As we’ve established, I’ve gone off-book this week. Please forgive me; I *really* needed to write to you from off the cuff for a while. I’m glad that I did because it brings me to the topic du jour…my beloved grandparents. I visited my grandmother at the nursing home today. They call it something else…assisted living, I believe. Either way, she’s not at home anymore. She has dementia, they say.
My other grandmother had dementia as well. She passed away in February. I’ve been here before. I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to tell you about all of them. There were three of them; my mom’s parents, Jill and Paul, and the tiny matriarch of my dad’s family, Jerry. The Mamaws and my sweet Papaw. Affectionately referred to as Mamaw Jill, Papaw, and Mamaw Jerry.
They’ve been on my mind a lot lately. Two of them are gone now and one of them is gravely ill and in a place that is scary and confusing for her. My sweet grandparents. They all deserved better than what they got; cancer and dementia took Papaw and Mamaw Jerry, respectively. Mamaw Jill is starting to get lost in her own mind; trapped between the past and the present.
Mamaw Jill and Papaw were like the Brady Bunch. When they met, she had 3 kids and he had 3 kids. My mom, 2 aunts, and 3 uncles. They later had my Aunt Misty together, bringing their brood to 7. I was their first grandchild. They were at the hospital, along with Mamaw Jerry, the morning I was born. My Papaw was a factory worker and he worked hard to make a better life for his family over the years; he did it, too. He had a beautiful life to show for it when he left us.
Mamaw Jerry raised her 5 kids by herself; also a factory worker until retirement. She worked in a dirty, dusty factory for all those years, but her lipstick was on point every day. She was little, less than 5′, and she worked her fingers to the bone for her family. She loved having kids and adored having grandkids. Great grandkids were a bonus for her.
My parents were young when I was born, 18 and 20, and the three of my grandparents stepped up to help where ever they could. I lived with all of them at some point in my life. They bathed me and fed me and put up with me. I was a cute kid, so I got away with a lot, but I was precocious. Not malicious, just impulsive and too curious for my own good. Regardless, my grandparents loved me fiercely and with abandon. They showered me with love, affection, gentle discipline; they humored me, more often than not.
They always made me feel secure in the fact that I was safe and loved. I didn’t realize, as I got older, that I carried that safety and love with me out into the world. I always knew that I had a “home base.” Places that I could find calm in the storm that is real life. I didn’t realize until those places were gone. Until my grandparents were gone.
Mamaw Jill used to love to work in her flower garden and Papaw loved watching the races on Sunday afternoons. They used to take me to ShowBiz pizza let me roller skate in their basement. My Mamaw would gather me in her bed, early in the morning when my mom had to go to work, and she’d rock me until I fell back asleep. My Papaw, with his booming, gravelly voice would tickle me until I couldn’t breathe.
As I got older, Papaw saw me differently than everyone else did. Instead of being perplexed by my impulsive decisions and seemingly unending career changes, he was amused with my antics. He saw me for what I was, a young girl who was bold enough to try to find her rightful place in the world. He’d grab the back of my neck and give it a squeeze and a shake and say, “Oh Am…what am I going to do with you, girl?!” He stepped up when he saw me headed down a bad path in life and he saved me. He loved me enough to save me. No one had ever loved me that much.
Mamaw Jerry was kind and fun and beautiful. She stayed up late with me on Saturday nights to watch scary movies. Instead of dating after my grandpa, she raised her kids, and then she raised their kids. I remember so many nights, and all of my cousins and I laid out in pallets in the living room. You couldn’t even walk in there for all the pillows and blankets. She loved us so much. She didn’t care about social life; she just wanted to spend time with her family.
She was so supportive of all of us. I used to joke and say that I could call her and tell her that I just committed a heinous crime and her response would be, “Well, sometimes you just have to commit the crime and it probably wasn’t even all that heinous!” She believed in who we were, no matter what missteps we made. Most of the time, she’d already seen it before. She loved us anyway.
My grandparents helped raise me. They nurtured me and loved me and protected me. My Mamaw Jill is the only one left now. When she’s gone, I’ll be grandparent-less. It doesn’t get any easier. My Papaw has been gone since 2018 and it never stops hurting. You never stop wanting to call them, to tell them something, to get just a little more of their love…even just one more time. I was lucky…35 years with Papaw, 38 years with Mamaw Jerry, and hopefully many more with Mamaw Jill.
So, I don’t really know what the point of this is, honestly. I just really felt compelled to tell you about my grandparents. They were and are amazing and I want the world to know about them. If your grandparents are still around, hug their neck. Tell them you love them and listen to their stories. Treasure every moment.
It’s so cliche, but I can’t begin to explain what it feels like when they’re gone. When you realize that you’ll never hear their voices again. You’ll never have Mamaw Jerry’s fried pork chops again and you can’t take the new car over for the Papaw Seal Of Approval. Mamaw Jill can’t rock you in her rocking chair anymore because she’s doesn’t live at home anymore. Treasure them. Seriously. Take the time.
I don’t think I’ve properly grieved my lost grandparents. I don’t know if I ever will. How do you say goodbye to people who meant so much? Maybe there really is no such thing as properly grieving. I really don’t know. I know I miss them, though.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today. An ode, of types, to my beautiful, amazing grandparents. I truly would not be who I am without them. They were a trifecta of love and trust and acceptance and safety. They were everything that grandparents are supposed to be and more and I am lucky that they were mine.
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Love and light! Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜