Grandma robbed of self-confidence and joy

A column by Misty Poe, managing editor of The Times West Virginian 

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — I didn’t spend very much time with my Grandma Ollie growing up, but the memories I have of visits to her home and garden/produce shop tucked into the mountains of Washington state are very heartwarming. She was a beautiful person, inside and out.

On one summer visit, I remember her weeding through a box of cherries that had seen much better days, complaining about their quality. She finally tossed much more of the box than she was able to salvage for sale, and was asked why she even bothered to buy from that vendor.

I very clearly remember her saying, “He’s been on hard times and needed the sale.”

And that’s how she ran her business. That’s how she ran her life, in fact, always thinking of others and doing what she could to help them out. In fact, her pure kindness and willingness to help out people who needed it probably made her produce stand far less lucrative than it could have been. But knowing her, I know that concept didn’t matter to her much at all.

Knowing how good and kind she was makes it hard for me to process the things that happened to her hours before her death.

Two years ago this month, she got a phone call. The man on the other end of the line frantically said “Grandma?”

She had five adult grandsons and was searching her mind for which one it could be. The caller told her he was stuck in Mexico after being robbed. She immediately thought of my eldest brother, who is a bit of a world traveler, and it wouldn’t be unlikely that he would be on a trip to Mexico in December.

“Jim?” she asked.

And the caller went with that, giving her instructions for how to send money to help him out of the predicament that he was in. She panicked and was consumed with worry.

The first call she made was to my Aunt Fran, and she explained the phone call, asking what she was supposed to do.

Fran didn’t believe Jim was stuck in Mexico and promised to call my father to ask, but gently explained that it was probably some kind of scam to get money from her.

Fran called Dad, who assured her that Jim was not in Mexico but Australia, and he called Grandma to check on her.

She wasn’t angry; she was devastated. She sobbed on the phone. The woman who was the epitome of strength for my father during his childhood when they had been on “hard times” themselves was now crushed because she almost fell for a scam targeting seniors…

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