Sunday, September 04, 2011

Grandparents are a Funny Relationship

I always find it interesting when I speak to others about grandparents.  Some people never knew theirs; some people saw theirs for major holidays and maybe a week or two in the Summer; and some people grew up with them in their backyards, almost (if not more) a part of their life as their parents are.  Thankfully I fall into the last group.

When I was born I had three grandparents who were still alive: my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandfather and grandmother. I said goodbye to my Grandaddy T in 1997 right before I graduated from high school.  Oh man, was he a character.  I always wish he could have lived forever only because he would have loved the Doodlebug so much.  If we thought she was rotten now, he would have ensured she was past the point of rottenness into unbearableness.  Last Summer I said goodbye to my Granny.  My cousins called their grandmother MomMom because they said she was like a 2nd mom to them.  That would have been my granny. She took care of us when we were sick, she took us shopping and to doctor's appointments when my mom couldn't.  She fed us and loved us and made sure we knew she'd always be there for us.

Last Thursday, I said goodbye to the last of the three.  My Papaw Neill finished his voyage on this Earth and has been made whole again.  It was a sort of second goodbye though.  You see, my maternal grandparents both had Alzheimer's Disease.  And if there is anything that I have reflected on in the past week it has been how this horrible disease makes us mourn the loss of a person twice.  First we go through the long process of mourning the loss of their mind, and the person we always knew them to be.  You see, my Papaw had not called me by my name in months.  I remember being here in the Spring and my mom asking him if he knew who I was.  He said "yes" but never said my name.  It was like you could see him looking at us knowing he knew but not being able to connect it all.  And then after you have lost the person they were, time eventually takes their living body.  Goodbyes are said again.  Such a cruel disease.  Such a wonderful man.

As I drove home on Wednesday I was thinking back on the 32 years I spent being the granddaughter of Neill C.  Until I was two he was a dairy farmer and upon retirement began raising beef cattle.  Guess what?  I am not much a fan of chicken.  Why would I be?  I grew up eating hamburger meat.  The good kind. When we were little he would lay us across his lap and "remove our meanness."  After supper was the time to watch Wheel of Fortune (he usually won), Jeopardy, and if it was a weekend Hee Haw.  He and my granny played cards on a regular basis with their friends.  We weren't allowed in the room due to the "adult language" used.  My papaw had two twin beds in his room... the second was where we slept.  He was an early riser due to years and years of waking up to farm, but he never complained.  I always remember watching Troy-Bilt commercials and thinking "that looks like my Papaw's garden."  (I didn't know at the time my granny had as much a part of it if not more than my Papaw.)  As I got older he was still there.  Who needs a babysitter when there's a Papaw to watch the kids.  And who else would go visit their friends in Middle Tennessee and meet their oldest granddaughter at a gas station in her small college town just to say "hi?"  My granny and papaw of course.

It's all these memories and so much more that I cherish and know that my Papaw had a great life here on Earth.  He was loved by his family, friends, and community.  And I know that when he got to Heaven he was greeted with a "Well done, good and faithful servant."  

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