Friday, January 13, 2012

In Praise of my Grandmothers

Anyone that knows me REALLY well knows that I am prone to nightmares.  Whether this is due to my admittedly overactive imagination, my taste in reading materials, a love of spicy foods, or simply some misfiring synapses---I'm not at liberty to say.  All I know is that it happens.  A lot.  And as my dreams are incredibly vivid and life-like --I've always envied those people who claim to be able to 'realize' they are dreaming.  I 50% envy them, and 50% think they're full of crap, but I digress-- sometimes they can be really bad.  'Leave-A-Bad-Taste-In-My-Brain-All-Day' bad.  So when I woke, wide-eyed and with tears streaming down my face at 3 a.m. this morning, no one was more surprised than I to discover that it was NOT the result of a nightmare. 

I had been thinking about happy things.

I had been thinking about my Granny  =)

At 35 years old, I know that it is no small blessing to be able to say that BOTH of my grandmothers saw me reach adulthood.  (Note that that I did not say 'maturity'   =)  "Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers."  --Tennyson??  Can't remember.  Moving on.)  While my grandfather I only remember from photographs, and other people's recollections of him, (though, for some reason, I always felt as if I really had 'known' him) and my Pawpaw, though I knew him well, and into adulthood,

                        (This is my Pawpaw on the left, after a fishing trip with my Daddy.)

. . . I still feel cheated for these years spent without hearing his singular chuckle.  But my grandmothers. . .  My grandmothers were strong and hearty, always loving, always there, and, as far as I knew, up to virtually any task imaginable.

It's strange to think about now, but my Mawmaw and my Granny--though like night and day on SO many levels--grew up, married, and spent their entire lives in the same town, living only several miles apart.  They were friends, and more than that, they loved each other.  I always took great comfort in that as a child.  When people that you love DON'T love each other. . .it's confusing.  But when they DO---it's like a confirmation on your ability to judge what is true.  A confirmation in the way of  "I know.  She's pretty great, right?"  But in the true form of MY grandmothers, they could love each other while still being (secretly, and in their own ways) hilarious.

Example:  My Mawmaw was younger than my Granny by almost a year, if memory serves.  And yet almost every time I ever saw them together, she would cleverly find some excuse to remind my Granny of this fact.  Smiling and politely feigning ignorance the entire time, of course.  And when Granny got in the car to leave she'd be muttering under her breath, "She knows EXACTLY how old I am."  But she always said it with a grin. . .

Mawmaw was jewel-toned dresses, an abundance of rings, and perfume that almost stole your breath when you hugged her.  Granny was cotton and linen, the smell of clothes dried on the line, soft skin and a sparkling laugh, and a glass of sweet tea always waiting on you.  Weekends spent at Mawmaw's were guaranteed to include watching Remington Steele, Hee-Haw and Golden Girls, and getting to paint my nails if I asked really nicely.  (I am still amazed to this day that I did not destroy ALL her furniture with nail polish.  It is a skill I have not improved on over time.)  Saturday mornings were spent on the living room floor watching cartoons and eating Pop-tarts bought specifically for me, and on Sundays I was always welcome (but expected to behave) on their pew at church. 

At Granny's for the weekend, we would always run to the kitchen cupboard---which is where she stored empty paper towel rolls, wrapping paper tubes, and masking tape just for us to play with.  In the summertime we were free to run and play outside for as long as the sun was up, knowing that a sandwich and a glass of Hawaiian Punch at lunchtime was as inevitable as getting checked for ticks when we came in for the night.  And you just knew that you'd wake up the next morning to the smell of homemade biscuits cooking.  . . . Even up into years when I was probably too old to be asking, if you requested it, she'd sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to you while you fell asleep.

They went to different churches, but they both went every time the doors were open.  (Granny still took food to the 'old people' in her church until she was well into her 70's.)  In the kitchen, they were both veritable Southern Sorceresses, making pound cakes and lemon squares that I will probably never taste the likes of again.  They both dyed their hair quite religiously, proving that a small amount of vanity is not a bad thing.  Granny worked outside the home up until she reached retirement, and Mawmaw worked inside the home.  . . .I don't remember either one ever discussing it with me, but simply by the act of LIVING it, they seemed to make either option okay.

And without being preachy, and despite major personality differences, they each taught me the same things:  Work hard.  Take care of people.  Don't be lazy--it's disrespectful.  And ALWAYS be thankful for what you've got.  Because there's ALWAYS someone else who wishes they had just that much.

. . .so this is what I found myself thinking about at 3 a.m. this morning. . .  My Mawmaw passed several years ago, but my Granny is still here.  Though dementia and Alzheimer's dictate how 'here' she is more often than not. 

It's a scary thing to watch progress, though I know it has to be even harder for my mom and my uncles.  But mostly it just scares me for her.  A couple Christmases ago, while the family sat down to eat a WONderful Christmas dinner, she announced to the room as a whole that "OUR Danielle is DEAD!"  . . .I was very much alive, and standing right behind her.  And I didn't even want to correct her, because all I could think was what a frightening feeling that must be for her.  And I couldn't help wondering if, in the confusion of her disease, she had already mourned for people that weren't gone yet?

But what do I know?  Maybe it's another instance of those peculiar graces:  We get to keep her with us a while longer, and she doesn't have to dwell on all the loved ones that have gone on before her.

So I'm not dwelling on the negative.  Granny got to meet my son!  The one I thought I'd never have  =)  Though I DO hate that Michael never got to know her when she was running at full-capacity. . .she was so FUNNY!  (Like her telling the story of The Great Squirrel-Family Massacre with a smile on her face over Christmas dinner.  The story included a laughter-filled retelling of how a half-crazed squirrel got into her house and tracked blood all OVER her walls and curtains, before she killed it and beheaded its babies.  She told it all very matter-of-factly, and with a smile in her eyes.  *I* was rolling with laughter, of course.  She was a sweet, DEAR woman---but Granny didn't play. =)  And I know that I am immeasurably blessed that I got to HAVE both of these women in my life.

And they loved me, no question.  And curled up in their homes, falling asleep to the sound of crickets. . .I don't know that anything again will ever feel that safe. . .that perfectly *safe*.

I guess it's a blessing beyond words when someone has made such an impact on your life that, when you try to imagine what your life would've been like had they never been in it, you just. . . CAN'T.

And in our bedroom, my husband sleeps.  Under a turtle-quilt that my Mawmaw made for my Daddy, who was good enough to give it to me.

And not 3 feet away, in my son's pack n'play, is the blue-and-white quilt my Granny made for me when I was a baby.

And they are everywhere around me.

And I just miss them both so much.

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