A Story on the Only Honest Politician I Ever Met – My Grandma
I remember it as grandma's office, nothing more. I knew it was in the courthouse, but until I put 2-and-2 together as a senior in high school Oklahoma History class I never knew exactly how big a figure she'd been before retirement.
I'd never heard the family talking about grandma as anything other than mom, grandma, sister or Aunt. She was the grandma that always had something ready on the stove when we popped in for a visit. The M&M stash was always full. The hard candy was abundant. It was grandma. It took me well into adulthood to truly appreciate just how much more she is than that.
Maybe I was just the last in the family to figure it out. We always lived hundreds or thousands of miles away with my dad transferring from Air Force base to Air Force base. Maybe if I'd spent more time in Oklahoma as a kid I would have seen it earlier, but a few hours a year just isn't enough to truly appreciate what someone does the other 363 days a year.
It was during Dr. Kincaid's Oklahoma History class as a Senior in high school that I learned that my grandma had been in office during Oklahoma's largest political scandal. The scandal involved kickbacks with county commissioners, and I came to the realization that she was one of the few county politicians to not be involved in some form or fashion. We talked about a lot of names that were prosecuted and disgraced. Betty Wing's name was never mentioned.
I never heard any talk of politics. Other than a few memories revolving around hanging campaign signs for grandma, that was it for politics. It took a history class to realize just how great grandma was outside the kitchen. She could have been the picture in the dictionary next to the word "grandma", but she's so much more than pot roast in the stove.
Her political stories are far more boring than her love life. I knew grandpa to be Roy Lee, a quarter horse trainer and Pepsi aficionado. But grandma's love story is, much like everything else with her, so much deeper than what's seen on the surface. Roy Lee was husband #2 after my real grandpa passed away when my mom was just a young girl, 2nd-youngest of 6 kids.
Finding out about grandma's long-lost love was a surprise to all of us, not just me this time. When reading through the newspaper, grandma came across a name she'd known many years prior. Clarence Young's mother had passed away, and after searching she came across a photo of Clarence and his mother in her picture collection. How did she have this picture of a young Clarence and his mother? He'd given it to her.
Prior to leaving for WWII, Clarence and grandma had been engaged. Grandma must've been a heartbreaker because she was swept off her feet by another man, forcing her to write a dreaded Dear John letter. Clarence and grandma hadn't spoken with each other in decades, despite grandma's place in the courthouse and despite living mere miles apart throughout those decades.
Grandma called Clarence on the phone to share the picture she'd found. Six months later... they were married. On a side note, I remember my car breaking down and dying on I-40 in Oklahoma on the way to the wedding. This was pre-cell phone days, and I accepted a ride from a total stranger to get to a phone. The car did not survive, but a love that was put on ice for decades was suddenly rekindled and allowed Clarence to live out his remaining years with the woman he'd loved all those years ago.
Grandma's story could be a feature-length film by now, but no one would believe the story of this woman I know as grandma. It took a few hours of being around her this Christmas to take time to reflect on her amazing life. She means so much to me, and I feel stupid for not taking the time years ago to appreciate and enjoy what was in front of me. She's getting on in years and I can barely squeeze out a few days every year to go north of the Red River. It seems like every time I come through town she's not feeling well and up for visitors, but getting the few hours for a meal, pictures and talking goes a long way.
I tell my boys about some of the cool stuff grandma has done, but they, like me in earlier years, don't yet comprehend and appreciate the times with her they get. They won't get the same Oklahoma History class I took, so they won't realize that grandma had a hand in shaping the towns, county and state she represented for so many years. She was a woman in the boys' game of politics, and she never pretended to be anything other than what she was.
To Okies in Cherokee County, Betty Wing was a face on a campaign sign and someone that worked at the county courthouse. To some of us, however, she was grandma. She's been an influence in my life through the daughter she raised. My mom is just like grandma, from looks to attitude to demeanor, and I'd like to think some of that good stuff has passed on to me.
Her love life could be something of a Nicholas Sparks novel. I'd love to see James Garner play one of the love interests. Her political story, however, is far too boring for Hollywood. No scandal on her desk. No campaign mud-slinging. No deep pockets pilfering county funds. That boring story makes me more proud than any other rest of that stuff.
How much do I love my grandma? My wife has been trying to get me to kick my energy drink habit for the better part of our 13-year marriage, without much success. My grandma told me about a family member (distant) that had a stroke after consuming an energy drink and asked me not to drink energy drinks because she was concerned about my health. I've gone from, on average, 3-4 energy drinks (especially with all the driving I was doing over the holidays) every week to zero just because she asked.