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Mama Mae

So this is the story I was told. Some of the details may be a little off, but you’ll get the gist of it.

In 1937 an Arizona man walked into his local store to pick up the Denver Post. He got the Denver Post every day but for some reason, on that particular afternoon, they were out of them. So he picked up the Fort Wort

h Star Telegram. When he got to the classified section he saw an advertisement that must have stopped him in his tracks. The ad said there was unclaimed land for the heirs of George Washington Hargrove in Faison, NC, a tiny town in the eastern part of the state. The reason it was in the Fort Worth Telegram was because a man from Faison, a man named George Washington Hargrove had lived in that part of Texas with his wife and two sons before he abandoned them. The Arizona man reading the Fort Worth Telegram was one of the two boys George Washington Hargrove left in the middle of Texas.

So he headed east. He visited the town of Faison, and lo and behold, this unclaimed land thing was legit. He went back to Arizona and said to his wife “get your shit, get the kids, we’re moving to Faison!”

Again, some of the details may be a little off, but you get the gist of it.

Not all of his children were happy. One of his daughters was two months from graduating high school. She begged the Arizona man to let her stay and finish school with her class. She could live with one of her married sisters, she said. She would behave. She would be good. She promised. But he was unmoved. And in the spring of 1937 he packed up his family, all his earthly possessions, hopped a train, and set up shop in Faison, NC, 2,000 miles from home.

The Arizona man was my Great-Grandfather.

His daughter who wanted to graduate with her class was my grandmother, Ruby Mae Hargrove.

Ruby Mae died yesterday. In the town she didn’t want to move to. In a house she lived in for over 70 years. A reminder that somewhere you don’t want to go might be exactly where you’re supposed to be.

She was 97 years old.

My grandmother was a lot of things. She was a politician, an elected official. She was a working woman back in the days when you had to ask your husband’s permission to get a job.

She liked looking at the TV. Watching golf, basketball, Blue Bloods. Westerns. So many Westerns. She was a Catholic. She was a wife. She had four kids, two girls and two boys. She was a grandmother. A great grandmother. And while she experienced moments of great loss, she never lost faith. She died with a rosary in her hand.

She was a story teller. Her stories got a little longer at the end. She would start telling one thing and it would bleed into another. Words became harder to remember. But they were in there, it just took her a while to find the right one.

One of the most remarkable things she did was keep a diary. She wrote in it every day for the majority of her life until strokes took away her ability to write clearly. One of my favorite things to do when I would visit her was to go back and read those entries.

The day my sisters and I were born.

The day my parents got married.

The day my grandfather passed.

Good days, bad days, and all those days in between, she wrote about them. At the top of each page was a note about the weather. Cold and rainy. Warm and cloudy. Hot and clear.

I have a vivid memory of being a kid and asking my grandmother about heaven. She said it was the most beautiful place imaginable. With choirs of angles and streets paved with gold.

I have no idea if that is true or not. But if it is, she’s there. And I hope she keeps a diary of her time.

Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to read it.

The details might be off but:

“Today was perfect.”

Hope that will be the gist of it.

Ruby Mae Hargrove Troublefield


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