A (Great) Great-Grandma

-from my 5/13/15 article for Lake County Today.

My 82-year-old grandmother is a world-traveler.

Well, not exactly a world-traveler, but she’s traveled farther (from the mountains of North Carolina all the way to Northeast Ohio) in her 8th decade of life than she ever has before.

She has 3 children (including my mom), 5 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and a multitude of people who think of her as their mom or grandma. (Most of my friends grew up calling her Grandma, too.)

She’s here in Ohio for the time being, and over Mother’s Day weekend it suddenly hit me: I am so very blessed that my children not only were able to meet their great-grandmother, but that they have actually gotten to know her.

Not many children have that opportunity.

My grandma has been a constant fixture in my life. Until I was an adult, she never lived more than 5 minutes away. I used to stop by her house after school for a glass of cornbread and milk and to chat with her and my grandpa, her husband of 53 years.

There are so many things I love about that woman: her little hands, wrinkled with the wear of living for 82 years, yet still so soft and smooth. She’s always quick to mend a tear with her needle and thread (kept conveniently in a blue cookie tin along with her aqua-colored “clips,” as she calls her scissors.) She’s always made do with whatever she had and though she’s never had much money, she’s always been content with her modest possessions. She’s a pro at peeling apples for any waiting child (using a dull knife that has to be at LEAST 38 years old, since it’s been in her kitchen drawer since before I was born.)

She fusses about:

  • Kids’ hair (“Honey, get that hair out of your eyes! I can’t see your pretty face!”)
  • Lack of slips – the only proper undergarment for a southern church-going young lady (“Gracious sakes, where is your slip? I can see straight through that skirt!”)
  • Incompetence at dish-washing (“Well, I might as well just do it myself.”)
  • Clutter placed just so (“There’s a place for everything and a thing forevery place, you know.”)
  • Half-hearted dusting of furniture (“If you don’t do it right the first time, you’ll just have to do it again!”)

But any time I can’t sleep because I’m anxious or nervous, other words of hers somehow always pop into my head. It’s been 12 years since my grandpa died and she recently told me that for a long time, it’s just been her and the Lord. She said that He’s always been there for her and that He’s always been her best friend.

And even when she’s far away, I can close my eyes and see her sitting there in her chair with her glass of water (no ice), her cup of coffee (black, please) and her big Bible on her lap. She says, “Dear child, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” I’ve never known her to be worried or hopeless. Even when my grandpa died, she was one of those people who said, “Trust in the good Lord, and lean not on your own understanding.”

She’s lived through so much. The Great Depression (I’m pretty sure this is why she saves EVERYTHING – she has a collection of Tupperware that would blow your mind), World War II, growing up poor, floods, raising 7 younger siblings when her mama died… more than 8 decades of changes and births and deaths and happiness and heartache and life.

She’s the kind of grandma who invites strangers over for Sunday dinner after church and feeds them copious amounts of pinto beans, biscuits, and chicken and dumplings. Who, when you’re trying to leave, chases you out to your car with a paper bag full of fried squash and barbeque chicken in case you might need a snack later. Who says, “Y’all come on in here and gitcha somethin’ to eat. And here’s some bread. Can’t eat without bread, you know!”

She’s the kind of grandma who makes you go outside and break your own switch for her to swat you with when you’ve been sassy. The kind who – horror of horrors! – makes you sit on the couch holding hands with the cousin you’ve just had a fight with until you hug and make up.

Oh, and she’s also the kind of grandma who always buys you and your cousins underwear for Christmas.

She’s the kind of grandma who can’t sit down, can’t be still, and she always has to be busy doing something: picking up dirt off the floor (dirt that’s invisible to the naked eye), messing with her plants, cooking, writing, watering her flowers, reading, looking at pictures of her grandchildren, rearranging things, re-washing dishes, re-making beds (because you didn’t do it exactly right the first time).

Between what she taught me – and what she taught my mom – I’ve learned so much:

Have a good work ethic. Be faithful. Go to church. “Do” for your family. Love your sweetheart. Don’t let anyone go hungry. Trust. Do things right the first time, but give second chances. Be kind to everyone – even invite them over for dinner.

She trusts in the Lord with all her heart – and I so hope that one day I’ll be able to say that I’ve followed in her footsteps.

No, she’s never had much money – but the legacy she’ll leave behind her one day is worth more than gold.


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