My grandmother was born in Portugal and moved to Detroit when she was 6 months old with her family who were hoping for jobs in the auto industry. As a young girl, she was taken out of school in the third grade and forced to work the night shift in a factory to help support her eight siblings. During meal shifts, her job was to reach her bare hands into ice coolers to get cold drinks for the other factory workers. She came home in the morning and her grandmother would massage her hands with salve to ease the blisters.
Growing up, I never had a sense of the struggles and sacrifices my grandmother made, but I wish I had had the opportunity to talk to her more about her life before she died. She was an incredibly strong woman who raised two children, essentially on her own, after her husband (my grandfather) had a nervous breakdown and could no longer work. I am grateful to her for giving up so much so that we could have the life we do now.