Losing My Other Granny
At eighteen, my grandmother left her small town of Glen Rogers, West Virginia with only a small suitcase of essentials, and headed to Washington, D.C. No job. Nowhere to live. Only the reality that she wanted to make a life for herself.
She met my grandfather in Washington, and became the wife of a traveling Navy man. My mom and aunt talk of the magical childhood they had overseas. Eventually my grandparents moved back to the states and settled in my grandfather’s hometown of Jasper, Florida after he attended chiropractic school in Iowa.
As kids, we spent many nights with my grandparents. Often, we’d get dropped off at my grandpa’s chiropractic office and Granny let us sit in her lap and type on her old typewriter. Then we’d walk down to the corner and get a snow cone at a little store.
Once we arrived at Granny’s house, we immediately dug through her couch cushions. I have no idea what started this ritual, but Granny always hid stuff for us to find. As the weekend progressed, she let us convert her entire living room into a giant fort using stools, sheets, clothes pins, and blankets. Legos and Lincoln Logs evolved into masterpieces under those sheets.
While we played, Granny always had a project. Sometimes she was sewing, cross stitching, or quilting in her sewing room. But most of the time she was in the kitchen baking. Granny was known in Jasper and the surrounding counties as the person for making wedding cakes and other special orders. At any given time, her freezers and countertops were lined with exquisite icing flowers or homemade butter mints in a variety of shapes. We were usually allowed to eat the broken ones, which was a special treat.
Porch sitting with a cup of coffee was also a favorite part of Granny and Papa’s day. They had bird feeders and multiple times a day, we’d end up on the porch playing and watching birds. Oh, and they lived two houses away from the train tracks. We loved watching the trains from their porch.
When my grandparents retired, they bought a camper. Many weeks each summer we stayed with them in West Virginia at Lake Stephens Campground. The summer after ninth grade, we began our summer at the campground, then, Granny and Papa took me and my brother out west for six weeks. We traveled through twenty-two states and saw sights most kids our age had never seen. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, California Redwoods, Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and The Badlands were just some of the places we visited. It’s a summer we will never forget.
As an adult, my family always ended up at Granny’s for holiday meals. My own children knew Granny very well and spent much quality time with her. They even renamed my grandparents, Choo Choo Granny and Papa. My grandparents kept a special toy bin under the tv, just for the boys, and Granny always made sure to have something new each time they came over. Even when Granny could no longer hold Daniel in her lap, she still took her neck pillow, placed it in her lap, and played mud trucks with him. The hole in the middle of the pillow was the mud pit and they drove trucks in and out of the mud every time he’d visit.
My Thoughts about Granny
As I think about Granny, I also remember her dignity. She never went anywhere dressed-down. Her hair always had to be styled, clothes just so, and her jewelry had to match. Granny wore the cutest clothes. Her style was impeccable and even when she could barely walk, she still looked her best.
The last two and half years, my grandmother has been in the nursing home, unable to leave her room or get out of bed. My grandfather visited every day, and my aunt and mom took turns calling each day to read books to her. Granny never lost her mind and even asked my kids on each visit if they knew how to spell certain words and wanted to know what they were learning about in school.
On the Thursday before Granny passed, a friend and I went to visit her in ICU. She was battling double pneumonia and the flu and had been unresponsive most of the day. After a couple hours of talking with no response, I stood beside her bed and spoke. “Granny,” Here eyes popped open and stared at me. “You’ve been such a wonderful grandmother. So good to me.” She nodded. “And I know you’re tired. You can go home if you need to, but know that Aunt Suzy, Clay, Mom, and Papa will be here tomorrow, and they really want to see you.” She nodded strongly.
I reached over and touched her face, tears streaming down my own cheeks. “I love you so much.” Then Granny mouthed the words back to me. Even with the ventilator tube in, she was able to move her lips and express her love to me. Such a special moment.
As we sat with her Sunday, she was responsive with her eyes and head, but couldn’t speak. I watched her labor to breathe and understood deep in my heart that there are worse things than dying— wanting her to live in the state she was in would only be selfish. My Granny was a believer and I know her body is new. Whole. And as one of my friends texted me, she’s probably up there baking Jesus one of her cakes with those new hands of hers.
We will miss her. Gosh we will miss her. But I know she’d never trade her new home for her old one. We are the ones who miss her and today I choose to remember all the wonderful times together. Every birthday. All the holidays. Forts. Porch swinging. Baking. Loving on me and my kids. What a special woman and what an amazing legacy. I love you, Granny.