NCMAE #5 – Bennie Louise Carter
Sometimes I wonder if anyone will think about me when I’m dead. I think about my paternal grandmother Bennie Louise Carter and wonder did she ever think the same thing. I wonder if she wondered? And I wonder if she knows how much I think about her.
I ask a lot of questions, always have.
When questions about Bennie Louise went unanswered – well not unanswered, just not answered to my satisfaction I grew frustrated. My Dad and Uncle Vonzell always said “she lived a fast life” but that didn’t tell me what I wanted and needed to know. This information didn’t satisfy my curiosity about someone who has impacted the very fiber of my being. I’ve been told I look like Bennie Louise, that I smile like her and that I share her thirst for exploration.
I dug deeper.
My grandmother’s sister my Aunt Ida B. told me stories of growing up with Bennie Louise in Memphis, Tennessee. She had beautiful memories of her sister and smiled whenever she spoke of her. I hung on to Aunt Ida B’s every word as she shared stories of the two fishing in the Mississippi River and sneaking out together drinking corn liquor from a bucket with a wooden ladle. She loved her sister and I loved the stories.
I still needed more.
I couldn’t grasp my Grandmother’s character. I continued to wonder what she valued? What motivated her? It’s wild how the past can influence so many elements of the future.
What I knew hurt.
My Grandmother Bennie Louise Carter was murdered in Richmond, California in the late 1960’s.
To add insult to injury.
Before the family was able to place headstone on my grandmother’s grave the cemetery office holding the records on grave locations burned down. The location of her remains were lost forever and she rests lost to us and alone with no flowers and no visits.
I persevered in my quest for knowledge.
Here in Brooklyn a huge part of my support system is my cousin Cristala and her beautiful family. Cristala’s mom came to visit recently who I lovingly call Auntie Kay. Auntie Kay wanted an update on my life. I had visited several different countries since she and I last spoke. After the update she beamed with pride and asked me about my plans for what’s next. I continued to fill her in. Then Auntie Kay made an offhand comment that shook me to the core.
The story as my Aunt tells it…
“You know I married your cousin Lacy (my Dad’s first cousin) too young and I’ve been around your family for a very long time. I’m not surprised by your initiative and success. You have an ability to plan and prepare that has led you on this phenomenal path that you’ve really just begun. Bennie Louise was the same way. I remember when she passed. I was there for the reading of her will. Your Grandmother was prepared. Bennie Louise set aside money for Jerry (my dad) to go to Salesian High School. She planned ahead. You are your grandmother’s child”
I finally heard insights towards what Bennie Louise Carter valued.
Her family, her sons and their future were clearly a priority. Money from his mother assisted my Dad as he attend one of the top private schools for young men in northern California Salesian High School. My dad lettered in three sports (football, basketball, and rowing) and obtained a full athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois University. My Dad played four years of division one college football and earned a BA in Speech Education. Upon leaving SIU my dad obtained a MA in Sports Administration from Grambling State University, while coaching with the legendary Coach Eddie Robinson. He went on to coach college football and became an award winning NFL scout. My Dad is an amazing father who has always loved and believed in my every dream.
I come from people who care and prepare.
Yes my grandmother ‘lived a fast life.’ She also created life and put those lives on a path to a fruitful future. She did that! I’m certain she is smiling down on what became of the lives she created.