(This post was originally published on this website in February, 2007)
Homemade chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven …
A squeaky rocking chair, slowing swaying in the wind …
Your favorite story, read lovingly at your bedside every night, until you are old enough to read it yourself …
Memories of a grandmother.
These are memories of a grandmother, I am sure, but they aren’t my memories and they aren’t of my grandmother.
As the oldest granddaughter of a woman with 29 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, I was denied the luxury of grandparents whose lives revolved around me. My cousins, my sister, and I took turns staying at Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s house, because there just wasn’t room in that 2-bedroom house in the “forest” for all of us at once.
We didn’t have grandparents who paid a down-payment on a car for us, or helped put us through college, or even always remembered our birthday, but we have so much more.
Our Thanksgiving Dinner could never consist of a turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pie with everyone sitting around one table giving thanks. Oh, no. Our Thanksgiving Dinner has two turkeys, a ham, a brisket, two pans of cornbread dressing, etc… , etc… , etc… , with nearly 50 people sprawled throughout the house and lawn. My grandmother makes that happen.
The family Christmas party is the same. Sometimes you don’t even see all of your cousins until they come back through the house saying their “goodbyes,” but Maw Maw is always there, with a present for everyone, even the not-quite-yet-in-laws and their kids.
She even started a Halloween tradition, almost 30 years running, so her grandchildren could safely get candy for Halloween. You see, if we got it from her, it had to be safe, and no one could have put a razor blade in the Laffy Taffy.
Homemade buttermilk biscuits.
Family shopping trips to the mall-where we always ate at the Piccadilly Cafeteria so she could get her fried chicken.
Clarence Carter’s hit “Strokin'” blasting throughout her house.
These are the memories of my grandmother.
The one who keeps my family of 50+ people together.
The one who makes sure no one feels left out of a game night or a trip to the lake.
The one who makes sure everyone has a role to play.
The one who, until yesterday, I thought was immortal.
“Call me when you get this message” was on the instant messenger from my mom.
“It is hardening of the lungs, and it is in both of them,” she said.
“The doctor said there was nothing he could do.”
I wasn’t immediately saddened by this news. Whether it was denial, or ignorance, I don’t know, but I feel like the doctor was probably wrong. There is something he can do. There has to be.
The thought of my Maw Maw not being able to breath properly is … suffocating. The idea of my Paw Paw’s agony upon hearing the news … unbearable. The suggestion that my grandmother won’t be at my wedding, won’t see my children, won’t take the trip to Italy we were just planning … it’s too much.
So instead, I will think about the Sunday Evening dance she would do for us.
How nervous she was the first time she served wine during Mass.
The True Crime magazines piled beside her chair.
These thoughts are a little easier for me to live with … at least for now.
*Update: January, 2010. My grandmother is still living with her illness and we recently celebrated an absolutely beautiful Christmas at her home in Texas.*