Mulattea is a blog written by Skye Haynes. Her posts explore mixed identity, feminism, race, religion, and privilege.

Meet My Grandma Ruth

Meet My Grandma Ruth

How do you describe someone like my grandmother?

I must admit, I've been putting off writing this piece out of sheer intimidation. I want this to be so much more than a listical of "10 Reasons My Grandma Is Super Cool." 

I know that if I keep putting it off and waiting for this article to contain everything I think about her,  it'll never be done. 

So I interviewed my grandmother via iMessage over a series of weeks asking questions about her life because she's always been so enigmatic to me. Something that always blew my mind as a kid was my dad informing me that even he doesn't know how old my grandma is! Anyways this is going to be a boiled down version of our interview containing quotes, dialogue and my own narration. Thank you so much Grandma for agreeing to be interviewed and for giving me your raw and inspiring truth.

Without further ado... My Grandma Ruth.

My Grandma's name is Ruth Haynes. She was born in Jamaica in a district known as "Decoy." My research has told me that it's located in Jamaica's Saint Mary's Parish, and might also be referred to as Decoy Pen. When I asked what year she was born, she told me that she, "was too young to know, but was told 1936."

Because my grandmother and my father can't seem to take my line of questioning seriously, when I asked her what her parents were like, she just said, "Human beings."

Her mother was a black woman named Jenetta Blake nee Greenwood. She was, "strict, but with love." My grandma was raised by Jenetta and Jenetta's parents because her father, Malachi Carty, died when she was 2 years old. According to her family, Malachi was the son of a German who came to Jamaica during the war and a black Jamaican woman. Ruth's grandparents were farmers and shopkeepers. She eventually went to live with her uncle, who was a school principal. I theorize that this is where my grandmother's lifelong dedication to education came from, because according to her, in her uncle's home, "education was a must."

My grandmother says that political life in Jamaica in the 1940s was different, but not in the way you'd expect. 

"People on both sides celebrated together as if it were only one party. They mocked and jeered each other but at the end of the day it was fun and laughter. No killing as we see it happening now, no malice and no hate."

For those of you who don't know, there are two main political parties in Jamaica: The People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). She says at the time the parties were led by PNP founder Norman Manley and JLP founder Alexander Bustamante. If you ever want to hear about some WILD politics, look into Jamaica's government, which declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.

My grandmother was able to attend Moneague Teacher's College in Saint Ann, Jamaica. Why did she want to be a teacher? 

"My love for children and my anxiety to see others excelling." 

If that doesn't sound just like me...

Fueled partially by passion and partially out of anxiety. Apple, meet tree. 

Just going to post this part of our conversation because it shows how easygoing and loving my grandma is, and it tells a love story. 

SH: How did you meet Herman Haynes (grandpa)?

RH: The same way you met Carter Lol

SH: School?

RH: Yu sharp*

SH: And tell me about that.

RH: Well Skye, just give me a dinner break and time to catch my breath. This will be the moment.

SH: Ha— take all the time you need.

RH: I need it, all the time. 

RH: I was home from school on holiday and was helping in my uncle in his shop while he was out looking about his animals. I saw a vehicle stop and a young man in army uniform came out. He wanted to know if I knew a certain district and a certain person who happened to be his brother who I'd never met before. My mother told me that I could go with him to where his brother was living. I went with him and he followed me back home.

SH: Why'd you want to go with him?

RH: He did not know the place and my mother told me to go with him.

SH: I see. My parents would never just let me drive off with a stranger. He could've been a murderer lol

RH: Sorry I should have told you that he alighted from the vehicle and the vehicle continued. Furthermore, my mother knew his brother quite well. 

SH: I see. What was Mr. Haynes like?

RH: Handsome, pleasant, always smiling, cared a lot for the less fortunate, always neat in his dressing. He loved and was loved. Work was his hobby, no time to waste. He rose from a Private in the Jamaica Defence Force JDF to a Major. Could always be relied on. Travelled a lot to different countries. He loved beautiful surroundings and was very creative. So much can be said about your grandfather and the list goes on.

The next morning I asked my grandma when she realized she loved my grandfather Herman Haynes. 

"From the very moment our eyes made four."

My grandpa Herman bought my grandma Ruth a ring in Trinidad while on military duty. The next day he was so excited to propose to her he visited her with a parcel of things he bought her while in Trinidad, and among those items was a little box with a ring in it. 

"It was not so much a big surprise because I knew it was just a matter of time and he knew it too. 'What is to be will be.' We were just meant for each other, no if's ands or buts about that. How could I refuse a man that I was deeply in love with. Would you?"

Clearly not, cause I did the same thing!

She married him at 21. It was a Saturday afternoon in July at the Garrison Church in Up Park Camp. The wedding was simple, with 40 guests in attendance. Their reception was held in Spanish Town at her sister-in-law's house. They were greeted by the song, "What Am I Living For," which, when I googled, seemed to have been sung by Chuck Willis. If I'm wrong, I'm sure she'll correct me. 

"It was a night of selected music from great singers, toasting, drinking, eating and dancing. The following day Sunday was a rest day, and it was back to work for both of us on Monday."

She had a lot to say about her marriage to my grandfather. 

"Marrying a soldier is not a bed of roses. One has to expect many of ups and downs, good times and bad times, many lonely days and lonely nights. There were many times when we'd make plans, and suddenly they had to be aborted due to emergencies re his work. The union produced three healthy and handsome boys."

This was my dad, my uncle Naurice and my uncle Hurley. 

"They had a good life growing up, loving parents who made sure that they were trained mentally, physically, spiritually and educationally so that they would be able to adapt to the world they live in. These sons are now men on their own and having their own family."

For my grandmother, having children was a joy for her. She cared and still cares deeply for her sons, and she remarked that after having them she didn't want to let them out of her sight. She says my grandfather was an extremely supportive father, and that he was always there for her. 

Sadly, my grandfather isn't with us now. But from all accounts, I've heard he was a remarkable person. A real "pull yourself up by the bootstraps," kind of guy. 

"Sometimes i hoped he was here to share his experiences with his children and grandchildren but it was not meant to be. He spent his 68th birthday on the 13th of May in the USA with his siblings and other relatives and friends, he returned home on the 18th of May and passed off on the 20th of May. He is laid to rest at the Garrison Cemetary, Up Park Camp."

So what's a day in the life of my grandma like today?

She wakes up early and reads her devotions. After a bath, she has breakfast. Then she catches up on the news and watches TV. Then she runs errands to the bank, shopping, or visits her friends. Because she's a milennial at heart, she texts all day. Sometimes she visits her country home to relax and pick fruits and veggies from the property to share with others. She "never stops thinking of the less fortunate and so helps" wherever she can.

"I just relax and do as I am led. Life is for the living."

I had one last question for my grandma, because y'all know I have to bring it back to Mulattea's themes and whatnot.

SH: How did you feel when my dad brought my mom home to meet you?

RH: It was a moment I had been waiting for and the feeling was quite one of estacy. Having known my son I know that he would be going for the best in all that would make someone a perfect partner. After over 20 years it only gets better and better. She is the same beautiful person I met over 20 years ago! What made the feeling even more wonderful was when we spoke and i realised that she was a Christian. It is not the colour of your skin it is the heart that matters. My daughter-in-law is white outside, not racist, and pure inside. If one should ask her anything about colour she would say “That is not a problem, the same red blood runs through all of us.” I love her better every day, [She is] the daughter i never had.

Once again, THANK YOU SO MUCH GRANDMA! I hear her life story and I'm amazed. I see God's hand in her journey, writing the most beautiful story. Knowing that all of her experiences resulted in me existing, a girl whose parents were born 1,500 miles away from each other and somehow found one another in dental school. She's so strong and inspiring and I hope in my lifetime I can become even half the woman that my grandmother is. 

If you need anymore entertainment today, read these messages my grandma sent me yesterday. Now I have to change my major.

*Not sure if I have to explain this, but this means that I'm right, they did meet in school. lol

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