Have you ever heard of WAAC or sometimes referred to as AWAAC? It stands for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp. Until the 1970’s, women weren’t really allowed in the Army or even active combat. Back in WWII, the WAAC was the only way women were allowed to serve in the Army. For most women, as soon as they were old enough they were married and stayed at home with their children, waiting for the return of their husbands over seas. For others, they became “rosie-the-riveters” (like my Grandma, my moms mom) and worked in factories. And a few, joined the WAAC.
One of those few, was my Grandmother. In her 20’s when World War II began, following in the footsteps of her dad in World War I and her older brother, she enlisted in the local WAAC. She wasn’t anything crazy; a glorified librarian and accountant, but she was serving her country in a time where women we’re expected to be serving their country at home.
My Grandmother was proud of this achievement. She wasn’t a feminist in the truest sense of the word, but she was a strong woman who thought that other women could be strong, too and they didn’t need a man for everything. She didn’t see women as lower than men. She saw women as strong people who could be equal if they tried. She even told me once that a woman could do anything a man could if she tried, but in the same regard any man could do what she does, too, if they tried. Except for childbirth. She was pretty sure men couldn’t do that.
In a lot of ways, I learned more about women from my Grandmother than I have with any other person. Mainly by her example, this little four foot and eleven inch tall woman stood taller than most men I know. She always was reading and told me that if she stopped reading she’d like die.
"It keeps more than my brain alive," she said once. She enjoyed mystery novels and as a child, anytime we lost anything, it was an adventure and a mystery to be solved. She would deduce the facts of where things were, where things were supposed to be then give us a selection of places to look. I can’t imagine we didn’t find whatever it is we had lost, with her on our side.
She was feisty, liked practical jokes and could pull a couple of mean card tricks. Apparently in her younger years, she loved dancing and used to go to Houston as a kid and “make the rounds” of the dance clubs. I’m sure the clubs are much different than they are now, but being the beautiful young woman she was, we have a lot of pictures of her at different dance clubs with men who are not my Grandaddy.
As a mother to two children and grandparent to five grandchildren, she did the best with what she had and was always encouraging us to keep close relationships with family and to love each other. She also was encouraging to us about being strong in what we believe in and be steadfast in what we are and do.
She was the only grandparent I was able to properly say goodbye to, before she passed. It was harder than receiving the news that she was gone, but I think of that last day and the conversation she and I had before I left, often. I treasure it. And on that day, I learned the gift of goodbyes. They are truly a gift. Few of us receive them and when we do we should do everything in our power to accept them and cherish them.