Sunday, February 28, 2010

Visiting my living history

Yesterday I went to visit my great-grandmother's sister, Tudy, who is 94 years old. To my honest shame, I had forgotten she was alive until I went to my great-aunt LaRue Smith's funeral a few weeks ago. Tudy walked into the funeral and took my breath away because she looks exactly like my great grandma. Just an adorable little spry bird. A wave of love and appreciation crashed over me and I rushed over to give her a hug and was greeted with an adorable "oh, hello!," followed by "now who was that?" as she walked away.

Right there and then I resolved to visit her more often. Then she fell and broke her hip, I got swamped with work, and here it is weeks later. But I finally went to go see her yesterday and I am so glad I did.

I grew up in the Army, so I didn't spend a lot of time in the small Idaho towns where my parents were raised. Every time I visit our ranch, I am required to recite my ancestry so that people know who I am. When I explain that I'm Tom's daughter, understanding lights their eyes and I am once again told what a wonderful voice my mother has. And they are right. I am so blessed to have such wonderful family history.

So I was embarrassed to realize as I was driving to the rest home yesterday that I don't even know Tudy's name anymore. She's not a Smith anymore and hasn't been for over 70 years. Turns out she's Castleton now, and she loves chocolate. We were best friends right away. I visited with her for over an hour. I told her about my family and love for family history. She told me about her three husbands, her kids, grandkids, and how she came to be known as Tudy. (She was born Alice Ruth Smith, but couldn't pronounce "Ruthie;" it came out Tudy, and she has been known and loved as Tudy ever since.)

She was born in 1916, and waited 36 months for her sweetheart Nate Thomas to come home from his LDS Mission before they were married and had three girls. Nate's best friend tried to steal her while Nate was gone, but she didn't "go with" anyone else; she knew she wanted Nate. They wrote every week, and the sweet romantic story absolutely melted my heart.

She loves basketball, hates cats, and can't remember how old her grandkids are, but there are 9 grandkids and 9 great-grandkids. She remembers my father, and knows that he loves her dearly. Despite being 94 years old and breaking a hip just a few weeks ago she is still spry and mobile and sharp as a tack. She walks up and down the halls so much that she says she's afraid they're going to tell her to stop wearing the hall floors out. (LOL!) She likes to read, but she'd rather crochet.

As she sat in her lazy-boy recliner, bright eyes blinking under her huge glasses and beautiful snow white hair I just kept thinking how lucky I am to meet my great grandmother's baby sister. I am so grateful for the time I had yesterday to get to know this woman. Not just because she reminds me so much of my dear great-grandmother, but because she's my great-great-aunt. She belongs to me and I got to meet her and hug her before she became another name in my database. I am really grateful to know her.


Barbara Poole said...

My goodness are you ever lucky. I hope you are getting all the family information you can, past and present. And, asking about photos and just everything. Wish we could trade shoes, but do what you can for me. Good luck.

Alice Dilts said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing and it is wonderful you have reconnected with her.

Sheri said...

Heather you are so lucky to have a family member that can tell you the stories. I fear though that once the older generation is gone so are their stories unless they have been passed on to us.

Sarah B. said...

What a wonderful story! You've inspired me to (hopefully) visit my great-uncle Ted, who is the only surviving sibling of my late grandfather. Thank you for sharing this.

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