My Granny passed yesterday at 3:03pm. She was a month shy of her 90th birthday. Here’s a short outline of her life – I hope I have the places and timeframes right.
She was born Gladys Irene Littleton (she’d smack me for telling her middle name, but there ya go) in the hills of East Tennessee. The area was called Wheat back then. It’s where Oak Ridge is now. She told me they used to walk across the river as kids – this was before all the dams built in the 30s by TVA. She also told me about the Depression from their point of view. These people were farmers, so the Depression was really the opposite for them: they threw out truckloads of fruit and vegetables because there was no one to buy them or transport them. Granny told me of her memories of that: the trucks backing up to the lake and dumping their produce. So the country folk had surplus while city folk stood in bread lines. Isn’t that odd?
Gladys married a local boy named Dwight Harvey and they moved to Philadelphia TN. She bore two children, my uncle Jack (Jackie Allen, 1940) and my mother (Anita June, 1942). This was during wartime and my grandfather was called up at the very tail end of WWII, in 1944-45, when even men with families were being drafted. He was only gone a few months when he was killed in action in early 1945. My mother never really knew him.
With two children, the widowed Gladys eventually moved to the big city of Knoxville and ran into an old acquaintance, Jesse Gage. I don’t know when they got married, but it was fairly soon after the war ended. He’d been shot in the knee and was sent home. Jesse Gage was my grandmother’s Big Love. They never had children (he was sterile from Mumps, I think) but Jesse raised my mother and her brother as his own. He was my Papaw. He died of cancer in 1979. My grandmother never really got over it.
She sold her house and moved into a basement apartment with my uncle in the 80s and pretty much began her decline. She became less and less active and ended up being a shut in. It’s a shame; I remember my Granny being so very active when we were kids. She’d haul us around town in her beautiful 1961 Galaxie Starliner (white w/ red interior) – which is where I get my severe lust for Galaxies.
Sadly, she declined rather quickly in the last few years. She became unhinged from reality and very uncooperative with my uncle and my mother. They ended up putting her in a home a couple of years ago and that’s where she died. I disagree with this action, but I understand why they did it. Once in the home, she rapidly gave up all pretense of trying to hang on and simply let go. Her mind was gone in a few months and the rest of the time was basically waiting for her body to catch up. It is a sad ending for such a vibrant woman.
My Granny was good to me. She helped significantly with my college expenses and she was there for me when my parents were being crazy. I’m glad I never saw her in that home. My last memory of her was one of our visits. She was sitting on her couch, having a lucid conversation with us. She laughed. It was great. That’s the Granny I remember and I’m grateful for that.
RIP Gladys Irene Littleton Harvey Gage.
If you’d like to see the eulogy that my uncle gave and her NOTICE, please see her page.