As I think about her, this morning I am a little sad but so grateful at the same time for all the values she instilled in me. My Granny was one of the strongest women I have ever known. She was a trailblazer of her time. She broke all the rules. I will expound. She was born in the early 1900's. At seventeen she got pregnant with her son while not being married, taboo for that time and though she was not forced to wear the scarlet A she was treated in that manner. Her son's father was a married man. Years later she married another man, had ten, yes ten other children. She divorced him which was looked down upon and never remarried. She was a mill worker and supported her children alone. She never had much but she was happy. She loved her children more than anything else. When my sister and I came along she retired to be able to stay at home and take care of us while our parents worked. Some of my fondest memories are of spending time with her. I was always with her, I never stayed at home, her house was my home. She always encouraged us to do anything we wanted and loved us despite stupid decisions that we made and rallied on our side against any obstacles had to be overcome. She defended us to the end.
When she was around seventy-five, she lost her sight, but as most blind people you could not tell unless she was in unfamiliar territory. At her house she still cooked on a gas stove and managed to take care of herself. Being so independent she was absolutely not going to ask for help, ever. She lived for a very long time after having lost her sight. Her only wish was that she could see all her grandchildren grown, which she did.
She became really ill a few years ago and ended up going to live in a nursing home, which to anyone who knows a blind person, is detrimental. She did not know where anything was because she was on uncharted grounds. My granny ended up having to go into the hospital for "Failure to Thrive" meaning she would not eat. She would just lay there in the bed. She was in total darkness which is something that I could not fathom. She lasted a mere two weeks in the hospital. Everyday I went to feed her on my lunch break and rubbed her back. She had rubbed my back throughout my entire life, now it was my turn. She would only eat chocolate ice cream. During that time, she and I watched endless episodes of "Little House on the Prairie."
One day as she lay there in her hospital bed looking so pitiful, her small frame even more shrunken because of the lack of nutrition, I rubbed her back. Even though I knew she could not see me but she could hear me I told her that all her grandchildren were grown, in fact the last on had turned eighteen while she was hospitalized. I told her that it was okay to die, she had gotten her wish. For me those were the hardest words I ever had to utter. That night as many of the nights before I slept with my cell phone in my hand. I knew it would not be long. My phone rang she had passed away that night while she slept.
I was sad, but happy that for one thing she had gotten her wish and the other that she never had to suffer again. This woman was strong beyond belief of all her children only two of them survived her.
That next morning I called my dad's wife and asked if I could please do my granny's hair for the funeral. I thought nothing of it, I thought it should be my duty as I would be able to say my good byes and make sure that no one put her in some crazy fru fru makeup and hairdo.
Seeing my granny on the slab was probably the weirdest thing I had ever experienced. It became comical though. I polished her nails and began talking to her, forgetting that the life was gone from her body. I told her of all things to be still. I started laughing immediately and just talked to her as I would have any other day. I think that was the best closure I could have gotten.
After all was said and done, time came to go through her belongings which I did not want but I went to look any way. What I failed to mention is that on the Friday after the funeral I was scheduled to fly out to California to attend a school for a week. Guilt had overtaken me as I thought I should stay at home because my granny had just passed away, I thought it was wrong of me to go. As I was looking through her thing I saw a pink doll case. I picked it up and opened it when something fell out. I leaned down to see what had fallen out, it was a medal of Courage. Upon further opening the case there was a collection of Wizard of Oz toys that I had no idea she even had. Eerie because the logo for the school that I was attending is Courage. I just looked up and spoke out loud, "I've got it Granny, I'm going." I took the collection of dolls home with me. They sit on my bookshelf. I would not take anything in the world for them.
"The kind of beauty I want is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within - strength, courage, dignity." Ruby Dee