This is my memorial to the grandmother I never met, Rinda Hoskins Wilson. I found this chair at one of my favorite shops, wrapped it in a shawl grandma made, and added her pictures. Rinda died when my mom was two. I have her name, but not much more. Here’s what I’ve pieced together, like a quilt. It’s nice to have a grandmother, after all these years.
Growing up I knew that Rinda’s father disapproved of Richard. He separated them, like Romeo and Juliet, except Richard married someone else. She died, their baby too. Fact-checking with my mom, I learned her name, Melinda, and that grandpa’s first family died in the 1918 flu pandemic. I’m glad I know Melinda’s name. She’s family too.
My grandparents met again. Mom said it was because Rinda invited him to a party. I met my husband because I asked him to dance. It’s nice to discover I’m like my grandma. They married and had six children: Opal Lee, Grant, Leo, Mary, Don, and Hazel, my mom. I married and had three: Alex, Andy, and Ashley.
Rinda died when mom was a toddler. I didn’t know till now, mom was barely two years old. My grandpa, age 42, was a single parent with kids from 2 to 16. I can’t imagine! Three kids and a job was hard enough when my husband traveled. Richard remarried. His third wife was 18, and unfortunately, a little like Cinderella’s stepmother. I never realized till now, how much sadness my grandfather survived.
Growing up I never saw Rinda. Ever. She disappeared. That happens a lot when a parent remarries. In middle school I wanted a picture for my mom. I asked till I got the first picture. I’m not sure when it was taken, but I didn’t care. I was glad to meet my grandma!The second picture is Rinda holding a toddler, my Aunt Opal Lee. I wish I had asked her about Rinda, but I never thought of it. Mom was the same when her grandmother tried to tell her Rinda stories. It’s good to be like your mother.
My house near Lafollette, Tennessee brought me, unexpectedly, closer to Rinda. I discovered she lived and died there in Lafollette, not at the family farm in Middlesboro, Kentucky. I also learned her doctor wanted her to stay in Middlesboro, but Rinda refused. She wanted to be with her husband in Lafollette. Reading this, mom remembered her brother, Leonard, was the doctor. He wanted her safe in a sanitarium. Rinda said no, people go there to die. Leonard got mad, and they never saw each other again, ever.
In Tennessee, I learned three stories mom didn’t know, till now. Whenever my uncle Leo got in trouble as a kid, Rinda made him break a branch off a tree. It’s bad enough to be paddled, but to have to get your own. URGH!!! Mom thinks Rinda learned it from her mother. Mom remembers getting switches. I’m glad I didn’t have to!
My favorite Rinda story is the one about the rabid dog and her kids. The dog was preparing to attack, but someone ran for Rinda. I don’t know how it ended…because my uncle told it two ways, on the same day. I’d have been scared, but not Rinda. She raced in and…tied up the dog’s head…or maybe she whacked it off…depending on which version you believe. Either way, she saved the day, and her kids. Imagine never hearing this story, and your grandma was the hero!
The saddest story is about tuberculosis. It killed her. Today we have vaccines to prevent it, but back then, it was deadly. Your lungs filled with infection. Breathing grew difficult, then impossible. It was so contagious that a cough or sneeze sent thousands of germs air-born. Leo remembers taking her handkerchief full of infection, folding it just so, and throwing it into the fire. I can’t imagine having something so deadly inside you, that a cough or sneeze could infect your children. Mom was amazed no one else got it.
My biggest fear in my 20’s was that I would die young like Rinda, and that I’d be forgotten. I always thought she died in her early 30’s. Every year I celebrated my birthday, grateful to grow older, never fearing aging. I am so glad to discover she made 40. I think she’d be glad to know I searched and found her. I gathered her stories, and now she’ll always be with me, and with my children. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents, find their tales, write them down, and they will never leave you. Ever
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!