blood kin, but rather “heart” kin, who may stick around for the whole life’s journey. Of course, sometimes,they are one and the same.
Life challenges were certainly inevitable for me. Living in a small town, full of prejudice and “traditions”, I learned quickly it wasn’t just the racial prejudice that could separate you from acceptance. We lived on the “wrong side of the tracks” literally and when you came to the end of ninth street, you drove up over the railroad tracks to a dead end with three houses on the left. Those were the houses of my family. Folks familiar with segregation and the 1940’s will understand the impetus of me explaining that “we were so poor, we rented from a black landlord.” In my time and neck of the woods, that was the very definition of poor: even poor white trash by some people’s view. I can truly say I was often challenged, more often tempted, but not defeated. To me, “Life was “blunt force trauma to the head” but my heart and spirit is still intact.
Being known as “irreverent” in my writing and my opinions goes without saying or debate. As I have often told folks, “We had so many black sheep in the family, we hid the white ones.” By comparison, there were more skeletons in our closets than clothes, and they didn’t have to “fall out”: they were running around Okmulgee and Morris for all to see. Fortunately, my generation and the next have moved on to elevate our families to a new way of life, and level of achievement. But somehow I hope they don’t “bury” our skeletons, but rather, stay in touch with their roots and appreciate where they came from.
A true “peeve” of mine, aside from judging people by the color of their skin, the religion (or lack there of), their politics, or their financial status, is one of judging people by their looks: most often by their weight. I was a 98# bride with a size three wedding dress altered down. Over the years, lets just say that I grew “fatter” than my pocketbook in my lifetime. Some of the kindest, most instrumental people in supporting me and standing by me to the end, have been some of the people considered in the “unlovely” category. Space does not permit me to sing their praises, but I leave the visual above in hopes the message on it can reach others: particularly the young who are overly image concious.
This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I thought everyone was “salvagable” and that I “had to make them my friend”. It was after I already had three children and was faced with having to teach them to “let go” of some people in their lives, that I taught myself to do it in mine. Value the person, but sometimes, you must value them in the past tense as a learning experience.
AND FINALLY MY FRIENDS, TWO IMPORTANT POINTS: I am often teased by family when I speak of dying as “having been dying half my life.” It is because I do not fear death after being a nurse who sat at the bedsides of almost two hundred people in my lifetime and career as they took their last breath. I am also one who wants to say goodbyes and have “my affairs in order” before I go. Therefore, allow me to teach one last life lesson. So many times when I sat with a patient in those last days or weeks, it was too frequently a repetitious happening that the patient would complain their family would hush them up is they tried to talk about dying or about details of what they wanted. “Oh No (name), you’re not dying Get that out of your head. That’s negative so don’t “send it out there”. Well my friends, that is why they had to tell me; almost a stranger but as the nurse, the only one who would let them say what was on their mind. So in my own irreverant observation and style I would just like to say to all of you who fear death or think you can’t “handle”hearing your loved one speak of dying, “SUCK IT UP. YOU THINK YOUR JOB IS HARD, YOU SHOULD BE THE ONE DYING. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO GIVE THEM PEACE, TALK WITH THEM: CRY WITH THEM; BUT STAY WITH THEM AND SEE IT THROUGH THEIR EYES.
Letting me get all this off my chest was the best ever birthday gift; so to my my friends, family, extended family, where ever you fit in, thank you for being apart of my celebration of my life.