|Mom, Aunt Jean, me and Gummy|
Gummy lived a hard, working-class life: working in a bowling ball factory during WWII; married a hard-working, hard-drinking man, and raised four children. She was a very religious woman and held strong, rigid opinions. She was born and died in the same house and never traveled farther than Boston for her honeymoon. She was an ardent Red Sox fan. When she was older, she babysat for other people's children until she couldn't do it any longer.
Both women had breast cancer. Gloria survived; Gummy didn't. I don't know if Gloria is happy. Truly happy. I don't think Gummy was a very happy person in general. I'm sure she had happy moments though. Many happy moments.
As I approach turning 65, I find myself reflecting a lot about my choices in life. I tested life's boundaries in my adulthood, raised a son alone, bought a house alone, ran for political office virtually alone as election day came, and married for the first time at 51. I am very healthy and a happy person. I still wrestle with demons from my past, but, except for moments here and there, they don't control me overall. I always said I didn't have money to risk at the gambling tables, so I risked at life.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say about making these comparisons, except that life was harder for my grandmother, than it was for Gloria. Of course, their priorities were different as was their struggle. My grandmother was just as strong a women as Gloria, and I think I attribute some of my inherited strength from Gummy and from my mother. My mother also had a hard life, but I think she found her own happiness along the way. Music was as big a respite for her as it is for me. Life was harder for women in the 1920's, 30's, 40's and 50's.
In my family, women had to work at a job outside the home to help support the family as well as be the homemaker. Politics were against women at every turn. They had no rights. There was zero equality with men. In the 1960's, all that began to change. And, Gloria helped define that change. She was a pioneer for change. She helped pave the way for more freedoms for women beyond the vote. Many women suffered and died to get men to grant the right to vote to women, and I never take that right for granted. But, Gloria began the fight for equal rights in the workplace: "equal pay for equal work". There is more work to be done here because women still do not receive equal pay compared to men, but she began the fight to break that "glass ceiling".
I learned in my own life, and I credit learning it from my mother and grandmother as well as the pioneering women in the news, that women do indeed "have a set". Our "set" is just hidden, as is our ability to achieve sexual satisfaction. It is buried and requires more work to achieve satisfaction. Men's lives are mostly defined by their penises: bigger equals more power. Their identity and their power is mostly defined by their work, their pay, their trucks, their guns, the amount they eat or the number of women they screw. Women tend to comment about men who brag about the size of their house or the things they own or do above as, "overcompensating for having a tiny penis."
There are many more men out there who do fit into the mold I described above. Sadly, I dated a lot of them. Because, also sadly (and not much has changed in this day and age), girls and women like "the bad boys". My desire to be treated badly by "bad boys" came from low self-esteem. I'm sure this is true for everyone. But even with low self-esteem, the desire to fight for one's rights in this society is tied to something else entirely. The fight for rights comes from a desire more primal than low self-esteem, it comes from the need to survive.
The fight for survival is as primal as they come. And, women fought to survive in a male-dominated world, just as we continue to fight in that same world today. Women have many more rights than we did in the days of our mothers and grandmothers, even during my earlier years. But, we remain unequal in a society still dominated by testosterone. More estrogen needs to be injected in the human society, and not just in the United States.
Thank you most of all to my mother, Ellie, and to Gummy for demonstrating what quiet strength is through and in our family life. Without you both, your daughters and granddaughters would be lost completely. I love and miss you both terribly, especially when I don't feel good.