Here we are again. The time to honor Moms. My mom and grandmothers are all gone now. Same for Robin as well. We have but our memories. Each year I try to share some memories.
We were in the hospital in Houston, and Mom was dying. What a time that was, where we shared everything openly and cleared out old garbage and made our promises and talked about our time together, and the time when she would not be there. The subject came to an envelope in our cedar chest back home. It held the love letters shared between her and Dad during WWII. "Throw them out," she said. "No one will be interested in them."
I argued, "Momma that is not true. Please don't ask me to toss them out." She thought about it a moment and agreed.
Of course when I went home, I went directly to that chest and pulled out the letters. You know, we grow up with the thought of Momma as caretaker, parent. Rarely as that romantic young woman who fell in love with your Dad. But there it was, them talking to each other, making plans for their future, and buried within a code they had worked out to let her know where he was without it being cut out by the censors. She never told me what that code was. But I know it is there.
Momma was a rebel. She was strong and backed down from no man. Self sufficiency was just a part of her. She had to be strong to face off with her two children who seem to have inherited some of that rebelliousness she knew in her life. She could be brutally honest too, cutting through the layers to get to the core of it all.
She worried about my brother and I. More than she ever let on. I guess that is part of the job description. Oh and she made lists. Used to drive me crazy, because I am so not a list person. "Write it down so we don't forget."
"I won't forget."
"Write it down anyway."
She died barely a week after the conversation about those letters. That was 1988. Funny, I can remember it all like it was yesterday.
But you know, there are two grandmas to talk about. One I never knew, dying just before I was born. She was a sweet woman they say, raised into Arkansas farming, and mom to a bunch of kids. She was said to have a most angelic voice, and the family would sit out on the porch on Sundays, playing the guitar and singing their gospel favorites. They were the children of pioneers, and the religion was simple and emotional as was their song. She must have been a saint. Not one of the children, my aunts and uncles, ever had one bad thing to say about her. It was clear they all adored her. I'm only sad I never heard more stories about her. I've only a few photos to give meager clues to the woman she was.
I did know my Grandma Ollie Wicks. She was quite a character really. You'd tell her a story, and she would say, "Well I swan." I heard a wonderful story about her when she was young. My grandpa had lost his inheritance and became a sharecropper. Little huts were built on the land for the sharecroppers to live in. They were told they had to leave at the end of the month since they were going to turn where they lived into cropland. Grandpa left to go find work elsewhere. While he was gone but before the end of the month, crews showed up, telling her to get out because they were going to level the home. She argued but they didn't want to listen. She quietly went back inside, walking out with a big old shotgun in her arms. She pointed towards them and told them they had five minutes to leave their property. "Come back at the end of the month, but if you try now, I will shoot you dead!" They left.
Grandma Ollie could be blunt too. Before she died, she wrote a letter counseling each of her kids, not holding back where she thought they had made a mess of things. Oh and don't you dare call her during her soaps. That was the unpardonable sin. She had a marvelous laugh, beginning as a chuckle, but then like a suppressed guffaw. Her chin would dimple and she would pull her bottom lip in. Funny the things we remember. She and her sister, my Great Aunt Johnnie, used to fight all the time. Some of the kids (she had a big family too) took it way too serious, but Momma and Daddy always said that was just them. I understood because my brother and I fought all the time too.
To all of them, Momma Rachel, Grandma Annie, Grandma Ollie, you all left your mark on me, and I am grateful. I wish your time on earth had not ended as soon as it did, but you must know how much you were loved and cherished. To all moms and grandmas, have a blessed Mother's Day.