I have heard it said many times that its great to be a parent...but it pales in comparison to being a Grandparent.
I woke up this morning and had my grandmother on my mind. "Mamaw" as she was so affectionately known, was truly one of a kind. Never have I known a stronger woman than her, she was a warrior, a survivor, and just plain ol tough. She grew up in a time where you grew most of your own food, had chickens in the yard for eggs, and you canned in the summer, so you could survive in the Winter. Life never gave her the luxuries she deserved, but she never complained about that. She had 12 children, 5 sons and 7 daughters, two of her sons died before the age of 5. My Papaw Black died when I was 9 months old in 1974...she stayed true even after his death, never remarrying. On the outside she seemed a simple woman, she had 4 loves in her life outside of her family...Music...Fishing..Crossword Puzzles and Rummy...( I never saw her lose at rummy, although I heard a rumor of her losing to one of her girls once, needless to say, that didnt turn out well...lol.) I never truly appreciated her until I was 19. I got my own place, and boy let me tell you, I was ready to do some big time partying, there was but one small drawback, I lived right next door to her and when I say right next door, I mean like 15 feet separated my place from hers. Now, its no secret to those that know me...I Love the ladies and being a 19 yr old and having my own place, well it just seemed like the perfect recipe for fun and it was to some extent, but although mamaw was only 5'2 at best..she was more than intimidating. So out of respect (and mostly fear) I always tried to be covert with my actions, but I swear that woman had a built in radar and she knew when I was up to "no good". She would never come right out and tell me not to do something, but she had her way of letting me know I was about to screw up, usually it would come in the form of "Billy, are you sure that's what you want to do?"....which was mamaw code for don't do that!
My favorite times with her were the days I would get home from work and she would be on her porch and would greet me with "Supper is ready if your hungry"...Now the food, my God I could talk for days about her cooking , but it was the conversation that always ensued that I cherished the most. She would always ask me about work or what was going on with me and would sit there and listen to whatever I wanted to talk about. We talked about life, and she would tell me stories of things that happened to her over the years, it was then and only then did I ever see her "let her guard down". Anytime she spoke of her days growing up, or would speak about her parents, you could almost see the people in the stories through her eyes, it was as if they were a portal to another time. There were tales of hardships, loss, love and laughter...and with every story, came a lesson. Mamaw Black was big on family, I personally saw evidence of this at the age of 9. My oldest sister was having a slight disagreement with another woman and I guess it had been brewing for some time. I remember mamaw and my mom were playing cards when we heard a terrible commotion, and the next thing I hear is mamaw telling my mother "Shirley, Rita is out here about to fight" so grabbing her purse(which could have been registered as a weapon, considering that thing must have weighed 15 plus lbs...lol.) The 3 of us go running outside and sure enough all Hell broke lose (My sister whipped that chicks ass something fierce, had her down in a pile of glass and was straight working her and all the time my little sweet grandmother was yelling "whip her ass Rita")...Out of nowhere cars started showing up, and it was the family of the woman my sister was fighting, and I thought uh oh...its about to get bad....but just as I thought that, here came the calvary... my aunts showed up ready to roll, and a good old Mexican standoff broke out... my aunt Kathleen had a SLINGBLADE for goodness sakes, the large woman, who's daughter had just gotten her ass kicked, stood directly across from her with a nightstick and posed the question to my aunt "what are you gonna do with that slingblade?"..without hesitation my aunt replied "Cut your fat head off if you hit me with that nightstick"...My cousin Ron and I stood there as kids with sticks and lead pipes in hand ready to do work..it was about to be an all out redneck family feud...luckily cooler heads prevailed, but the way my family came together, was strictly the influence of my grandmother, who was always insistent on the fact that family is all you have and MUST stick together.
I know everyone's grandmother is special to them in some way, but mine, well I don't think even she knew how special she was to me. On a daily basis, being around her was comparable to being in college.. I received living history lessons in the stories of her life and stories about my ancestors, she served as adviser, counselor, therapist, and a true professor of life. We lost mamaw to cancer the month before my 21st birthday...I'll never forget my last time with her...all I could do was hold her hand, put my head down and cry...I'll never forget this woman and what she meant to me. She passed on some of her traits to a few of my female cousins... My cousin Wendy has a lot of her insight and wisdom, my cousin Melissa has her stubborn streak and will speak her mind at the drop of a hat...and my cousin Vanessa...well I think she is mamaw reincarnated...lol..She was the glue that held our family together, and sadly as a family, we have not done a very good job of honoring her last wish, which was pretty simple...keep the family together...As a kid we used have get togethers, eat...play music...act crazy and everyone would try to upstage someone else with a funny bit, or come into the room dressed in funny attire, or whatever the situation called for...never for malicious reasons, but simply in good family fun...I miss those times and God do I miss that woman...her name was Vadie Black...a little old Irish fireplug...who never backed down and never quit...no matter how much of a reason she had, and she had plenty...she was gentle, firm, and caring..but most of all....she was the wisest woman in the world, at least in my world anyways ...Til next time...Peace...Love...Happiness