My Grandmother, Big Mama
Shash’s memory of her mormor hits a raw nerve I have with my most beloved grandmother. She was not a force but a gently breeze of nature. A soft wind that pushes your hair from your face and gently kisses our cheek. The voice that tells you when you have done something wrong, but never a critical voice. I have dreams of her. I am always sitting at her feet, listening to something she is telling us. I have on old, men’s wool trousers in the dream. She looks about the age I am now. We are talking, laughing.
She gave me everything natural, creative, giving, soft, forgiving that I needed as a child. She was fun loving, sweet to the core, non-judgmental and very active. She loved her grandchildren and would do anything for them. You felt safe with her. You felt like you could do anything around her, fun things, things to be laughed about, dig for worms, eat cookie dough, eat an entire pie. She only scolded you by saying something in a soft, southern voice, something gentle that said, “You didn’t really mean to do/say that”. She was like this with all of her grandchildren.
I have so many images and memories of her that it is hard to pick just a couple.
When I took her great-grandson to Texas to meet the family she must have been in her 80’s. She could hardly walk by then but when I wanted to stroll down to the waterfront of their lake house, she tried to follow to see it with me. We walked a little while and I realized she just could not manage it, but she thought she could. I convinced her to head back home.
As young children at my grandmother’s house, there was always a fold out sofa in front of the TV where we would all pile in to watch my grandfather’s favorite show “wrestling”. We would also watch scary movies. All of us, my grandmother in the middle piled into the bumpy, very uncomfortable fold out … watching T.V. and falling asleep, giggling, hiding our faces, scared, thrilled, in love with the moment. Somehow, we would all end up in their bed the next morning!
So, skip forward 20+ years. My son was an infant; my grandmother was an old, arthritic woman. We pulled out a sofa and there, we all slept together. My son, my Big Mama, and me… Big Mama and I holding hands as we fell asleep. That is one of my most precious memories of her. That was one of the last memories I have before her heart attack.
My grandmother was a fisherman. She would take us all out fishing. She had a portion of her garden allocated to her grubs and worms, where we all got to dig for them, putting them in a ventilated can for fishing. She taught me how to bait a hook. How to be patient while waiting for a fish. I watched her ring a chicken’s neck and was horrified that she could do such a thing. She spent hours watching us make mud pies, and using her flower petals for decoration. She was a collector of junk (I come by that naturally) and had a carport and garages full of stuff that we would shift through in fascination. She had rain barrels everywhere and all of them full of minnows.
She had a heart attack and valiant efforts were performed to keep her alive. (Please check your Living Will). From then on she lay in a hospital bed (in my aunt Lucy’s house, another un-selfish, loving woman … another heroic story, I will tell later), unaware of all of her grandchildren who came to gently kiss her face, tell her how much we loved and missed her. For a minute you would think she would recognize you, then immediately know she had not a clue. I was thankful when she passed away, not to be in that vegatative state anymore. That would not have been to her liking at all. And that is not how I wanted to remember her. I only remember the vibrant, funny, loving, active, strong, outgoing woman that she was. And miss her desperately. She gave us all freedom to be fun loving kids, to be ourselves.
girls, girls, girls in wsj. magazine
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