Monday, September 13, 2010

Aren't They Just Grand?

That's me in my Pa Vernon's lap, along with Momma Beatrice and cousins Debbie, Tonya, and Suzanne.

Yesterday was Grandparents Day. I forgot. Until yesterday afternoon. My mother reminded me. A sweet boy at church welcomed her with a “Happy Grandparents Day” greeting and one great big hug. It wasn’t John-Heath. We weren’t there. At church. On Grandparents Day. Because I forgot.

Actually, we rarely miss the worship service at church. I am the piano player and that makes it a little harder to skip. Our absence is somewhat more noticeable, as is our usual late entrance. My father implores me each and every Saturday to attend Sunday School. “Now get up in time to be at Sunday School tomorrow," he will say. My response is, “Well.” (I know well is not an actual response, and I'm not sure where I picked that word up, but I have a terrible, terrible habit of using it as the acknowledgement to a request). My dad’s response to my response is, “Don’t just say ‘well’. Get up and Come.” I know I should get back in the routine of going to Sunday School and I do enjoy it when we go. We send John-Heath. I’m hoping that counts for something.

Anyway, back to Grandparents Day. My kids adore my parents and my parents adore them. We cannot head south to go anywhere that John-Heath is not begging to stop by and see them. And, of course, Ren would always rather stay at their house than go out with us on weekends. For their part, my parents make sure they come by to see the kids every other day or so. And usually they come bearing some type of gift. Truthfully, I believe my parents love my children more than they love me. I guess all grandparents feel this way. So I think it’s understood that no special day is needed for them to realize the bond they share and that everyday to my kids is a grandparents day. Or I’m hoping they understand this. Of course, based on the fact that my mother made a point to tell me the story of the little boy hugging her at church in honor of this holiday, I may be wrong.

As for me, I was blessed with some really great grands. My maternal grandparents both passed away by the time I was 8. Even so, I have fond memories of being with them. My mother’s mother died a few months before I was born but my step-grandmother, Momma Beatrice, doted on me as if I were her own. I remember once going out on a cold day and gathering up snow to make some “snow cream”, which, let me tell you, was a real treat to a four-year-old. And, if memory serves me correctly, she added food coloring to the cream to make it even more special. After making sure my coat and little purple gloves were securely on we were off. In good weather she and Pa Vernon, who was a quiet man, led me around on their mule Kit. I’m not sure if any pictures were ever taken of this but I would certainly love to have one of me on top of that old mule with my grandparents holding the lead line.

My dad’s parents were with me longer. Mammy Sophie (her name was actually spelled Sophia, but we pronounced it Sophie - like the Meryl Streep movie) passed away a couple months before I turned 18 and I had Pa Frazier until my 30th year. Mammy was about four years older than Pa and I always thought that must have been quite the scandal in their time. My cousin even wrote a family poem alluding to it once.

Now, mammy was a good woman and loved me I have no doubt. However, she didn’t dote on me as my other grandmother did. My nephew Shane (my sister’s son) got all the attention there. But I don’t remember this causing much jealousy or hurt feelings. He lived just down the road from them and was with them all the time so they practically helped raise him. Besides, with nine other grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren around it’s not like I was the only one in that boat.

I remember my mammy’s voice. It was a sweet, kindly one. She was not in good health and did not get out much so most of her time was spent sitting in her chair in the kitchen wearing little, unembellished cotton dusters. From her spot she could see the television and was within reach of the phone. And quite often she would call in the afternoon to check on us and see how everyone was doing. Once, as a teen, I remember answering the phone on my dad’s desk. It was mammy. I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes and/or silently huffed this particular day because I didn’t have time to talk to my grandmother, or any adult for that matter. I was on the way to my bedroom to do something super-duper important like watch MTV or reconfigure my twist-bead necklaces. Throughout the years I spoke with my grandmother by phone on numerous occasions, but this is the only time I remember. And the times I remember it, which are frequent, are always accompanied by this thought - what I wouldn’t give to hear her on the other end of the line just one more time.

Pa Frazier? Well, I have never known a man as kind as he (my daddy is a very close second). I don’t think he ever possessed a mean bone in his body. And could he cook!!! His specialty was fried chicken and biscuits. Again, as a teen, I wasn’t so very appreciative of these things. I did appreciate his humor and his stories, though. Pa liked to tease and had an easy laugh. I think the only one in the family who did not appreciate this was Ren. She was still very young and didn’t think it so funny when he would poke his cane toward her. During most visits she would stay backed up between some adult’s legs with a scowl on her face. When he passed away and we were at the graveyard preparing to say our final goodbyes, Ren, who was four at the time, saw a tombstone close by shaped like a semi-truck. To her it looked like a train. To my dismay she quickly mounted it and, in a very loud voice, let out a “Choo-Choo.” Now, at such a solemn moment I was quite naturally mortified by this behavior and quickly snatched her off her granite perch. But at the same time I remember thinking I bet Pa would have gotten a kick out of it.

If you are lucky enough to still have dear parents and grandparents in your life cherish each moment with them. For the time will come when their phone calls will be no more.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful memories you've shared - isn't it amazing how it often takes decades to appreciate the love that was there all along?

Tyla said...

So true, Anon!

Kate (Southern-Belle-Simple) said...

don't know where my head has been friend! i am sorry i missed this post when you did it last week! such a wonderful voice you have for telling these stories! i also had a grandma who favored somebody else...but she was sweet all the same. i think about how my granny would answer the telephone...this very distinct heyello that i still miss! thank you for sharing this!