My Grandmother’s Childhood

As a 9th grader, our son’s English assignment was to interview an older relative and then write his/her story.  He chose to interview his grandmother, my mom.  The following is his narrative.

My grandmother was the youngest of four children. She was only 15 months old when her mother died of typhoid fever.  Her father struggled to care for the children himself, with the help of relatives and housekeepers.  But this became too difficult and he eventually put the kids in a children’s shelter and went back to Italy to search for an Italian nanny.  Instead of a nanny, he returned two and a half years later with Theresa, his new wife!

The shelter had served good breakfasts of oatmeal or bacon & eggs.  Now their breakfasts consisted of coffee, bread and a chunk of Parmesan cheese.

Theresa was frugal. The three girls each had two everyday dresses and one Sunday dress. Theresa allowed them only one bath per week.

Soon two little brothers were born.  Theresa favored her own children over the stepchildren.  The best food went to their father and then to the little brothers. Theresa demanded the older children say “they didn’t want it,” when asked by their father.  She would threaten to beat them if they didn’t obey.

They were often hungry. Theresa tried to get the stepchildren to smell the meat and then eat bread, but she was unsuccessful with that ploy.  She did insist the children eat bread with everything.  Even when they ate watermelon or grapes, they had to eat bread. This habit remained with my grandma all her life.

Once her older sister stole a jar of olives from the basement. The girls enjoyed the olives, but later Theresa discovered the olive pits under the bed.  They were in trouble again.

Maria, her oldest sister at age 10,  had to get up before school and bake the bread while Theresa slept.  Maria was allowed to save one piece of dough and the children could do whatever they wanted with it. Usually, they would flatten it like a pizza and put sugar and raisins on it.  Sometimes they’d top it with tomatoes and olive oil. That would be their dinner on the days they baked bread.

Theresa threatened to beat the stepchildren if they didn’t obey.  Often she beat them even when they did obey.

When my grandmother was 18 her father had a stroke and died. Theresa became unbearable after his death. She made it clear she wanted the stepchildren out of the house as soon possible. Grandma married at 19.

Although they lived in the same city, Grandma never saw Theresa again–until 25 years later.  It was after she learned Theresa was very ill and not expected to live.  Grandma went to see her for the first time since she’d left home.  Theresa spent her last days with my grandma at her side, caring for her.  It was during that time that Theresa asked Grandma to forgive her.  She did.


[This life is temporary. This life is short.  When this life is over, our bodies will die and become empty shells, but our souls will continue to live forever.  Where will the “real you” live?  Will you live for all eternity separated from God?  Or will you spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven?   Learn more so you can make your most important decision:  and

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About Kathleen

God delights in working through His people as they submit to Him. Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone (Mark 16:15). No matter where we live on this planet, people are separated from God because of sin. We ALL need a Savior, and there’s only ONE. It brings me great joy to share Christ with the lost and lonely. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal while facilitating Bible studies. I’ve found myself on college and university campuses, the beach, the streets, the hospital, the jail and the juvenile facility for incarcerated teens sharing God’s message of love. I also serve as an online missionary with Global Media Outreach. I’ve seen countless lives transformed when people turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. The changes God makes are real and lasting. These are some of my experiences. NOTE: My stories have been altered, removing any and all identifying factors. This includes names and other particulars in order to protect confidentiality and anonymity.
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14 Responses to My Grandmother’s Childhood

  1. Debbie says:

    Oh….Kathleen, this story brought me to tears. Redeeming Love! Your momma is a beautiful reflection of Jesus. Thank you for sharing your son and his grandma’s story.

  2. Karen says:

    What a sad story with a beautiful redemptive ending. So wonderful that your son wrote this down. double blessing! Thanks for posting this reminder that forgiveness is always a possibility.

  3. Mel says:

    Loved the story! How amazing the spelling of the word “forgive” is: FOR GIVE, and not FOR SALE. Meaning, grandmother didn’t say to her stepmother so many years later, “If you say your sorry, I’ll forgive you in what to did.” “For God loved the world that He GAVE….”

    THANKS again Kathleen.

  4. DIXIE says:

    Great story of forgiveness! Its freeing power is amazing!

  5. Susan says:

    Kathleen, This account brought tears to my eyes, that these girls were so abused. It is hard to believe that their father remained ignorant of what was going on. What a powerful tale and godly woman. God does perform miracles and your mother’s life shows what grace a person can have when they follow God’s will. What a wonderful mentor you had. No wonder that between God and your mother, you have such wisdom to share with others.

    • Kathleen says:

      My mother told me they could not tell their father the truth because their stepmother would threaten to “beat their brains in” if they did. They were terrified. Indeed it’s a sad story. But it also illustrates God’s grace. For as long as I can remember, Mom demonstrated great wisdom and love, and always had a sense of fun and adventure.

  6. Liana says:

    Beautiful Kathleen, your mother’s love shines through you.

  7. Frank King says:

    Kathleen, this is a great story of forgiveness. Thanks for sharing. Two amazing things: One, that Theresa asked for forgiveness, an acknowledgement of her wrongdoing; and two, that your mom was so willing to forgive in light of Theresa’s conduct.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Yes, it was wonderful that Theresa asked for forgiveness. It was all of God.

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