My Grandmother Oakford reigned as the matriarch of a very large extended family in Merchantville, NJ. She took on her responsibility during the depression and guided the family through that disaster. During WWII, she kept the family together and saw it through the troubled waters of the war. Her reign ended when she died in her mid-nineties having ruled over the family with love and wisdom.
It didn't make any difference whether you were young or old; she was the family's instructor on living life. Young children who had problems getting along with each other received her lessons on proper behavior along with those who were already grown. One beautiful day, in the early summer of 1951, was a gloomy and chilly day for my Aunt Dot. She was my grandmother's youngest child. At that time, Dot was in her mid-twenties. Both of Dot's older two sisters were married and each had a child. Dot, on the other hand, was not married. On this summer day, her boyfriend had broken off a long-term relationship with her, and the break-up devastated her.
While this tragedy affected Dot in particular, everyone else in the family shared in her grief. The rest of the family got bits and pieces of the problem and the hurt that she was going through during that summer day. For my part, I quietly sat on the porch and tried to comprehend why anyone would break up with my Aunt Dot. She was my favorite relative aside from my grandmother. However, it was obvious that the guy didn't share my view of Dot for he was the one that ended the relationship.
In Dot's grief, she walked around and through the house followed by my grandmother. Although most of their conversations took place away from me, I was able to piece together most of the problem. Dot was second-guessing herself for the failed relationship. As she made her orbit around the house trying to walk off the hurt, I could hear her say that she wished that she could go back and change this or that about the relationship. I heard a theme and variation to this wish to rewrite chapters of her history several times before my grandmother finally confronted her on the porch. From my vantage point on the porch, I listened to my grandmother's admonitions.
After trying to talk through her problems and console Dot, my grandmother told her that it is natural to want to rewrite history and to redo parts of our past. However, if you were able to start changing things, everything else would change-not just the bad parts. Who knows whether the result of those changes would be better or worse than the situation that was already being faced. For example, had Dot never met her ex-boyfriend, my aunt would have been different. She would have dated other guys and who knows how that chapter would have read. My aunt might have found a better relationship, or she could have been in a worse situation than she was in at the present.
My grandmother continued in this vein for quite sometime while Dot just sat there sobbing. Dot seemed to be listening to her mother as she explained that one had to live life and not spend it trying to change or revise parts of the past. Finally, my grandmother summed up her advice with one of the famous maternal axioms that she used to come up with on the spur of the moment. "Be careful about always looking back and wishing that you could change your history. If you insist upon doing it, you will be heading backwards into the future."
In time, Dot got over the heartbreak of that moment and went on to fall in love with another guy whom she met the following summer. They married and had two children. She remembered her mother's words to her that day, and as a result, she lived a very happy life. She never brought up the sad day in the early fifties when she thought that her world had ended.
During nearly half century since that summer of '51, I have often wasted a lot of my time attempting to rewrite various chapters of my personal history. However, my redacting of history never worked. When I attempted to change the past, I headed backwards into the future. If you apply my grandmother's wisdom to your life, you will benefit greatly, and she will be proud of you.