G was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana by her grandparents. They instilled in her a deep sense of respect and deference for elders as she grew up - something she observed is a trait that young folks today, in her experience, tend to lack. A high school graduate, G deeply enjoyed school. For example, she told me of one musical she participated in during this time; her enjoyment of song and performance carried over throughout her entire lifetime (she later invited me to watch her sing America the Beautiful in April at the center). G enjoyed school so much that her dreams consisted of one day becoming a teacher herself. This never materialized, however.
G's relationship with her husband significantly impacted her. G met him during high school, later marrying him at 27. G's husband joined the military, and she told me of living in Germany, Virginia, Texas, among other places. At some point, they almost bought a home in Texas, but G's husband came back from the Vietnam war with unresolved trauma issues. His mental anguish from the war resulted in physically abusing G. After the first incident, G had enough of his abuse, leaving him and packing up for California. Here, she's stayed for 24 years.
Among all of the elders I've spoken with so far, a common theme of interpersonal troubles resulting in anguish, whether mental and/or physical, for all the women involved. Curiously though, I've noticed differences in resiliency among the women. More specifically, that despite the multiple burdens G has, as a low-income African American woman facing classism, racism, and sexism, G did not tell me of any troubles with mental health. However, she did mention living with diabetes - could this be one manifestation of her body's response to the multiple burdens she's accumulated over her lifetime? Perhaps in a broader scope, the disabilities that elders face are but results of their accumulated life experiences...
- S. Amon