February 12th, 2011

Ode To A Life

I wonder if people still experience their grandparents the way we did as children. Just thinking the word “grandma” brings to mind the sweet scent of peaches on a hot summer’s day. The loud rattling of a largely ineffectual window unit air conditioner. Those days of lying on the floor, feeling stuffed and happy and trying to stay quiet while she watched her stories. She knew my sisters, cousin and I like to gorge ourselves on candy, ice cream sandwiches, and yes even fruit, and so she’d always keep her fridge full to bursting of the stuff.
Grandma could be stern too. You recall my mentioning of that air conditioner which hardly worked? Well if you turned it off, you were basically setting the oven to 350. One crack of thunder, and all of us would moan. This is because my grandma would order the immediate shutting down of any and all things electric. “But can we at least keep on a fan?” “No! Turn it off!” “But you know, lightning isn’t all that likely to hit…” “Shut up and turn that thing off!” Ok? I’ll just quietly slide back to grandaddy’s room and hide in there, before I lose all of my water.
Through all of her quirks and the things that made her her, I really loved my grandma. When I was a child, I’d sit in rapt fascination as she told stories of a rough childhood in the country parts of South Carolina. It is sad that I don’t remember a whole lot of her story, actually. I do know that at some point, she relocated to Charlotte, married my grandfather, and raised three children. Both of my grandparents were blind, so bringing up a family during that era, before all of this wonderful technology and other opportunities we now have, must have been frought with challenges. They did it though, and quite well.
She always sought to have a hand in the lives of her children’s children as well. As my mom and dad got their own family started, they had to reside with my grandma for a time while gathering the finances and making other preparations to strike out on their own. I know I took a tumble crawling backwards in her house, falling down the stairs. It wouldn’t surprised me if I took my first steps there as well.
She even held me up during my freshman year of undergraduate study. She’d call me at least once a week to see how I was faring, and when I was truly at my lowest point, contemplating the end of my life, she stayed on the phone and prayed with me that things would be ok. I think she had a way of feeling our pain that went way down deep. For her empathy, understanding and love I will forever be grateful.
I have just learned that on this day, February 12, 2011, my grandma has passed from this earthly realm. She was born on January 29, 1929, meaning that she had just turned 82 years of age recently. She had been in a nursing home for quite some time and was suffering with things, so I am glad that this is no more. Yet I still feel a profound sense of loss, as in so many ways she was the glue that held our family together. I imagine though that we will again begin finding each other in this difficult time.
I remember shortly after my grandfather’s passing, he sent me a message asking that I do my best to keep my life moving forward. He wanted me to benefit from all that he and his generation had fought for. I am now reflecting, and hoping that both of my grandparents are looking down on me with smiles on their faces. I intend to work as hard as I can for as long as I live to make their struggles and triumphs worthwhile. So let that sweet scent linger on always. May you rest in peace.