Tuesday, February 5, 2008

In the meantime: Life

So it's been awhile, my friends. I have been neglecting my little piece of cyberspace here. It seems that I have been quite busy with the business of life. I've been playing with my girls, sewing some very belated Christmas gifts, and remodeling my bathroom (and anyone who has remodeled a bathroom or kitchen knows that the whole house becomes involved). The girls have been sick, as have I.

But something else has kept me away. A part of life as vital to our existence as birth itself: death. I lost my beautiful, sweet-spirited grandmother. Grandma had been in a nursing home for the last several years. She was far away from me, and after my aunt died two years ago and my maternal grandmother moved away from the area, there was no place to stay except a hotel. So I hadn't seen much of her since Sister Goldenhair was born. And while this saddened me, I was also ashamed. I feel like I should have done more to get to her, but the expense, distance, and childcare arrangements made it impossible to coordinate.

I can remember talking to her on the phone and asking her how she was feeling. She would usually mention some ailment, but this was always followed by, "But I've got to grin and bear it, or die and leave it." I guess it was finally time for her to leave her suffering behind. She suffered a couple of strokes and then passed away.

I was charged, shortly before her death, with making a photo board to display for her funeral. I sorted through photos and was please to find my favorite pictures of Grandma. There are a series of four pictures taken when we went on a family vacation to Florida. I was in between first and second grade and Grandma had never been in the ocean. These pictures depict my father (usually referred to here as Papaw) and my other grandmother alongside my Grandma. They got her to kneel down in the water, and she got nailed by a small wave. I remember us all laughing and Grandma soaked in salt water and tears of mirth.

I found pictures of her as a sister, as a mother, as a wife, and as a grandmother. But I love most the ones of her alone. They seem to show so much more of who I remember. There is a picture of her with her white wig in her hand, her head covered with short, fluffy, white hair after her chemo was all over. And she was laughing. She seemed to always be in on some joke or another. Another picture showed her standing in front of a green house with her hands on her hips. She is smiling, but she looks like she was ready to take care of business. I didn't recognize the house, so I asked my mom. It turns out that it was a house that my grandma used to clean. My dad grew up working, and he learned it from his mother.

But I remember grandma from her later years. She lived off of social security in a small home. And she would laugh. I remember the way her eyes would crinkle as she chuckled at one thing or another. And she always made oatmeal cake when her kids came to visit. And she always had cookies for me (before I could say "Grandma," I called her "Cookies"). And fried apples, she always cooked me fried apples with dinner. And she wouldn't let my dad force me to eat food I didn't like. Grandma was like an angel to me.

As many young kids do, I went through a phase where I didn't want to visit my grandparents. I loved them, but it was a six hour trip. And if we stayed with Grandma, I usually had to sleep in her bed. But every year for spring break we made the trip and spent the week with my grandparents. It might have been tedious for a couple of years, but I am so glad that I spent that time with my family. And it has had a deep impact on me as a parent. Before I married Woody I made it clear that I would not be moving far from our families. I wanted our kids to be able to see their grandparents as often as possible. And they usually see them about once a week or more. I always made due with seeing mine about twice a year.

And so while I haven't been sharing my thoughts here, I have speant a lot of time thinking lately. While I'm glad that Grandma isn't suffering anymore, it's never a good time to lose someone you love. And it doesn't make it any easier to see your parents grieving over their loss. The hardest part of all of this has to be watching my dad cry for his mother. The next hardest part is trying to grieve as I need to but without upsetting the girls. Miss B is old enough to understand the abstract idea that her great-grandmother is dead. But because they were never able to be very close, it still isn't an event that deeply affects her. Luckily, I'm more to the point of remembering happy times and feel less need to cry.

And so I will leave you with my memories of a great lady. Her laugh, her spirit, and her love of the Lord. Fried apples,biscuits, cookies, Pizza Hut, cream horns, and ice cream sandwiches. She beat cancer twice, survived a heart attack, and buried a daughter. I remember her smile when she would see us at her front door. And best of all, I remember that she was always proud of me and took joy in my accomplishments (including my girls).

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