Come next week

There is something peaceful about reflecting on the year as we ready ourselves for the next one.

It’s a time, at least for me, to look back over what the last 12 months had brought into my life.

The moments of joy and happiness.

The obstacles that had been dealt with, whether I successfully bested them, or they knocked me down.

It helps me to take a personal review and see, most importantly, where I made mistakes and missteps and maybe what I can do better.

And this year, like the last few, has had its share of ups and downs.

I would get excited about one thing, to only find myself crestfallen the next day.
Granny used to not get overly happy when good things happened. “Life will balance it out soon enough,” she would say.

That always bothered me, as if it was some self-fulfilling prophecy on her part to usher in something that would tilt the scales of joy more towards the disappointment side.

“No, I am just not going to get my hopes up,” she would tell me.

But this year has taught me to get my hopes up, because in the middle of those high hopes, we are holding on to a thread of faith that can maybe be our lifeline.

I know this year has had some painful moments.

And I’m not just talking about the tragedies we see on the news.

Those were horrible and hurt us as a collective whole.

But sometimes the moments that hurt us the most are those personal events that cause us pain. Grief, loss, failure – we have all faced them this year.

Friends went through divorces.

Quiet a few lost their spouse; others lost other family members and friends.  

And some battled private battles they didn’t share.

I know I dealt with worries and fears that I didn’t speak about, least they come true.

I have tried, instead, to focus on the things I could control, on the things that I could change.

Sometimes, there were not many, so I let go of the things I couldn’t handle.

But every now and then, something sad or unsettling would creep its way into my life.

In fact, it seems like I have been marking years by the sad events lately more than happy ones.

“It takes rain and the sun to make the flowers grow,” Mama reminds me.

I get it. I do. But I am hoping for a little less rain in the coming year, both figuratively and literally.

In her sweet, gentle way she was letting me know that we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the beauty of the flowers without the rain and the sun, two things that if in excess can be harmful. But in the right amounts, make beautiful flowers.

“I am just ready for things to be stable and not so chaotic,” I stated one day. “I want things to be kind of on an even keel.”

Mama sighed. “Everyone probably wishes for that, Kitten,” she said. “But that is not life.”

No, life is not always stable or even keeled, is it?

It’s full of the ups and downs; the good, the bad. The sad, heartbreaking moments followed by the highest of joys. Sometimes, they come in the same week or at the least, the same year.

I know – I have been through all of those more times than I can count.

It’s just life.

We didn’t notice it when we were younger, mainly because our parents were better deflectors and shielded us from a lot of the stuff that people experience now.

But we will keep striving, fighting, trying to find the happiness and joy that bring us joy, even if it means we will have those disappointments and failures that crush our soul.

This year has knocked so many of us down and we have dusted ourselves and resolutely stuck our chin out as if to say, we are not giving up and out of sheer stubbornness, we won’t either.

It has been 12 months of chaos, hectic schedules, and everyday moments of life, that if we aren’t careful, will slip by, unnoticed and unappreciated.

Days that passed so quickly, one would think they were on a train, moving from one holiday to the next.

A year of memories made, and moments shared.

And come next week, we get to do it all over again.

A Granny-sized void

Someone commented the other day that they didn’t realize Granny had passed away.
“She did. Four years ago, on the 11th of March,” I replied.

“You still talk about her like she is still here,” they said.

It dawned on me that maybe I do.

And there’s times, believe me, that it feels like the old gal is still with me.

I told Mama it was as if she had been so much larger than life that her presence still lingered.

Mama agreed. “There’s days it doesn’t feel like she’s gone and some days, the void is all around,” she said.

A void.

That’s what it was.

She had filled such a huge part of my life, that now there was an emptiness.

Part of this gaping hole was due to my own stubbornness and grudge-holding the last few years she was alive.

“I do believe you were both equally to blame on that,” Mama said gently when I told her how I felt. “Granny was angry because you moved to the mountains and not home. She thought you were moving here. I thought you were moving here. And when you didn’t, she thought being angry was the best way to deal with it. You were her favorite person in the world.”

I didn’t feel that way when she passed away.

But growing up, she was my biggest fan and strongest ally, even when I feared her the most.

On Saturday mornings, she had been up for hours by the time I woke, cleaning and getting things done so we could go ‘loafing’ as she called it.

This just meant we went grocery shopping and to her mother’s house in Bold Springs, where the smell of fresh hay bales drifted through the house as I sat on the old metal sliding swing on the wrap around porch.

When I got older, Granny was often the one chauffeuring around an Oldsmobile full of teenage girls around, getting us pizza, burritos and junk food for low-budget horror movie binges.

She never complained.

If anything, she loved it.

She loved having a house full of laughter and squeals, no matter how late we stayed up.

If Mama was shushing us and telling us to go bed, Granny was the one sneaking down the hall to watch videos with us.
“I think Roger’s the cutest,” she would whisper as we watched Duran Duran videos.

“I like Nick,” I said.
She looked at me. “Of course you do, he’s got on the most makeup.”

After I got my driver’s license, Mama reneged on letting me drive her car.

“You promised!” I cried.

“I had no idea on God’s green earth you would pass!” was her reply.

In all teenage drama, I flung myself across my bed and cried.

Granny came in there to comfort me.

“You can take my car anytime you need to,” she said.

Granted, she didn’t know I put her car and our family friend who was teaching me how to drive in a ditch a few months earlier.

“I want my own car, Granny. I am just going to drive to school and home. That’s it.”

A few hours later, a car pulled down the driveway.

Granny and Pop had gone to town and bought me a beige ’77 Chevy Nova.

“I still have to pay for it,” Mama said as I squealed my thanks to my grandmother.

“I wouldn’t have got it if it hadn’t been for Granny,” I said.

“Darn right about that!” Mama replied.

Even though that car was far from perfect – she had to make me a cushion so I could see over the steering wheel – it was mine and my grandmother had made sure I got it.

During most of my teenage years, if it ticked my Mama off, Granny seemed to be the biggest supporter of it.

When I had Cole, she stayed with me for two weeks to help me figure out this whole motherhood thing.

The day she was leaving, I begged her to stay.
“Please, Granny, we have an extra bedroom. Please. I am not going to know what to do.”

“Oh, you’ve got it figured out,” she said simply. “You just needed to rest and get acclimated to having a baby.”
She made it sound like it was no big deal, but she had helped a lot. She cooked breakfast every morning and did laundry and swept. Keep in mind, she was 83 at the time.

Of course, she had called everyone, including the church to make sure no one had usurped her throne as president of her Sunday school class to announce she was seeing after her great-grandson for two weeks.
“Y’all put that in the bulletin,” she ordered over the phone. “Don’t y’all even think of moving any of the chairs around in the Sunday school room. I mean it. But y’all make sure everyone knows I’ve got a great-grandson.”

I was telling Mama all of this the other day.
“She was proud of him. She was proud of you,” Mama said.

“She never told me that,” I said.

“She didn’t have to tell you, Kitten. She told everyone else.”

Granny, the little redhaired girl out of a slew of children, had spent all of her life, wanting to be special to someone. She wanted to be the best at something and to have recognition, like we all do. But she had never really got that from her own mother. So, sometimes, her methods of getting that recognition may not have been the best way to go about it. But she had tried to give me the very things she didn’t have, the best way she could.

“I hope when I am gone one day, you will remember everything I have done for you,” she said one day, so many years ago.

And I do. Every single bit of it, I do.


In memory of a spitfire (3/19/2014)

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.