Some of you that may have heard that this has been a particularly hard week for me.
My 'MaMa', my grandmother, passed away on Tuesday. While she has been slowly slipping away after a fall about 1.5 years ago, it still is a shock each time I remember she's no longer physically here with us.
She was an amazing woman, strong, feisty, Godly, humble.
She was born December 1, 1920. She lived through the Great Depression, WWII, and countless other hardships, some personal, some not.
MaMa gave birth to a baby girl, my momma, on July 7, 1949. By the time my momma was about 7 years old, MaMa found herself in need of a house. Her husband and father had both passed, and if you were not a mill worker, you were not allowed to live in the mill village housing. At that time, most banks would not lend to women. But MaMa found one who would, Greer State Bank, obtained a loan, and purchased a home for herself, mom, and my Granny. She at one time was working 3 jobs to provide for her family. She paid off the house all on her own, helped my mother go to a local college, and paid cash in full for her first brand new car when I was about 15. MaMa worked hard and saved everything she could.
MaMa retired from her full time job after 49 & 1/2 years, and promptly went to work part time as the receptionist at the Senior Action Center here in downtown. Her job at Senior Action always made me giggle a little, as it was for senior citizens and she was quite a bit older than most of the retirees who participated in their activities and services.
MaMa continued to work (and drive herself!) up until she was 87 years old. She never considered herself "old". In fact, one of everyone's favorite stories about my MaMa involves "old people" as she called them. She and I were in her car, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, and she was waiting--impatiently, as was her nature--on a car behind her to back out so that she could back out from her space as well. Upon turning around and seeing a teensy elderly lady trying to maneuver her gigantic Cadillac out of her space, MaMa proclaimed with a huff "I hate old people!" And of course, she did not truly...she just didn't see herself as old, and she certainly never slowed down.
MaMa drove her little Honda Civic like a bat out of you-know-where. She once ran up on a girlfriend of mine (who drove a Mustang GT), who glanced up in time to see MaMa coming out and around to pass her...MaMa blew her doors off before my friend got the chance to wave. That always makes me giggle.
When I was much younger...four or five...I loved to "do" her make-up. By which I mean, she ended up with eyes done up in lipstick (different shades too, naturally) and cheeks of blue eyeshadow...at MaMa's funeral, our pastor recounted this story to the congregation and called my handiwork a mixture of "Tammy Faye Bakker and Bozo the Clown"...pretty accurate. After one such make-up session, MaMa dropped me at home before heading out...to her church...with food...for a family who had just had a death in the family...without removing said handiwork. She called my mother in a frenzy. MaMa had gone home wondering why in the world people were looking at her so oddly...once she got home and looked in the mirror she knew exactly why. Oops.
When I was about ten, MaMa decided to teach me how to drive. So she drove me about 2 minutes down the street from her house to a cemetery, let me get behind the wheel, her in the passenger seat, and said "go for it". My mother nearly fainted when I told her the awesome afternoon MaMa and I had had! That solicited a phone call from my mom to MaMa who told her, "it's not like she can HURT anyone." True.
MaMa was always willing to help people out...anyone, really. One day on her way home, she saw a woman nearly running down the side of the road, one shoe on, one off. MaMa pulled over to ask her if she was okay...the woman said she needed a ride, she just HAD to get back to her family. So off they went, and MaMa dropped her off. Later that evening she was watching the news, and there was a story about some women who had escaped from an institution of some sort (jail, mental, can't remember). MaMa called my mom--"I gave one of those women a ride home today!" (I still laugh hysterically at this memory)
It is from MaMa that I inherited my love of shoes, purses, and independence. I also acquired her feisty nature, complete lack of patience, and lead foot.
I did not, however, inherit her height (5'9"-ish, maybe taller), athleticism (fantastic basketball player), or popularity (3 superlatives in high school! wowza!).
MaMa was antsy. If she couldn't sleep, she would get up and make one of my favorites: coconut cake, lemon meringue pie, homemade chicken salad...just because she was bored.
She kept her house immaculate, and was always always sweeping. I cannot even tell you how many dustpans she threw away. She got in such a hurry sweeping and dumping and sweeping and dumping...that the dustpan usually went as well. Only after trash pick-up would it occur to her it was missing.
MaMa was perhaps the single greatest influence in my life.
I mentioned that she finally stopped working at 87. She had gotten sick and with her age, just couldn't bounce back as before. I crossed my fingers and prayed she would be well enough to come to my wedding. She did.
Shortly after it occurred to me how much I took for granted that she had always been there. So I had the foresight to write her a letter, detailing every great influence or memory or anything I had ever wanted her to know...I sent her that letter and felt peace. I knew that no matter when she left this world, my MaMa would not leave it without knowing all these awesome things she had done and been for me in my life.
MaMa passed away Tuesday, June 14, 2011...on her mother's birthday. My Granny. She was the first family member I have ever lost. She meant the world to me, and to so very many people.
I am so glad I wrote that letter. Even though my heart hurts, I'm at peace...and I know she is as well.