Friday, November 06, 2009


My grandmother is an old woman. She's lived a long, full life. And now, she's really sick. The prognosis is not good.

When I was little, mom would take us up to Memaw's house every summer for a couple of weeks. She had this huge, ornately-carved dining room table. She'd let us dust it, and when we were finished, she'd say, "My what smart girls you are!" because our little fingers could get the dust cloth into all the nooks and crannies in the wood.

She'd take us blackberry picking on her property. We'd eat nearly as many blackberries as we put in the bucket. When we got back to the house, we'd have fresh blackberries robed in cream and sugar.

She'd make silver dollar pancakes for us for breakfast, with homemade syrup. Or she'd make biscuit dough and give us each a little piece of dough to play with ourselves. When we were done kneading it, we each made a tiny biscuit with it. Those little biscuits were always brown and crispy after they cooked in the cast-iron pan.

We'd go fishing with bamboo poles in the ponds up there. Once we'd brought our catch home, she was tough enough to cut the fish heads off while the poor fish were still alive. As they'd wriggle, she'd say to them, "Oh, I'm sorry. I know that hurts."

Memaw had a baby Grand piano that my grandfather bought her, a beautiful shiny black one. She'd play the piano and sing old hymns to us.

She had a green thumb. Every plant she touched seemed to flourish. She grew all kinds of flowers and shrubs, everywhere. Pawpaw built her a greenhouse, and it was always full of all kinds of thriving specimens.

She was very interested in family history, tracing it back generation after generation. She'd tell us all kinds of funny stories about our family members to make us laugh. The time her brother Joyce thought he could fly and jumped off the roof with an umbrella. The time James, her other brother, got his hands rubbed raw when he tried to haul her up into the hayloft with a pail and a rope.

When we'd visit, my sister always slept with Pawpaw, but I was Memaw's girl. I always slept with her. I'd watch as she washed her face with Pond's and took her dentures out. If I squirmed too much in bed, she'd pinch me.

My grandparents grew alot of vegetables, and I'd pick beans with her. When we started picking, all the grandkids would be out there. But by the end, it was usually just Memaw and me. I liked it best that way.

She was high-tempered, like me, and stubborn, like me. She was smart and knew it. (I suppose all that tended to get her into trouble from time to time. Who does that sound like?) We both have green eyes. I even have a little red in my hair, though hers is much more pronounced.

My grandmother surrendered to dementia years ago. At first, she'd get details wrong, and then the big stuff. She'd tell us she'd been to Scotland (and she hadn't) or that she'd earned a certain degree (that she hadn't). Later, her stories got much wilder. She'd tell us she had a plane that she parked in the basement and she used it to fly over the White House and wave at the president. (Seriously.) Later, she didn't recognize us. She'd know we were related to her, but wouldn't remember our names. And on and on.

To be honest, I mourned her passing long before now. Even though she always told me she'd live long enough to see me get married, she didn't come to my wedding. And when the baby was born, she couldn't come to see him.

Memaw, the one I remember, the one who used to whisper to me that, really, I might just be her favorite, went away a long time ago. But now that it looks like she might really be completely gone, I have a heavy feeling.


HEATHER said...

I'm sorry. I have heard Michael Reagan speak about his father's alzheimiers as the long goodbye. I hope you can find some comfort in your happy memories of her. God Bless!

Erin M. said...

Dan's grandmother succumbed to Alzheimer's a few months before the girls were born. It was devastating to watch.

Losing someone you love is never easy. I'm so sorry this is happening.

Your memories of her are lovely, though, and I really enjoyed reading this.

arr-jay said...

Nicole, I am so sorry. This is such a painful thing to go through.

I am thankful that you are reminiscing and journaling your thoughts!

Much love.