Mom, as she required I call her, was actually my paternal grandmother. At sixteen, a Texan, she ran off with a Missourian; Dad, as he required I call him. Today, George probably would be busted for carnal knowledge—even child rape. He was five years Nora’s senior.
First they ran to turn-of-the-century Cheyenne where Nora lost Flossy, her infant daughter, in that very untamed place. Next stops included Tacoma and Seattle. Finally out of desperation, George took a job neither wanted in a place neither wanted to be. He became lard-maker for a meat packing plant in Ogden, Utah, even as they vowed to escape Mormon Country as soon as their economic fortunes improved.
Escape never happened. Eight decades later Mom followed Dad in death, still in Ogden, Utah. Love of place might be too strong, but among Nora’s last words were these. “You know, Ogden’s a pretty little town.”
Actually, Mormon country was a very mixed bag for them. In Ogden, Dad evolved into a successful merchant. Mom evolved into head reader—the leader of Ogden’s Christian Science Church. She bought motivating presents for her budding capitalist son. Among them was Buss’s collection of Ayn Rand titles.
Tragically, Nora’s flame extinguished—along with George’s—during The Great Depression.
Family stories abound. One, told by her, described how she accepted boarders to pay the mortgage and save their house from foreclosure. A water bill, among others, went unpaid many months, then two men showed up, located the shut-off valve and began the disconnect.
Suddenly Mom appeared on the massive front porch, shot gun in hand, loaded, cocked, aimed. “Turn that crank,” she yelled, “and I’ll blow your heads off” as she sighted down the barrel at the men’s faces.
She meant it; they backed off. As they climbed back into the truck, she followed, yelling that she ran a boarding house, that it was her family’s only source of income. Without water, she wouldn’t have boarders; couldn’t pay the mortgage; had no options; would end up in the poor house.
Mom became deaf as she aged, but never missed an opportunity to express love for me. In her eyes I could do no wrong. Heck, I might have mused; maybe she would continue to love me even if I was a communist. Even so, I hated how she always called me by my childhood nickname, Jimmy.
Once in her eighties, Mom asked me to sit close so she could hear better, during a family dinner. “So Jimmy,” she asked, “please tell me what it is that you do?”
I responded as clearly as possible: “Mom, I am studying to become an economist.”
“Well, Jimmy, could you please say that again?” she asked quizzically, with some pain in her face. I repeated, but Mom’s troubled look continued.
Again she asked, and again I answered that I was an economist.
Finally, Mom brightened and her love again showed through. “Well,” she mused. “We’ve never had a communist in the family before. But Jimmy, if that’s what you want to be, I’m sure you’ll be the best one, ever!”
Mom died a centenarian, still loving me and still believing her favorite grandson had become a communist. What a stretch for an acolyte of Ayn Rand!
From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for Capitalism in Crisis Dot Org.