The rest of the world is remembering veterans today, and that’s fitting – they are a good, worthy group of folks to think about and thank all the time, not just on Veteran’s Day. But November 11th is a special day for my family for another reason – it was my grandmother’s birthday. Today would’ve been her 93rd birthday. It’s hard to think of her being quite that old – strangely, she seemed old in the way that all adults seem old when you’re a kid, but she never really seemed all that old. Much too much spunk for age to ever really get her down.
I was lucky enough to have spent much of my time at my grandmother’s house when I was growing up – from birth up until I got into high school, I was always spending the night (for days on end, usually) and going places with her and her friends. I was even an honorary member of her senior group at church – The Autumn Leaves (sort of a depressing name, I think, now…). I was a little mascot for this group – especially when we went to sing old timey hymns at nursing homes around town. Grandmother was always doing for other people – she genuinely cared and wanted to make other people’s lives better. For her own part, she loved to keep the road hot – she didn’t drive, but that didn’t seem to slow her down much. My sister bought her first house just around the corner from Grandmother and would frequently swing by and pick her up to go to the grocery store or some other necessary place – and as my sister tells it, her offer for getting out of the house was never turned down.
Oh, how Grandmother loved an adventure, large or small. She accompanied our family on many trips across the country – she never got enough of the beauty this wide world had to offer her. On one occasion, during a long stretch on a car ride that wasn’t particularly scenic, but it was somewhere she’d never been before, my dad tells the story of how he tried to convince her to lay her head back and snooze, the he’d wake her up if there was anything to see. He admiringly recounts that she replied”Now you just let me alone, Son, I didn’t come out here to sleep.” Yep, that was her – the family cantankerous streak that runs straight down to me (I’ll admit it!) came honest.
Its hard to believe that she’s been gone for more than eleven years now. Not a day has gone by in that time that I haven’t thought of her and I still find it difficult to put into words all that our relationship meant to me. I’m sad that she never got to meet *A,* that she never got to be a great-grandmother to our kids. I know she would have loved them very much.
Rather than end this note about my grandmother’s birthday on a sad note, I’ll relate another of my grandmother’s funny little quirks – she was a good cook and her house was always clean and comfortable, but she loved being outdoors and always, ALWAYS fretted about the condition of her yard – she had a decades-long competition going with her across-the-street neighbors, who did all sorts of fancy things to their lawn – no telling how much money they pumped into their grass every year. She was frugal, so she didn’t spend money like that, but she had the greenest thumb of anyone (besides my mom) that I’ve ever met and could grow just about anything (and did, as my dad and I can attest because we mowed around it all). Her big concern every year was not the grass, but raking up leaves. Especially from her magnolia trees. She would sit on the swing out in her yard and watch the cars go by in the afternoon sometimes and dare the leaves to fall after she had finished raking – every now and then getting up and marching over to the magnolia tree and snatching down a yellow leaf that was still attached to the branch – “It was just gonna fall tomorrow anyway…”. My mom found her the perfect t-shirt one time with a cartoon of a little old lady vacuuming her yard, with the caption “One Very Neat Grandmother.”
Yep, that was her, all right.
Another fall-related Grandmother’s house activity: picking up and shelling pecans. She had two pecan trees in her yard – one of which was great for climbing, by the way – and I’ll bet among all of us in the family over the years, we picked up a thousand pounds of pecans. All worth it – she made the best.pecan.pie.ever. *sigh*
There are a bazillion other funny and not-so-funny stories and moments that we shared – and for family members reading this, I hope you take a few minutes today to remember just how special she was – and will always be. Then go out and rake your yard. She’d be proud. 🙂
Remembering her birthday and thinking back on all the time we spent together seems especially important this year, as *A* and I dream about and plan for our future family. My relationship with my grandmother, and *A*’s relationship with her grandparents – these are two reasons we feel pretty strongly about moving back home to Alabama in the next couple of years. We want our kids to have the kind of relationship with their grandparents – and hopefully their birth grandparents – that we had with ours. We just can’t let our kids miss out on getting to know these people from whom we’ve learned so much and with whom we’ve spent so much of our lives – that would be doing them (the kids and the grandparents all) a great disservice.