My maternal grandmother Pauline Uddin née Scruggs was primarily Native American, but also had Black and Scottish ancestors. She was a ferocious being, tempered with life experience.
Pauline’s mother wanted all her children to marry only white people, but my grandmother when she was young disobeyed her mother and married a man from India. He came from the region which is now Pakistan and was a Muslim. Pauline was a Christian, but when she was a woman of faith, she was mostly a commonsense person and did not let religion stand in her way.
From what I heard, my grandparents were madly in love with each other and married very quickly, however they marriage was a difficult one. They lived in Newark, New Jersey, and even though my grandfather worked hard, he sent all his money to his family back in India. He thought that it was Pauline’s responsibility to support the family and she did just that. Nevertheless, the couple fought often, and their fights were sometimes violent. One day after my grandfather hit Pauline, she threw a glass lamp at him in response. Shortly after this incident they finally split.
After the divorce, Pauline found herself in an extremely fragile position. She was a single mother and a woman of color, which made her a person without any power or voice within society she lived in. Nevertheless, she was determined to survive. She found a job as a secretary for the City of Newark, which not only provided Pauline with financial stability but also gave her a sense of accomplishment and success. She remained a proud woman, always keeping her head high.
There are no doubts that Pauline had many insecurities, such as low self-esteem regarding her appearance. However, she did everything in her power to overcome both her own fears and the genuine dangers in her life. When she realized how vulnerable she was, Pauline made safely of her family her priority. This is why after her marriage felt apart, she never remarried or even dated anyone.
In her older age, Pauline relaxed, let her guard down, and allowed her fun personality to emerge. With her grandchildren, she was at ease. I remember her as a sweet, goofy, and carefree person. I especially enjoyed my grandmother’s quirky sense of humor, and how we laughed together long and loud. This memory is very different than that of a strict Pauline, which my mother holds.
My grandmother was certainly not an easy person, but her life was not easy either, and it made her whom she was. When I was twelve-years-old she got Alzheimer’s and it gradually took her away from us. However, in strange way, from my point of view, the disease was also a blessing. It stripped my grandmother from all her layers of learned behavior, which she acquired during her years, and let “real” Pauline show. She did not have to fight any longer.
Our birthdays are a day apart, with Pauline’s being on August 18th and mine the following day.