Throwback Thursday and Memory of the Day: A few days ago I published a tribute to my mom for Mother’s Day and said I’d post a more detailed memory of her later. Lillian Cleo Huff Grant was born August 20 1927 and left us on October 2, 2004 or as the tombstone shows it, August 20, 1927 – October 2, 2004. Someone once said that the important part of those dates is the dash. Mom’s dash was very full with lots of joy and lots of pain.
Born in Oak Grove, LA to Edgar and Ruth Huff, she was the only girl in the Huff family. She had 4 brothers, three older and one younger, Something we never learned until mom and dad came to visit us in Germany in the early 1970s is that she had a tough time getting her passport for that trip. Seems her birth certificate just said “Baby Girl Huff.” There is a story there. I can’t vouch for its validity, but if is isn’t true, it ought to be. When mom started school at the age of 6 she was asked her name. She replied, “Sister,” Well, that is the name she knew. It is what her parents and brothers called her and up into adulthood, her closest friends still called her “Sister.” The story is that when the teacher failed to get a proper name from her she sent for her older brother, could have been Ersel or Milford I guess, who was a a few years older than her. The brother was asked her name and he too replied, “Sister.” Well that would not do so when the teacher insisted that the brother give her a name, he named her Lillian Cleo and it stuck. Everyone else still called her Sister. Her birth certificate was never changed until she had to change it to get a passport to come see her sons and her pregnant daughter-in-law.
Sister was probably the apple of everyone’s eye, but her older brothers were relentless teasers. They often got walloped because of the awful pranks they played on their little sister. The most heinous was that after she had gotten a pet baby chick, maybe for Easter I never heard that part of the story, they coiled up a dead snake on the back steps of the house and called her out. She saw the snake, screamed and jumped over it to the ground, landing on her pet chicken that she had raised from a chick. I’m a little surprised that Edgar didn’t kill them all right there and then.
I don’t have a lot of stories about her growing up and going to school. I wish I had asked more questions when I could. I do know that mom graduated after 11 grades at the age of 16. She left Oak Grove to attend business school in Jackson, MS at the age of 16 and met Dad in Jackson when she was 16. I think he was about 22. Dad was a soldier from Pennsylvania stationed in Jackson. He escorted wounded soldiers on the train to get them to hospitals near their homes after they were deemed well enough to travel from the hospital in Jackson. Dad says he and a buddy were sitting in a soda fountain one day when two cute girls walked in. Both were named Cleo and one was a red head and the other was my mother the brunette. The young soldiers struck up a conversation with the girls and later took them out on a date. Dad got the red head and the other guy got Mom. The first date didn’t work out for either and eventually, Dad got brunette Cleo to go out with him. I cannot imagine that this Yankee was very welcomed in Oak Grove only about 80 years after “The War of Northern Aggression.” Anyway, Cleo got what she wanted and they were married on August 4, 1945. Mom turned 18 a few weeks later and I was born 10 months later. She was still just 18,
After they were married, Dad took Mom up to meet his parents in Pennsylvania and they lived there for a short time. Mom never was happy in Girardville, PA. But, then Dad enrolled in Chiropractic school in Chicago and dragged his bride and baby son to the Windy City. Mom was trying to work and learn how to be a mom without any support system. She told me once that sometimes when I would be crying, she would sit on the floor with me and cry because she didn’t know what to do, and she was not yet quite 20 years old. A bit later, still in Chicago, she had her second boy, Wayne Grant. Mom continued to learn to be a good parent and we are glad she learned well.
What happened between 1950 and 1952 has always been a little fuzzy to me, but we ended up back in Oak Grove, LA after Dad graduated from Chiropractic school. Probably not the best choice because it would be another 20+ years before Louisiana would begin licensing Chiropractors and stop persecuting them.
Brother Wayne Grant and I led a pretty idyllic life in Oak Grove. Small town, everybody knew us and the Huff family so we were pretty well watched over as we went on our adventures. Life was really good for us then and some of those stories are in my granddaddystories.wordpress.com blogs. I won’t give a play-by-play here now.
When I was about 11 years old, not long after we moved to the house on Briggs and North Streets, I was at a Boy Scout meeting at the old Masonic lodge when little brother Wayne came blasting in on his bike to tell me Dad was really sick and I needed to get home. When I got there I found out that at the age of 37 my dad had a major heart attack. They took him to St. Francis in Monroe and Wayne and I were devastated that they wouldn’t allow us to go visit him there. What we boys didn’t really understand at the time was that this experience completely changed Mom. Oh, I should mention that little Kellye Sue had joined the family by then too. Anyway, this was back in the days when doctors insisted that heart attack patients just completely rest and be spared anything that might upset them. This left Mom, as the only bread winner in the family and she didn’t make enough to really make ends meet. We kids were never told about any of this, but I am certain that we wouldn’t have made it if Edgar and Ruth hadn’t helped out a lot. On top of the finances, Mom had to bear all of the stress of raising two boys and a baby girl without upsetting our father lest he have a relapse. Now today, they would have had him up and walking the day after his surgery and he would have been back to business in a few weeks, but then he was out of commission for months. Mom never really recovered from that period. From that point on, I don’t recall the old fun loving Cleo that would play ball with us in the yard and take us swimming at the lake and be just plainly fun loving.
She did begin to dote on baby Kellye Sue and for that I am very happy because we all doted on the little princess. I was out the door and gone within 7 years of the heart attack, but Wayne and Kellye were tight and Mom adored the princess.
Mom was a smoker from about age 14 I have been told. She actually quit for a short spell before Kellye died in 2003. After that all bets were off and she picked up the butts again. Toward the end of her life she was using a portable nebulizer pretty steadily and had gained a lot of weight. It was almost like she was ready to end it after Kellye died. The one thing she and Dad loved to do was to go to Las Vegas (on rare occasions) and more often to Vicksburg to visit the casinos. Dad was a blackjack guy, but Mom loved the slots.