As promised, there will be another post later today. Be on the lookout.

I hate to hit a somber note so early in this here production, and it was my original intention to save this for later in the week, but…it may be easier to get it off my chest now, and then go back to the usual fare.

See, my Grandmama died last week, and her funeral was yesterday.

I didn’t meet her until I was almost three years old. My parents, my sister and I had been living in California since I was born, and when we moved to Oklahoma, her little white house was directly across the street from ours. Her husband had died a little over a year before, and she was living alone.

In the fall of ’86, Mom and Dad went to Six Flags Over Texas with our church group for a day or two. I was too little to go, so I stayed at her house. I had such a good time there with her that it wasn’t long before I was spending every weekend at her house. She took me in as if I were one of her great grandchildren. In spite of the fact that she was actually my mother’s aunt, I took to calling her Grandmama.

I have so many memories of her and her home that I’m not sure where to start.

One thing we often did was watch television. In the afternoons, she would let me watch shows like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood without complaint, and in the evenings I would watch things like Lawrence Welk with her. I would also watch TGIF at her house every week. She would let me rot in front of her RCA console TV on Saturday mornings for as long as I wanted, and she would make me French toast.

However, I didn’t just sit around. I played outside quite a bit too. There was a huge apricot tree in her backyard that I loved. Dad put a swing in it for me, and I eventually started climbing it. I would spend lots of time back there, swinging, hanging out in that tree. It was a treat because my mother was extremely overprotective and didn’t let me go outside much. Grandmama’s house was a place where I could relax and be myself.

Another thing we did outside was sit on her white front porch swing, usually in the evenings when it was cool. Nobody else I knew had one, so it was another thing that was special to me. We would swing lightly and drink Diet Coke as the sun went down. Sometimes she would sing songs with me or tell me stories. We’d laugh and talk and have a great time. And she never got mad at me for swinging too high.

Then at night, she’d rock me in her brown recliner and read, and then we’d go to sleep.

On Sunday mornings, I’d ride to our church with her, and during the service I’d sit with her, rarely with my parents or anyone else. She always had a pen and some paper for me to doodle on. After church, she, my parents, and I would go out to eat, usually at either Kentucky Fried Chicken, Braum’s (a regional place), or Dairy Queen. We’d eat and then I’d go back to her house and play, sometimes with some of her great grandchildren, who were somewhat distantly related to me (third cousins or something like that), but we always had good times.

Sometime when I was about…oh, thirteen or so, she got deathly ill. Almost didn’t make it. Her children took the initiative to sell her house and she moved in with her son and his wife out in the country. (I doubt anyone remembers, but they’re the ones that had the big ugly satellite dish that I always wanted to check out.) Anyway, after that I didn’t get to visit her as much for a while, but sometimes I would go to stay with her while Uncle Sonny and Aunt Ruby were gone, so she wouldn’t have to be alone.

Eventually she started staying with her cousin in town on the weekends so she could go to church, and I would stay there too. So the tradition continued, just…different than before.

After some more years passed, she was getting too frail to come to town often, and my life changed, and I no longer saw her on a regular basis.

The last time I saw her safe and whole was only a few months ago. I said to myself, I need to go visit her while I still have time. And when I got there, I was amazed. This woman was 93 years old, blind in one eye, couldn’t hear so well, and had trouble walking around, but she was still as sharp as ever. We talked and ate and I told her I’d be sure to visit again soon.

I should have known that life would get in the way. That time would take its toll. That the next time I would visit her would be in the hospital. I knew she couldn’t have much time left.

But knowing doesn’t make it any easier. And that hospital visit was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I didn’t stay long. I couldn’t take it. She didn’t recognize me or know what was going on; she talked like she was in a dream, and at first, didn’t talk at all. It was…horrifying to see her that way, helpless and suffering. I almost wish I hadn’t gone, so that my last memory of her could have been that happy time a few months before. But if I hadn’t gone, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I had to go on the chance that she’d know it was me, that she’d know I hadn’t forgotten about her and that I loved her dearly.

Grandmama, this is my own way of paying tribute to you– sharing beautiful memories of how wonderful you were with the whole world. You were strong, and wise, and even though you didn’t approve of some of the things I’ve done, you never judged me. If I could be like you someday, I’d be doing well. You may not realize just how much you meant to me, how great and deep an impression you left on my life, how you often gave me safe, loving arms to come to when the world was a harsh and unhappy place. For that, I will be grateful to you forever. I only wish I could have made all of this clear to you before you left.

I know I’ll see you again one day, but until then, I’ll just have to get by with a few photographs, trinkets, and those memories.

Dedicated With Love to My Grandmama,
Jewell M. Cardinal
July 13, 1914 – July 10, 2008