It’s a Hard Life I Lived

Vicki Price
Pollinate Magazine
Published in
4 min readApr 19, 2021


Conversations with a Grandmother

Photo by Nickolas Nikolic on Unsplash

I was 25 the year women won the right to vote. I had been married two years at that time and had given birth to one boy, Mathis. He died several months after. I don’t remember much about the days following his death. My husband Hans finally prying the cold, fragile body from my arms. They took my boy away. It would be a long time until I came back from that dark place. The dark place that would always be in the corner of my mind waiting for me to open the door and walk back in.

My father had been a wealthy farmer. My sister Helen and I enjoyed music lessons and were college-educated women. Mother was pampered. The extended family was prosperous. Life had been hard but blessed. Then father began to drink. Mother, not able to take the abuse, moved in with my sister to the house in town. I was left alone to care for Father on the farm. My parents never lived together again.

On March 17, 1917, I made the break from Father and married Hans. Well over 6 feet tall, with striking blue eyes, he was a handsome man. He had immigrated to this country from Norway with his father and mother. He was not yet a citizen when we wed. Custom and law dictated the woman take on the citizenship of her husband. So in 1921 when Women’s Suffrage was finally won, I was still denied the right to vote.

Father finally bankrupted the family and Mother was left destitute. With no place for her to turn I took her in. At that time my small house held five children, my husband, my mother, and me. In 1929, unable to face the struggles any longer, unable to deal with the poverty — I found her hanging in the woodshed.

One child followed another until seven filled our home to bursting. Each birthed at home. Each needing to be fed and clothed and cared for. My days of teaching at the local school were over as soon as I was married. Married women were not allowed to work outside the home. My mind was numb with the grind of caring for the children and my husband. Never having enough, the endless chores and the weight of poverty were my existence and then my husband began to drink.

He said it was medicinal. He was having headaches from the dynamite blasts he set off at his work building roads. At the bar, he gambled at cards and lost what little money he made. He started to sell off the barn, the tractor, his mules — anything that he could get his hands on to support his drinking. He became abusive to me and the children. It was during this time that my last child was born. My eldest daughter acted as my midwife. This was during the middle of the Great Depression. The struggles had mounted, I often had nothing but bread and lard to feed the children and now one more mouth.

That dark place called my name, I opened the door and walked through to oblivion. The ambulance had been called to take me away. I was floating in a catatonic state. Non-responsive, finally free of the struggle. I would spend months in the mental institute while my eldest daughter cared for the family, including the new baby girl. Occasionally I would get near to returning, then the challenges I would face at home pushed me back to the darkness. I so needed to hide from it all. A visit from family reminded me of those children who desperately needed me. I finally made up my mind to get well, to take charge. I left the dark place behind and returned home.

In 1939 I again became a citizen of this country. Something that was always put off in the hustle of daily life. I went back to college and re-certified as a teacher. The house which we nearly lost to back taxes was put in my name when my son-in-law paid off the tax debt to prevent Hans from selling that too. I went back to work and supported the family relying only on myself. Hans’ abuse had ended when my youngest son challenged him and won. We reached something of an agreement to co-exist but the affection was never re-kindled. I would hold tight to my grudge against him until the day I died.

The children were gone, spread across several states; only Marge remained close. It was her and her family that took me to the bus stop or train station for my summer travels. Once my teaching years were over, I spent summer vacations on the road. Traveling the country, sending home postcards, finally free from all the responsibility. I was who I had always meant to be. An educated woman, curious to explore my world, and unafraid to do it all on my own. Hans was never invited along. My life was so different from my children and grandchildren — women who have grown into their new freedoms, choosing their lives in a way no woman of my time was allowed. They control the number of children they bring into the world, they vote, they are educated in fields I was denied. The world is theirs, may they grab this life with their hearts and both hands. It is all too short.

© Vicki Price 2021



Vicki Price
Pollinate Magazine

I am a full time guitar playing song writer. Working with my husband Joe we have spent our lives traveling across the nation playing our brand of country blues.