“So, how are Mama and Uncle Bobby doing without Granny?” my friend Renee asked as she took a seat across the table from me.
I sighed. How to answer that?
Granny had always threatened to one day show Mama and Bobby how they couldn’t make it without her, saying she was going to get her an efficiency apartment in town, leaving them to their own devices.
“And prove what, old woman?” I asked. “That in their 60’s they can be on their own? They would probably go wild and throw a rave complete with Geritol shooters and a slew of Milk of Magnesia pills, lying around the place. It would be so wild, someone would make it a reality show: Party til Dusk – because none of them can see to drive after dark.”
She pronounced me a smart-alecky heathen and told me all of us would be lost without her.
“You’re wrong,” I said. “We would manage just fine.”
Sure, we’ve managed. But there is a void.
A big, loud void of righteousness that will never be filled by a presence other than hers.
I sighed again before I spoke.
“They are alright, I guess. Mama misses her, of course, and you know Bobby has never been one to talk a whole lot.
Truth be told, I think they are a little bit lost without her there telling them what to do. Bobby is buying a bunch of lottery tickets and now he’s taking in every stray that shows up since she is not there to scream about it.”
Granny would have a fit about all the animals my uncle took in; when I lived there, we both nearly drove her crazy.
She informed us once we only worked to pay the vet and buy dog and cat food. She wasn’t far off, either.
It was like the underworld stray community knew Granny was gone and they started just coming on in whenever my uncle opened the door. I think he has a standing appointment at the vet’s office on Mondays now.
“You leave Bobby alone,” Renee said. “One day, that man will win the lottery. He will.”
He believed he would, too. And then there were no telling how many strays he would take in.
But I worried about them. They were geriatric orphans.
Even though they are adults, I wonder who is taking care of them.
Do they know what to do if one of them gets sick?
How do they know who to call about things like Granny did?
When something happened to the HVAC or the plumbing, Granny knew what to do. She took care of, well, everything.
When they were supposed to get some snow a few weeks ago, Mama told me she hoped they didn’t lose power.
“Maybe Bobby should go get some firewood from town, just in case,” she said.
“No,” I said. “Y’all do not need to be building a fire in that fireplace – do either of you know how to build a fire?”
She paused to consider.
“No. Mama always built the fire.”
Granny probably rubbed two sticks together, too, to start it. Or told it to ignite and it did.
The old gal had a way about her that if she told anything – even wood, dirt, or whatnot – to do something, it did it.
“Alright, then,” I said. “Y’all leave that fireplace alone. Y’all don’t need to be messing with fire. Neither one of you.”
“What if the power goes out?”
“It won’t,” I declared.
If Granny could declare things, I could too.
Mama wasn’t so sure. She didn’t like the thought of them being cold, she didn’t like the thought of them possibly being without power, and more than anything, she didn’t like the fact I was telling her what to do.
“Why are you acting so bossy about this?” she asked.
“Because,” I began.
How do I even explain it?
“Mama, I worry about y’all. Who is taking care of y’all? I should be there, or y’all here, so I can take care of you. Granny’s gone…and y’all are just…alone.”
“We’re fine,” Mama said softly. “Granny was almost 93. There wasn’t a lot left she could do. We can take care of ourselves.”
Yes, there was. There was plenty. Even in a wheelchair, she still struck an intimidating form.
“Mama, I know she was old. I know she couldn’t get around anymore. But I felt better knowing she was there. She made sure y’all were OK.”
Mama had felt better, too, even if the old gal was fussing – usually at Mama – all day long.
There was comfort in her ordering everyone around. They were assured everything was in order and everything was done.
“I mean, honestly, Mama, who tells y’all what to do now? Y’all need someone to tell y’all.”
Mama quietly agreed.
“Yes, in some ways we do,” she said. “Because it doesn’t matter how old we are, we always need our Mama.”