She had the ruddy complexion of so many of my family—sort of confirming my feeling that there is some native American blood in our ancestry. Her appearance was not at all what I had expected. Her personal warmth nearly made me overlook her physical characteristics. She spoke softly and usually took several moments to think before speaking.
Grandma Jamison was my father’s grandmother on his mother’s side. I was so glad for the visit because I had always believed she was responsible for many of the artistic genes that continue to bless our family. She birthed 10 children in 22 years, and she passed away (March 7, 1945) a little more than four months before my birth. She lived from1872-1945. I reminded her that she was still considered the best painter of our clan. A few of her pictures still hang in the homes of her great grandchildren. I remember three paintings—a proud bulldog, a serene landscape of a cabin by a lake with mountains in the background, and a beautiful work of three stallions romping in a field. We have a poem from a booklet “The Glory Belongs to Our Ancestors” that Grandma Kitty wrote as her creed the day before her death.
“Blessed Jesus, I’ve tried to the end;
On Thee, always, I’ll ever depend.
Let my life and faith abide,
Keep me always by thy side.
Give me faith and courage too,
Always love and lean on you,
For we know, whate’er befall
God’s own hand is over all.
He it is, our changes choose,
Never will he let us loose.
If we, faithful, do his will
He will guard and keep us still.
I am in his loving care,
I have never known despair
He will guard and guide you too,
If you will to him be true.”
If it is amazing how you pass an evening over dinner when you know it is the only time you will see someone. In this case, there were more questions, followed by answers, and limited small talk. I wish I had had time to prepare to make the most of the moments with her, but then I often have time to cogitate ways to make the most of conversations with other people, but don’t. She was little impressed with our modern trappings, but seemed content to sit at our small kitchenette in our modest park model. None of us actually got around to eating. I tried to introduce her at one point to my computer and the internet. But she quickly said sternly, “Not interested.”
She asked me if I had heard of the Chautauqua meetings. I said, “No.” She explained that they were quite formational in the life of Americans in the early 1900’s. describes an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Named after Chautauqua Lake, in Western New York where the first was held. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. A Chautauqua Assembly brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Former US President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America”. Two of the most popular speakers were William Jennings Bryan with his populist and evangelical message addressing topics such a temperance and evolution, The most popular speech was delivered by Russell Conwell who delivered his famous “Acres of Diamonds” speech 5,000 times to audiences on the Chautagua and Lyceum circuits. His theme was “Get rich young man, for money is power and power ought to be in the hands of good people. I say you have no right to be poor.”
She asked me if we had any truly inspiration orators today and I struggled to name anyone that was admired by more than half our fickle constituency.
She didn’t ask a single question about politics, crime, international issues, or our weather, Instead, she wanted to know about her grandchildren (my parents) and my family. I did ask her to tell us some of the details about her 75 years in heaven. But she was tight-lipped.
She said, “That is not for me to tell.”
“God will introduce you to your new dimension in good time. Right now you can’t begin to comprehend it.”
“But I will say—you will not be disappointed, only surprised.”
But she kindly said, “Let’s talk about people and faith. You know in the end, that is all that really counts.”
I told her that my youngest son had her Bible. She demonstrated a certain pleasure that a great great grandson had spent his life trying to introduce people to Christ—a charge she had taken so seriously. I thanked her for whatever influence that she had over my father, her grandson. I told her that his gentle spirit had been loved by all. I thanked her for the genes of creativity I now see in my own children. She gleamed with pride as she held a magnificent pot formed at the potter’s wheel by my son.
I asked her if it was true that she won a piano from the Lange Piano Company in Burlington, Iowa and she confessed it as true. I told her it was strange but that I had won a ten day trip to Washington D. C. as a junior in high school for my writing on rural electrification. She chuckled, then winked, and said, “Did you say you were my great, great grandson?”
(This ‘’tale” is a novel way to present this ancestor to my family. Obviously, she did not visit my home, but this is my imagination of the content of such a meeting.)