Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the passing of my dear mother. In my head I think that it’s hard to believe she has been gone that long. But in my heart I feel like she’s been gone for a long time. I miss her terribly. We talked every day – often several times a day.
She loved deeply and fiercely her family. It was at her house that we always gathered for holidays. And it was at her house that everyone gravitated toward to hang out. She had a very natural way to make you feel very comfortable. She loved to entertain. We had many parties in her back yard and I recall at least one New Year’s Eve party. To her any occasion was a reason to have a party – whether it was a holiday, a graduation, a baby shower, a wedding or even just a long weekend. And she dressed the table for the celebration. It may not have been fine china but she set out plates, flatware, water glasses and cloth napkins.
She spoke her mind but she wasn’t mean spirited. She didn’t offer up her opinion unsolicited but if you asked, she would tell you exactly what she thought.
She taught me about service to your community. She was always quick to volunteer. She had a flair for decorating and fashion. She spent many hours at her church – the last several years she was in charge of the kitchen at church. For church anniversary, funerals, pastor anniversary and many other celebrations, she was in the kitchen cooking up dinner and directing traffic.
Although she had a sad start to her life. Her parents died when she was a very young and she was raised by an aunt and uncle, but she never let it get her down. There was no official adoption, but they raised her as their own. Her cousins became her brothers and they were her parents. We called them Mama and Bop – our names for our grandparents. She often saw her biological brothers and sister. It was a big extended family that kept the kids close. Living in a small town you can remain close.
She lived in an era where there were ladies who did what she called “days’ work.” They were housekeepers in the homes of the rich, white families in town. She and her mother would work the dinner parties too. She didn’t finish high school but she did manage to get a GED. She was a hard worker and probably the smartest person even without a college degree. I recall cleaning house with her on the weekends and I had to beg her to sit down and take a break. She was old school and cooked starch to press her curtains into crisp, stiff attention. She baked from scratch and collected cookbooks. She was the quintessential church hat lady. She owned so many hats – big hats, little hats, home-style hats. And almost until her passing she was wearing high heel shoes. She was a classy, sassy grandmother. The grandkids called her Gran.
She was a teenage smoker who developed a two-pack a day smoking habit. By the time she stopped smoking she had developed emphysema and congestive heart trouble. But she didn’t let it slow her down. We had talked early that week about Thanksgiving and planning the big feast. It was going to be a big family affair with my sister coming into town and my brothers joining us too. But because she got winded easily, we decided to host it at my house. She just didn’t think she could manage getting her house ready for the day.
As the years have passed, I often think about how much she would have loved seeing her grandchildren come into their own and enjoying success and to meet more of her great grandchildren.
Life marches on. More babies join the family and we lose more family members. And it’s near Thanksgiving eight years later. I don’t have any plans for the day. I’ll probably cook dinner for me and my son and we will honor my mother. We will remember Gran.