Biographical Non-Fiction posted January 17, 2011


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My grandmother, if alive, would be 111 tomorrow.

Late Night Musing

by bhogg

Story of the Month Contest Winner 
Divorce is always an emotional roller coaster. The reasons why people divorce are all over the board. I suppose there might be commonality, but my experience is each one is unique. In my first marriage, there was a ton of baggage. I would be dishonest to not admit that some was mine. Without a doubt though, a contributing factor was my grandmother.

She died at eighty-seven. The last year of her life wasn't great. I was the only family member near her. My father lived over one hundred miles away. He, of course, came when he could, but with the distance and his full time job, most of her care concerns were handled by me. My ex always had a problem with this. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "That's something your dad should handle." Well, he didn't. I did.

In the way of background, I would tell you that my grandmother absolutely refused to consider assisted living. She was quite adamant. The last time I suggested this to her, the response was quite clear. "Forget it. I'm not going to do it. Why does everyone want to put me away on a shelf somewhere?"

The rest of the background would be to tell you that other than my parents, I spent more time with my grandmother than any other person on Earth. As a young boy, I spent all my summers there and even through college spent a bunch of time with her. I remember my grandfather, but there is no doubt that like many Southern families, this was a matriarch and she was queen bee. I loved her.

The day she died, I was in the hospital room with her. I had spent the last two nights of her life in a foldout bed in her room, certainly not to the liking of my ex. Her last hour on Earth was with me. I was holding her hand when she died. The nurses rushed in when alerted by the monitor. They looked at me and said, "We are obligated to bring her back. What do you want us to do?"

My answer doesn't really pain me. "Why don't you guys take a coffee break?" They did and she left the World in peace. In the last hour of her life, my mind was working overtime. So little time, so many memories.

Grandma and Grandpa owned two hundred acres of farmland in West Central Georgia. It was beautiful land, slightly rolling with the vestiges of terraces that once outlined a cotton plantation. It was a small part of what had been a much larger holding.  During the Great Depression, it was carved down to the old home place and the acreage. It had at one time been huge for the area, over two thousand acres. The old home place was one of the oldest edifices in the county. If you crawled beneath it, you could still see support beams that didn't use nails, but instead, wooden pegs. An older neighbor once told me that it was the first house he ever saw that was painted.

As a boy, I walked every single acre of that land with my grandmother. What a wonderful time. She showed me how to locate areas where you might be likely to find Indian arrowheads. Recently, on a walk with my grandson, I shared that wisdom, heard over fifty years ago. Sure enough, he found an arrowhead. He said it made his day. He has no idea what it meant to mine.

An old Southern term, which I was so often guilty of, was meddling, or the vernacular version, meddlin'.  I can hear her now, "Billy, are you meddlin' in my things?"

"No, grandma, not me." Of course, I always was. I remember the day I found my grandfather's thirty-eight special pistol in the sock drawer. This was not a modern looking gun, more like what you remember from watching a television western. The two of them were down by the pond, about a quarter of a mile from the home place. I thought I was safe enough to pull it out, stick it through my belt and practice fast draw in front of the wall mirror. I thought I was getting pretty good, and then pulling it out, doing a quarter turn in front of the mirror and sneering in my best bad guy look, the gun went off with a loud bang, punching a hole through the mirror at what would have been my belly button.

Putting the gun back in the drawer, I ran for all I was worth, circling back around behind the pond and to my grandparents who were coming up the hill. Almost out of breath, I bleated, "Do you hear that? It almost sounded like a gun shot."

I remember my grandmother when Grandpa died. He had a heart condition. She was supposed to change his diet, more vegetables, salads and no fried food. She was very good for about one month, but he wouldn't eat the food. Sure enough, she returned to fried chicken, pork chops, white rice and biscuits. She did have green veggies, but mostly of the nature of turnip greens or collards, swimming in pig grease of one kind or another. She blamed herself when he died. I'm more pragmatic. I think he made a choice.

When I was in college, I remember visiting on weekends. She always wanted me to come, but was most happy when I brought a friend. She wanted to feed, "growing boys" and took great pleasure when I and whoever I brought pigged out on her Southern comfort food.

Two days before she died, the lady I had hired to sit with her gave me a call. "Mr. Bill, Ms. Louise ain't doing too good. She done lost the use of her plumbing and I cain't hardly get her up. I think you better come out."

I remember distinctly, I had the grill cranked up at home, ready to cook for my family. I left the house, with my ex yelling, "It's not your responsibility!"

When I got there, it was obvious Grandma was in bad shape. I told her, "Grandma, I think I need to take you to the hospital." She pitched an absolute fit, I mean a real corker.

I called my dad. It's just my nature, but I tried to keep the call as airy as I could. "Dad, I've got some good news and some bad news."

He responded, "Okay, give me the bad news first."

"I had to take grandma to the hospital today. She was in bad shape, yelling and screaming as I carried her to my car. I know she's a lady and all, but I have to tell you, the language she used was the worst. I had to pry her hands off the gate to get her into the car. At least she's now checked into the hospital."

"My God, son, what's the good news?"

"Oh, she thought I was you."

It doesn't matter to me what my ex thought. Certainly not now, over twenty years later. All I know is that I was blessed to be with Grandma in her final moments.

Life is strange. I found out that she had named me executor to her will. Heading to the probate office, I remember my ex asking, "What do you think you'll get?" I just glared.

When I returned home, predictably, "Well, what did you get?"

I took off my jacket, poured a cup of coffee, and explained, "My grandmother's estate, acreage and all, was supposed to be split five ways between me, my three brothers and sister."

"Well, what does that come too?"

Sighing, I explained, "The value of the land and money she had in the bank came up to a little over six hundred thousand dollars."

With a big smile, she exclaimed, "That's great, that means we will get over one hundred thousand dollars!"

"Well, not quite."

Rudely from her, "What do you mean, not quite?"

"My brothers and sister and I sat there and discussed the situation and quit claimed everything back to my father. We felt that everything should belong to him."

"You mean to tell me that you walked away with nothing?"

"Unfortunately, you'll never understand, but I walked away with something that means the world to me."

With a sneer, she asked, "Like what?"

With a smile, totally wasted on her, I replied, "A lifetime of memories."




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