My grandmother (Ma) would have celebrated her 92nd birthday this month, and I’ve been thinking all month about doing a blog about her. There are a million memories, but I’ve just had a hard time putting my thoughts together. This probably won’t be a very polished or funny blog. It’s more like a scrapbook of my memories of Ma.
Ma lived next door to us, so we spent a lot of time there. A LOT of time. So much that I’m surprised she didn’t move away. The weird thing is that she never seemed to get tired of us. She had 13 grandchildren, and 6 of us lived next door. Me, Lisa, and Marla lived one side and Brian, Cara, and Kurt lived on the other.
When we’d all be there, which was pretty much daily, she acted like she didn’t have anything else to do except wait on us hand and foot. Now that I’m a mom, I know that she was bound to have chores and things, but we never knew it. She busied herself with cooking for us mostly. If one of us wanted macaroni and cheese, another one of us wanted biscuits, another one of us wanted scrambled eggs, and another one wanted a bowl of ice cream… well, guess what? We all got exactly what we wanted. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing because we were pretty much all brats who took her for granted, but she never complained.
For as long as I can remember, Ma cooked breakfast for the entire family every Saturday and Sunday morning. She would cook for whoever showed up. Sometimes it would be 3 people, and sometimes a dozen. She always had it ready at exactly 7:30 a.m. And even though she ALWAYS cooked on Saturday and Sunday at the same exact time, she also ALWAYS called at 7:20 to let us know it would be ready in 10 minutes. She also cooked Sunday dinner every single Sunday of my life until her health got bad. Looking back, I now realize that she entertained 10-25 people every Sunday but she made it seem like normal life. I don’t know about you, but I’m not fond of the idea of having 25 people at my house when I turn in the driveway from church! When I was a kid, she cooked awesome fried chicken and fried potatoes and salmon patties… Then in 1992, my uncle Jerry had a heart attack and really screwed it up for all of us. Ma got all worried about cholesterol and triglycerides, so she completely changed her way of cooking. From then on, we had BAKED chicken instead of fried. Thanks a lot, Jerry!
All the cousins used to spend the night together occasionally. She had a bedroom with a full-size bed, a twin, and a rollaway bed, so we’d all pile in and she would tell us bedtime stories until we fell asleep. Sometimes she would fall asleep in the middle of the story and start snoring, which sent us all in a fit of laughter. Or sometimes we would almost be asleep and Brian would call Lisa an ugly name and she would cry and get everybody woke up again.
I have another cousin, Craig, who grew into a perfectly functional adult, but he was scared of EVERYTHING when he was little. He wouldn’t sleep in the bedroom because there was a picture of some deer (or maybe buffalo?) and he thought their eyes were looking at him. Ma would have to tape a piece of paper over the picture before he’d go to sleep. He was scared of an old black and white family picture Ma had on the wall (maybe it was her parents or grandparents?) because he thought they were mean-looking. Apparently people didn’t smile in pictures back in the late 1800s… He wouldn’t sit in the den after dark because the metal on the window in the door looked like “an evil clown face” so Ma would have to tape something over that too. Geez. But I don’t remember her complaining or even seeming annoyed at all. Amazing.
Most of the cousins only spent the night occasionally, but me and Lisa stayed every weekend when we were young. One of us would stay on Friday and the other on Saturday. I don’t know how the tradition started, but it was just something that happened. If I stayed with Ma on Friday, we watched “Dukes of Hazard”, “Dallas”, and “Falcon Crest”. If I stayed on Saturday, we watched “Hee Haw”, “Love Boat”, and “Fantasy Island”. She LOVED Dallas, and nearly went nuts wondering who shot J.R.? She thought it was Kristen Shepherd the whole time and she was RIGHT!!
Sometimes I fill the sink with Pine-Sol because it smells like Ma’s house. I may not even be cleaning, the smell just comforts me.
Ma was widowed when she was in her 40s. To my knowledge, she never even went on a date after my granddaddy died. She thought those women who had to have a man were silly. He died before I was born, so I don’t know what kind of relationship they had. I’ve often wondered if she never had interest in another man because she knew she would never find that kind of love again, or if she figured marriage was more trouble than it was worth. Haha. That’s one of the things I wish I had asked her.
Ma was a big believer in things that “they say”… If you’re from the South, then you know what I’m talking about…
They say… you shouldn’t tickle small children because it will make them stutter.
They say… you shouldn’t eat fish and dairy products together because it will kink your intestines and you could die.
They say… you shouldn’t cut a baby’s hair because his first birthday or he won’t live a long life.
I’m so fortunate that I had Ma in my life. She was such a constant. My kids got to know her and spend time with her too. By the time Karlie was born, Ma was getting older and had pretty much stopped doing anything around the farm. She enjoyed keeping Karlie for me and they really bonded.
I could go on and on. The more I type, the more I remember. I’m ashamed that I didn’t spend more time with Ma as I got older and got busy. Before she died, she went to live at an assisted-living home. I didn’t visit as often as I should have, but I went to see her on a particular Saturday. Nobody else was there and I was in a big hurry, but I just felt compelled to go by. We visited for a few minutes and when I got ready to leave, she said “oh, don’t rush off.” She repeated that a few times, which was odd for her. She seemed like she didn’t want me to leave, but I had somewhere else to be so I had to. It really bothered me, so I went back the next day after church. She had a room full of company… practically the whole family spontaneously showed up at the same time, and Ma just seemed so content. She didn’t say much, she just sat back and watched everybody. It was a good visit, and I left feeling so much more peaceful than I had the day before. Two days later, I got the call that she was unresponsive and she died a little while later. I will be forever grateful that I got that last chance to see her. If I had left it the way it was when she was asking me not to leave, I don’t think I could have forgiven myself.
So, there. That’s my tribute to Ma. If you knew her, then you totally get how special she was to us. If you didn’t know her, I hope you can feel through my discombobulated words what an awesome grandma she was. Now, I think I’ll go fill my sink with Pine-Sol.