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Everyone called my grandma “Granny.” Didn’t matter if they were 100-year-old men or 5-year-old boys. She was Granny to everyone, but she was Grandma to me and my sisters and cousins.
When I was a child, I used to get angry when a stranger would call her Granny. “She’s MY Granny,” I’d think with more than a twinge of jealousy.
I could never quite come up with the right words to explain Grandma, and I’ve tried so many times. She was one of the most important people in my lives and whenever I met a new friend, I’d always want to tell them all about her.
I’d stumble for awhile. “She’s so funny,” I’d say. “You’re going to think she’s slow, but she’s so smart it’s all an act,” I’d try to explain. “She is one of my best friends and a second mother all wrapped up into one,” I’d finally settle. Eventually I’d just leave it at, “You have to meet her.” Many of them got to. I’d beg her to come visit me at college so I could introduce her to everyone, and she did. We all, my uncles and aunts and cousins, took Granny everywhere.
When my father died, Granny used to come and stay with us for weeks. She’d wait for us to change clothes just so she could snatch them up and throw them in the laundry machine. She loved doing laundry. I remember her asking me when I was going to change my clothes and getting so annoyed. I’d give anything to have her badgering me every ten minutes for my dirty clothes again.
Granny died rather suddenly yesterday. I got a call at a little after midnight that her children were being called in because she was so sick. I was so confused. She hadn’t been sick for long. She’d just been taken to the ER that morning. I threw on some clothes and told my husband we were going.
Granny’s grandkids were her kids. My mom used to roll her eyes every time Granny called and asked how “her girls” were doing. She might have well as birthed us in her eyes.
I cannot imagine a world without her.
She shaped so much of who I am. She taught me how to play games and be silly. She never lost her whimsy. She was ornery. I inherited her anxiety problems. She’d stay up all night with worry over one of her kids or grandkids. She was a worrier.
Granny spoke her own language. We have so many Granny-isms that we still all use in conversation and chuckle over. The way she pronounced washed, “warshed” and fish, “fiesh.” It’s a good thing potpourri fell out of favor, or I’d get little else down but chuckling every time I heard the word. Granny used to say pot-pour-ee.
It wasn’t just the funny way she said some words. She had phrases that we’d all try to coax out of her. She used to call us “pot heads” and when we were teenagers we thought that so hilarious. She didn’t mean marijuana, which made it even funnier. I guess you just had to be there to understand.
She also used to be hard to follow in conversation sometimes. It was sort of like we had our own secret language only family and friends could understand. She’s completely interrupt a train of thought to ask about something you told her you were talking about three hours before. She didn’t miss anything.
I never in my whole life met a person remotely like Granny.
More than anything she loved to make people laugh.
I have so many silly stories.
The time she found a pipe that had once been used for illegal substances by who knows who in the parking lot of a random hotel and not only picked it up but looked straight at my sister and her friend and pretended to smoke it, just to see if she could make them giggle. We still have no clue how she knew what it was, or if she even knew it’s true purpose.
When I had to have reconstructive surgery on my ear in college, my aunts drove Granny down to be with me. While waiting to go under, Granny came to distract me. She didn’t want me to worry, she said. I wasn’t honestly paying her much attention until she turned to me and said in a loud whisper something I’ll only paraphrase about having to have a tube placed up part of her female anatomy for a test. I didn’t think about the impending surgery at all after that. I could only recoil in horror at what my Grandma just said.
At family get-togethers, Granny would prance around in silly hats or sunglasses and soak up all the laughter. At Cora’s funeral, after the crying and hugging, I remember her pulling out some silly prop and trying to elicit a smile from me. I don’t think she got one, but she tried.
|At the time we thought it be hilarious to put on funny hats.|
She loved Cora. She wanted me to name her Rosetta because that was what she wanted to name her next daughter had she had one. What I didn’t tell you what she named my moms and sisters names, Vendetta, Colletta and Donetta?
Sometimes we weren’t laughing, but Granny was exactly what I needed.
One time my older sister became really sick and my mom had to fly to her right away in New York. Granny came over to stay with me. She let me stay home from school and we sat on our back porch all day. I was about 17. Just moments after my mom left, she turned to me and said “Here have one, just don’t tell your mom” and stuffed a cigarette in my hand. We chain smoked all day. I’d been stealing her smokes since I was 14. She probably knew it. Granny loved her cigarettes. This sounds probably absolutely horrifying, but it was her way of being there for me. I quit smoking (thankfully) some years later.
She was of course there the day Cora died. She was there when my dad died, too.
|With Granny at my wedding.|
My mom is, understandably, a wreck. I spoke to her this afternoon and something reverberated with me.
“I just want to give her one more hug,” my mom said.
That’s all I want, too. One more hug. One more kiss on the side of my face. One more “I love you.” One more card signed “Hugs and Kisses Grandma.”
Every single one of my birthdays Granny has called to sign happy birthday to me in her waspy smoker’s voice. I want one more of those.
This is Granny singing Happy Birthday to my sister, and ends with a classic playful Granny moment.
Please hug your mothers and grandmothers one extra time next time you see them, for Granny. Bonus points if you don silly sunglasses, purse your lips, throw your hands up and circle around to make them giggle on your way out.