The thought on the forefront of my head is just: my granny is dying.
I can hardly get another thought in edgewise, or even focus on a task without doing it through this lens. There is an ache in my chest I have never experienced. I am losing sleep because I can feel death creeping in on my family, 764 miles from me.
I lived next door to Granny and Papa my whole life. He passed five years ago new years eve. She likely won’t make it to Thanksgiving.
In August, I got to spend a day with Granny. Taking her to the beauty shop, lunch at Wendy’s, finding steals at Goodwill, watching her literally prance around with a smirk on her face while pushing her cart in Dollar General. What a crack up! I laughed so much with her and at her that day; it was a side I’m not sure I’d ever seen. She was playful. Being a smart ass. Awesomeness abounded.
Granny and four of the five granddaughters
In October, I spent a couple hours alone with her after her banger of an 80th birthday party that the family had put together. Some people had brought gifts and cards to the party and they had been dropped off at the house. After getting settled and changed into her comfy clothes and soft socks (a time consuming feat), as we sat on the couch she turned and looked at me with this crooked smile and said, “Well! Let’s see what I got!” So we proceeded to open cards and gifts together in the quiet, too warm house.
At the entrance to Granny’s 80th birthday party. I’m wearing a dress of hers from the early 70’s! She immediately noticed.
During both of these visits I recognized that my granny is now old. And there are things that happened that really showed her body flat out betraying her. I did not ignore the moments of long pause for thought, or the backtracking with shuffling feet for something forgotten in the last room we were in, or the shaky hands. I breathed them in and let them go so I could move on to the smiles and the laughs together. For the feel of her warm, soft hand on mine, the smell of her lotion, her painted fingernails, giggling on the inside at her too high elastic waist-ed therefore too short in length cotton pants.
Granny has a scent. I have no idea what it is. (Papa had one too. His still shows up around me sometimes and I love those moments.) Granny has the softest hands I’ve ever known – actually the best skin all around. One of her thumbs was smashed in a car door forever ago so the nail is a funny shape and I always look at it with it’s pretty and perfect mauve nail polish. She’s only every had brown short hair and a tight perm – for my lifetime anyway. She makes the BEST PECAN PIE IN THE WORLD. I love her sweet tea and nighty-night cookies. She is obsessive about picking up sticks and having a burn pile. She really took care of my papa (I don’t think he could have found underwear if he had to). They called each other Mom and Dad.
It hit me today that once Granny is gone, it’s over. Something is over, anyway. What happens when both grandparents are passed? No one lives in the house anymore. No one is making pie, sweet tea, nighty-nights, giving me candy orange slices or circus peanuts, no graham crackers with chocolate icing spread between them waiting in the fridge for me when I get off the school bus, no more following the vacuum hose through the house to find Granny cleaning away – vacuuming the oven, no more picking up sticks and piling them in silence, no more toothpicks, no more cracking of pecans from the yard, no more silent sitting and being filled up by the smells and love of that house. What happens now?
I moved away from that land over fifteen years ago, but I never, ever felt anything but passion and love for my grandparents, no matter how far away I’ve lived. They always provided a stability unlike anything I’ve ever experienced elsewhere. They taught me how to work hard – because it’s the right thing to do. They taught me about money and politics. They taught me about family.
Granny (in the dress) and Papa in the left photo.
Their family of five in the right photo.
I don’t know what happens now.
Three daughters, three son-in-laws, eight grandkids with seven spouses, fourteen and a half great grandkids, sisters and some spouses, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews and all their kids, neighbors, friends from church – many who have been in the same Sunday school class for 55 years, beautician, mail carrier, driver’s by…what do we all do without Dennie?
I love Granny. I’ve always known she loves me. She was in the room when my son was born. We are tight. I will never know anyone like her ever again, but I sure hope I can be half the granny she’s been to me the last almost thirty three years to my children’s kids.
My heart is splitting and my eyes are dripping. My chest is so sore from the pain. I can barely breathe. Love hurts.