I’m beginning to relate with my Great Grandmother. Is that a strange statement for a grown man to make? It feels strange.

My great grandma was a little bitty old lady, she died at 94 or 95 years old. I was somewhere in my teens. We were not close. When she died I had already dropped out of school, and begun the journey that ultimately culminated at a prison gate. That story is a good one as well, but this story is about Nana, not the ignorant follies of a confused adolescent.

Nana is what we called her. She was born a few years after the Land Run. I guess her parents were Sooners. I remember seeing a picture of her, and them, when she was just a baby. There she was, cradled in the arms of a stiff, rigid, stoic woman who sat in front of a stiff, rigid, stoic man with little more warmth than an old tin can buried in the snow. Next to this welcoming pair sat a stiff, rigid, stoic wolf. No, I take that back. The wolf wasn’t stiff or rigid. I think if you looked closely enough you could see the crimson blood of his last kill dripping from his monstrous fangs and fur. The look in his eye was hope, hope that he’d see another Sooner later. All in all, not a real inviting group. So there she was… baby Nana. Swaddled in front of her sod house, too stiff and rigid even to cry. How were babies so stoic back in the day?

She told us stories about those times. About one room school houses, and playing basketball on a dirt court… in a dress. She was so proud that she was the littlest one out there. She could dribble the ball through the legs of the other girls, like not just pass the ball between their legs but literally she would dribble beneath them. That never really made sense to me because they were all wearing dresses, but one thing you don’t do is question Nana. Nana was old when I knew her, really old. Her daughter in law, my mother’s mom (Mamie), told us Nana was strong as an Ox. Though she looked anything but to me. Mamie said her vision is bad, her hearing is bad, her back is bad, and she can hardly walk, but her mind is sharp as a freshly finished razor. I watched Nana after that, and I could see what Mamie was talking about. Nana had the frustrated almost irritated look of someone with a strong will and desire minus the ability to carry it out. Like she was better than her situation, but helpless to extricate herself from it.

This external force kept her from being the Dynamic Prairie Queen she intrinsically knew she was. I felt sorry for her then. But now I am beginning to relate. I possess all the intellect and capability to accomplish that which I desire to do. Yet I am hamstrung in my ability to do it. I guess old age is like prison. I wonder what old age in prison is like..

Learn more about Luke and his mission to provide a second chance to youth who want an education.



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