The Best Person I Know

by swellsbennett

Born in Texas at the end of the 1920s, my father’s mother spent her childhood moving from place to place as her father tried to make enough money to support the family. He worked a number of different farming jobs, eventually migrating through New Mexico and Arizona to Phoenix over the course of a dozen years.

At one point, the family lived in a dugout – basically a hole in the ground with a roof built over the top. One day, my grandmother was playing peek-a-boo on the bed with her little brother, dropping a cloth over his head and then raising it at intervals. Without warning, the roof over the bedroom collapsed, trapping her and her baby brother beneath. When the frantic adults dug them out, they were both fine – Grandma had been looking down at the baby, who was covered by the cloth.

Grandma met Grandpa when they were both attending high school at Phoenix Union in the 1940s. There’s a single picture of them before they were dating – him in a leather jacket and high-water pants, her leaning back against a rail and looking exceptionally cool. At that point, they didn’t know they will be spending the rest of his life together.

They started dating after high school. He was drafted in February of 1945. He proposed to her in a letter as he was preparing to be shipped out to Japan for an all-out invasion on Tokyo Bay. Japan surrendered before they arrived and he was diverted to the Philippines instead. When he came home in November of 1946, they were married by my grandmother’s pastor.

There’s more to tell about my grandma and grandpa’s life, but I’m going to skip ahead a bit right now. I was born in 1971, the third of their four grandchildren and the only one by their eldest boy. Due largely to my uncle’s divorce from his first wife, my grandparents didn’t get to spend much time with my older cousins. I, on the other hand, lived right down the street.

My grandma and I have always had a “mutual admiration society.” She is the best person I know, and someone I can always rely on to tell me the truth – eventually. She likes to pull off those band-aids gently. I do wish she and my grandpa had been a little more forthcoming with their dislike of my first husband; but then, they always made an effort to stay out of the affairs of their children and grandchildren. My grandma wisely believes that a parent should raise their children well and then trust them to make the best decisions for themselves.

Grandma taught me how to play chess when I was very young, and she taught me not to be a sore loser – because I lost, and lost, and lost at chess. In fact, over the course of several years, I always lost to her. Until one day when I was probably twelve or thirteen, I won! I remember being thrilled to have finally beaten her at the game. She congratulated me wholeheartedly – and never played chess with me again!

Grandma also instilled her love of books in me. Though my mom was excellent about reading to me everyday, it was my grandmother’s true love of reading that made me an avid reader. Even today, she reads at least four or five books a week; though these days, she’s reading on her Kindle.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share some more about my grandma and the lessons I’ve learned from watching her over the years.

Grandpa and Grandma Wells at PUHS, 1944

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