March 9, 2016
My father’s mother was living when I was born, but died shortly thereafter. There is only one picture I have ever seen of her.
As a matter of fact I never have even thought of her much until this fall. I turned 75, but more importantly two grandsons arrived, somewhat surprisingly so, to accompany the first grandson.
My one sibling does remember the older Margaret Parham: As a youngster I asked her what she knew of this woman. She revealed that this mother-in-law had earlier lived in my parent’s home. Much to the consternation of my Mom, who simply summarized her feelings by saying: “We didn’t get along too well. She didn’t think anybody was good enough for E.T.” (My Dad).
OLD GOLF JOKE:
Golfer 1: Hmm. A son-in-law chip
Golfer 2: What does that mean?
Golfer 1: Not bad, but not what I’d hoped for.
My Dad never said much about his family. “Pretty rough times.” I reacted like anyone denied information and persisted to the point of finding out more of the story.
North Carolina “Parhams”come almost exclusively from the Oxford/ Henderson area. Dad said due to the depression his father moved
them to the mountains of North Carolina, around Hendersonville, NC (Ironically). I have never known the original bunch.
Pressed by me, and in small doses, my father parceled it out to me. There were four girls and E.T.,the only son and the youngest child. The depression bore down and the farming didn’t do much. My grandfather, ostensibly, left the family to try to find work. He never returned. One sister survived. My father never quite said it as such, but implied the other three sisters more of less starved to death.
I am glad I had these conversations, painful as they were. And I think it also helped my father to unload some darkness. Two memories he
had stand out in my mind. With no small amount of pride he said “…I
was behind our mule, ploughing, at age 9.” He never went without
a garden that I can remember. He was never happier than in the garden. He never bought a “machine” to “turn the earth”, rather found someone with a mule who would lend it to him to prepare. Later he found an older Black gentleman with a mule who helped him in his late 80s. They smiled a lot.
His recollection of this, brought tears from both of us: “…you know, I somehow always valued education. I would not miss school
if possible. After the girls died there was nothing. So,as I grew, or wore out my shoes, Mother would go to the closet and hand me the next sister’s vacant pair. The other kids made fun of me, but I went to school.”
My Dad and our name survived. As I now reflect on the fact that there are now six living “Parham Boys”, I can’t help wondering if we don’t owe my Dad’s mom some thanks.
Having piece-mealed an education together, E.T. Parham and his mother traveled though out North Carolina to 14 different one room schools in 18 years. Dad laughed at the fact that, “… I was a school principal at age 18. They survived. So have I, Tee, Dan, Andre, James, and Lennox.
My guess is that old lady WAS “tough”. And thank God she was. Belated, but sincere thanks, from us all. And thanks for a deep belief in education.
I never knew either Grandfather. Not much of a mental picture there. I am gonna try extra now, to see what happens with the Parham boys.
This is my fourth amateurish attempt at writing something I hope will survive, and that one day the little ones will have some “pictures” they can find helpful.