Honestly, I thought she would live forever.
We had a running joke in our family about it -the meaner the women were, the longer they would live.
I reminded her of this the last time I saw her.
We had gone home to add Ava the German shepherd to our family and took her by to meet everyone. It was three weeks ago.
Granny informed me she needed some lotion.
Not any lotion, but the sweet pea lotion I had given her at Christmas.
“Bobby can’t find it anywhere,” she told me. She was probably thinking I had gotten her some bootleg goods.
“Did he go to Bath & Body Works?” I asked.
“What’s that?” she wanted to know.
I told her it was where the lotion was from; she said no, but they didn’t have it at Carmichael’s and she thought Carmichael’s had everything that was worth a flip.
“I will get you some for your birthday,” I promised.
“I might not make it that long,” she told me. Her birthday was in May.
“Oh, hush, old woman,” I admonished her. “You will. You know in this family, the meaner the women, the longer they live.”
She snorted. “Then you will outlive me, old gal.”
I hugged her, but not too tightly because the old gal had gotten frail in the last year, getting painfully thin despite her morning breakfast of fatback and biscuits. So I hugged her, and told her I would get her the lotion.
And for some reason since that day, I would make a mental note to go by the lotion and potion store and get her some.
Maybe I knew. Because I did think about that every day and check the calendar to see when I could get it and take it to her. I felt like I would run out of time, and in reality, I did.
Mama told me they had taken Granny to the ER two weeks later. Her rheumatism was making her hurt so badly, she couldn’t get any relief. But hospital and doctor visits were not uncommon.
A week later, Mama texted me around 2:30 p.m. – “Granny on way to hospital.”
“What’s wrong?” I replied.
“Not responsive,” was Mama’s short reply.
We waited. The waiting is the worst part. The worry and wondering, the praying, the hoping. We all thought she had come to the hospital before, under what seemed to be more dire circumstances, and come home a few days later; surely this would be the same and she’d come home. But she didn’t.
Mama asked me to come home, to help her get things ready. So I did.
The house was full with a deafening silence. Void of her larger than life personality, hollering for us to get something to eat as soon as we walked in, “Y’all gonna eat aren’t you? I have plenty. You can take some with you when y’all leave. Why don’t y’all spend the night?”
I couldn’t stay in there. I had to go sit outside in the yard, making Mama sit with me.
“What happened?” I asked her. I knew Mama had told me Granny hadn’t wanted anything to eat or drink for about 24 hours.
“She had laid down,” Mama began, “and I decided to cook something.” She paused at the face I made. “Don’t do that. I am a good cook.”
I mmmhmmed at her and motioned for her to continue.
“Well … it burned. And the fire alarm went off and when it went off and we made it stop, we realized … Granny didn’t wake up and come see what I had burned in the kitchen like she normally does.”
Mama stopped for a second, realizing what she just said. And then it happened. We busted out laughing.
“Lord Jesus, Mama … I knew your cooking would result in a 911 call one day.”
At the funeral home, we found those moments again, when the funeral director asked what Granny’s hobbies were other than quilting. Mama listed gardening and being active in her church, spending time with her family.
I added “getting in other people’s business.” Bobby had to quickly make sure that was not added to the list.
We laughed, reminiscing of the things Granny would say, what she would want. We found out she had called the funeral director three weeks earlier to begin her arrangements; she had dreamed she had passed and Mama and Bobby were running around trying to get everything ready and didn’t know what to do.
“She wouldn’t want us sitting around crying though,” I told Mama. “She would want us to remember her the way she was – strong, feisty and mean as the day is long.”
Mama agreed. Granny took pride in her strength.
She looked so pretty, so peaceful when I saw her. She was wearing a blue dress, in honor of the one she wore when she eloped to marry Pop.
Her coffin was flanked with two of the quilts she had made over the years. A memorial video played on the screen overhead that drew us in, the family – her family. She had been the last of 10 children, outliving her siblings. But their children were there.
The screen froze on an image of her standing, all 5’10 of her, mouth open as if she was about to speak.
“Look – she’s got her mouth open!” I whispered to her niece Dot. “She’s about to fuss someone out!”
She probably had. We both laughed. Over the lunch afterwards, so many good memories of her were shared. People that not just knew her, but loved her and were family. There was something so sweet, so tender about seeing family.
I fought tears during the service, because I am an ugly crier and like I said, Granny wouldn’t want me to cry. It would distract from the preacher talking about her.
But the next morning, after realizing she was really, truly gone, I let the tears freely fall.