Nanny

Born on this day in 1908 to sharecroppers, Viola Susan Frances Oliver began the journey that would take over 96 years to complete.

She lost her mother at age 2 and lived with her grandmother, grandfather, dad and little brother, Euphrates. Nanny’s father never spoke with her of her mother…refused to share any details of her death.  All she knew was that her mother died.

She came down with Small Pox at age 4 and was so sick for so long that she had to learn to walk again.  Until a few years before her death, she had a place on her lower leg that refused to heal and continued to ooze enough to require a covering.

Her childhood was lived without the conveniences of electricity, indoor plumbing, or iceboxes. Too keep milk cold, it was placed in the spring that bubbled up out of the ground – always cold, always clean.

Deprived of an education (her daddy felt girls didn’t need schooling), she taught herself to read and do arithmetic.  Good thing – her sporadic school attendance ended before 4th grade.

“You can’t go there, you can’t do that…you’re a girl” was often told her by her dad. She envied her brother and his ability to be with their dad…simply because he was a boy.

World War 1 (The Great War) touched her, as it did all.

The flu epidemic that tore across the world in 1918 and ripped apart families touched her, and her family, too, claiming several close to her – an uncle (her father’s brother) and a cousin (his daughter).  Her father married her Aunt Emma – the widow of his brother.

At age 19, she married Poppy (he was 21) on a covered bridge on the 26th of October.  The setting was, no doubt, picturesque…the bridge…the creek…the brilliant Autumn foliage.  This was before Kodak and cell phones, so there were no pictures.  The preacher who performed the ceremony became her brother-in-law when he pronounced them husband and wife. He went by the nickname “Son Johnny.”

Nanny and Poppy lived with Maw Thomas on the “Old Thomas Place.” Paw had died several years prior.  (If memory serves me correctly, he was kicked by a horse, or a mule.)

My mother was born a year and a month after they married – after a bout of what Nanny thought was a belly ache from eating turnips.

When it appeared labor was well underway, one of Poppy’s younger brothers set out on their mule to get the doctor.  He arrived in time to deliver her and then promptly left.  There was no prenatal or postnatal care for Nanny – and no pediatrician to check the baby or to give 6 weeks shots.  And, there were no 6 weeks shots to give.

When her mother in law attempted to tell her what to do and how to care for her newborn daughter, Nanny said to her, “Maw when you had your babies, you did exactly as you pleased with them and I’ll bet no one told you how to raise them. Isn’t that right?”  Maw was reported to have said, “That’s right!  I raised my babies exactly as I saw fit.”  Nanny replied, “And, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”  And, she did.

Her firstborn – my mother – was the first thing that was truly hers.

It was said that when my mother was born, her daddy was sent out to check his traps and when he returned was allowed into the house to see his wife and new baby.  Momma had been cleaned up and wrapped up, then placed on the old black trunk that sat beside the bed. Poppy came in and started to sit down on the trunk beside the bed and Nanny screamed, “NO! Don’t sit there, you’ll sit on the baby!”

A son came along a couple of years later.

And, then when my mom was 4 and her brother was 2, Poppy came down with TB (tuberculosis) and Nanny moved her family (and their cow) from miles out in the country to the big city so her husband could receive treatment at the TB Sanatorium.  Her children were placed there as well for 2 or 3 months – as a precaution.

While in the hospital, word arrived that Poppy’s mother had died after supper one night from a massive heart attack.  Nanny obtained permission for Poppy and their children to leave the hospital for several days.  She then contacted a mail carrier that she knew and arranged for him to take them back to the country for the funeral.  They arrived at the end of the service, just as they were closing the casket.

She had no car and no transportation.  She lived miles from the Sanatorium and so walked there to be with her family when she wasn’t working.  Yes, she had to support herself and her young family.

She worked WPA jobs before they let her go – she made too much.

The first was a sewing job where she had to provide her own sewing machine (heavy machine with a huge cabinet) and walk to and from work each day.  The second was at a meat cannery.  She said the beef smelled so good cooking…she wished she could have eaten some.

Times were hard…far harder than any of us know or understand.

Poppy was unable to work. One lung remained collapsed and though he no longer tested positive, he continued to take medication to suppress and treat TB.

My mom and her brother were poster kids for TB when they were 8 and 6.

They were poor and on Welfare.  When she worked, she made too much for Welfare, but not enough to support her family. Nanny was afraid her children would be taken from her because she was unable to provide all they wanted and needed.

A third child was born 17 years after the first – daughter #2.

Her husband never fully recovered his strength and suffered a stroke that left him unable to work.

And, then a heart attack claimed him when I was 6.

Nanny was on her own.

6 years later, her only son died of a massive heart attack…no warning…just a phone call in the night saying he was gone.

She lived a hard life, but her heart remained tender.

Viola Thomas, or Nanny as I knew her, was an amazing woman.  She was self made, and made of stern stuff.  My dad once said of her, “She’s a tough ol’ bird!”

I can’t imagine the hardships and heartbreaks she had from her earliest memories.  Yet she never complained, never was bitter, never let her circumstances get her down.

Her laughter, silenced years ago by death, still rings in my ears when I think of her.

She loved life.  She loved her family.  And, she loved her God.  And, all three loved her back.

I love you, Nanny.  And, I miss you so much!  Happy 105th Birthday!!

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11 Weeks Old

How is it possible that Sophia is now 11 weeks old?

It seems like she should be only a few weeks old.

I woke in the wee hours with Sophia on my mind a few days ago.  I think of her often during the day, and search her parent’s Facebook pages daily for updates and pictures of her.  But, to awake with her on my mind and so heavy on my heart was a first.

Unexpected.

Unusual.

Unique.

And, I’ll admit, a bit disquieting and confusing.

Had I dreamed of her?  I had no idea.  All I knew was that I woke with her instantly on my mind and heart.  So much so that my arms actually felt empty and a cry tugged at my throat.

Sophia!

How I love that baby girl!

She generates within me such emotion that I can hardly speak when I’m in her presence.  I don’t know whether to cry, or laugh out loud, or shout to the world.

And, to awaken with her on my mind and so heavy on my heart…. There’s so much I want for her, for her parents, for her grandparents….

All I knew to do was talk what I felt over with One much wiser and more capable than I.

And, so, I did.  I poured out my heart and my concerns and my thoughts (that emotions prevent me from giving voice to) of Sophia to the One who loves her even more than I – and was comforted.

Though my arms were empty and my words were only mute emotions, God heard my heart and understood my unspoken thoughts in those dark hours before dawn.

My prayers for her safety and good health, her happiness and prosperity, her parents and their needs, for her Grammy’s concerns…and our own. I knew these were heard and would be answered.

Sophia was safe, at home with her parents.  This I knew.

I was being a silly grandparent. This I knew, too.

Being a grandparent allows for a certain amount of silly stuff. In fact, it’s expected. That’s comforting, I suppose, and also a bit scary.

sophia 4 weeks old

How is it possible that Sophia is now FOUR weeks old?

Can it be?

I look at the calendar and, yes, I see it has indeed been four weeks, but still I can’t believe it.

Her Mommy said last week that she’s back into her pre-preg jeans (after 30 years I’m still not, but I’m working on it).

I’ve seen pictures of Sophia on Facebook and noted the changes in her – like her eyes open and her awareness of things around her.

If I could change one thing, I would change where I live…or perhaps where they live.  Oh, yes I would.  Next door to them is where I would place myself.

No, no – don’t go there because I wouldn’t – I’m not intrusive.  I would just like to be where I could see her, watch her as she comes and goes and be available for whatever may be needed.

Without my own transportation, I may as well live 400 miles from her for all the good it does me to live only 10 miles away.

Sophia, Big Momma loves you…loves you so much it hurts sometimes because I’m not in your life more than I am.

I love you – Happy 4th Week Birthday!

Dear Sophia

(Written yesterday)

May 24, 2013

Your daddy wrote the following on Facebook this morning about 5:30:  “And here…we…go.”

Early this morning, your mommy went to the hospital because her doctor had told her on Wednesday that at 5 a.m. you would begin your trip that would bring you here.

Of course, your trip here began a long time ago when Mommy and Daddy fell in love and got married. And, then a few months later they said, “Guess what? We are going to have a baby girl in May and her name is Sophia Marie!”

And, you know what?  They were right!

Nine months later here we are, sitting around the hospital anxiously and excitedly awaiting your arrival.

I have to admit, I wonder what you will look like.  Will you have your mom’s dark hair and eyes and tan easily?  Or will you favor your dad and possess his blue-green eyes and fair complexion?

I also wonder what you will be like.  Will you cry a lot like your daddy did and find it hard to sleep sometimes?  Or, will you be one to fall asleep quickly, making funny baby smiles as you dream baby dreams?

What will you like to do? Will you prefer mud pies over apple?  What will be your favorite food? Color? Animal?

Will you like me and find my house a safe refuge and fun-filled place?

Ah, Sophia, my mind cannot yet hold all the thoughts I want to think of you.

How can it?  I don’t yet know you. I don’t yet feel a connection to you…with you.  I’ve not been around you while you have been in your mommy’s tummy.  I’ve seen your picture on Facebook – you were so tiny and cute.  I’ve been with you three times and each time I wanted to place my hands on your mommy’s tummy and feel you move and whisper sweet words to you.  I’ve wanted to read books to you and let you hear my laughter.

I already love you – love you more than I ever thought possible. I cannot imagine the love I will have for you and the joy I will feel when I first see you.

I hope I am able to spend a lot of time with you, Sophia.  I hope you will want to spend time with me.

Would you believe I’ve not yet decided on a name for you to call me? Grandma seems so blah, you know? And, I don’t want to be a blah grandmother.

You have been on the way almost 2 hours now.  In another hour, PaPa and I will leave for the hospital.  We want to be there when your dad comes into the waiting room and announces that you are here!

I love you, Sophia. With all my heart.  And, I pray for your safe arrival and that God blesses you with a good, long and happy life. God has already blessed you with a wonderful, loving Mommy and Daddy who will take good care of you and teach you what you need to know.

I remember the day your daddy was born and how I felt when I first saw him.  I think that will be magnified 100x when I see you.

Safe trip, Sophia!  I will see you soon!

Love always,

Granmudder (or, Granmuddy, Mamala, MeMom, MawZ, Grandma…Granmomma…Na-Me….)

PS – You will be 7 months old when Christmas arrives!  WhooHoo!

—-

(Written today)  Sophia arrived about 2:20 yesterday afternoon. (Mommy and Daddy did well.)

  • weight – 7.11 lbs
  • length – 20 inches
  • hair – yes and it’s strawberry blond
  • eyes – green eyes
  • color – ruddy, deepening when she cries
  • fingers – 10 and long
  • toes – her dad says she has all of them
  • face – round and full, expressive
  • temperament – relaxed, calm, stirs when she has a need, hint of a temper
  • voice – mews like a kitten, wail is timorous and quivering, cry is a precious announcement of her presence
  • complete package – perfect

It was love at first sight for Hubby and me.  Hubby fell hard – smitten even before she was born. She will have him wrapped around her little finger in no time.

I understand now why grandparents go on and on about their grandchildren.  I was amazed to see how quickly my heart opened to Sophia and how strongly my love for her was the instant I saw her.

I would give my life for this baby – without thought, without hesitation, without regret.

Dear God, craft and create in me the grandmother Sophia needs me to be and empower me to be all and do all I should for and with her.  Be with Sophia. Bless her, protect her, provide for her every need…. Bless her parents and grant them wisdom for the days and years ahead. Empower them to love her and teach her – to grow her into a healthy, happy woman capable of engaging life with all she is, living fully in the present and leaning hard toward the future.  Bless her grandparents and aunts and uncle, her cousin and the multitude of friends as they love, care for and assist this young family.

New Title

Wednesday afternoon, a post was made on Facebook by our daughter-in-love which said Sophia would be born Friday.

Wednesday was her due date – and her OB/GYN appointment.

Her announcement of Sophia’s birth two days hence caused me to wonder if she (or, perhaps her doctor) is psychic. 😉

My guess, as I type this Thursday morning, is that the doctor decided to schedule Sophia’s appearance for Friday – convenient for Mom and for Doctor, and in Sophia’s best interest.

Hubby asked me yesterday how I feel about becoming a grandmother.  I shrugged my shoulders and told him I don’t really feel anything – yet.

Yet.

🙂

If all goes according to plan, by my next post, I will have a new title and my world will have flipped upside down.  And, I will have become one of those crazy women who carries a mini photo album in her large purse filled with pictures of her grandchild, toys, wipes and tissues – and the occasional Cheerio.

(Post Script) It’s Friday morning, 6:33. A quick check reveals a Facebook update posted an hour ago from Son stating “And here…we…go.”  Labor was to be induced at 5 a.m. I’m assuming the process has started and all is going well.  In a couple of hours, Hubby and I will head to the hospital to await the arrival of Sophia Marie.  Ask me how I feel right now.  🙂 There are no words to describe it.

Mother’s Day 2013

With Mother’s Day approaching, Mom’s thoughts turned to her own mother.

It was decided that on Thursday morning we would visit her grave and place new flowers on it.

When I arrived to pick her up that morning, she met me at the door with a white garbage bag in hand. Within the garbage bag she had placed:

  • pink artificial flowers
  • a roll of paper towels
  • a damp cloth sealed in a ziploc bag
  • a sharp knife – its blade wrapped in a paper towel
  • light green floral styrofoam block

As I placed the garbage bag in the back seat of the car, Mom instructed me, “Look under the front passenger’s seat and see if the little whisk broom is still there.”  I did.  It was.

The drive to the cemetery took 10 minutes at most. I talked, reminiscing as I drove, of things I remembered, from my childhood, of past trips through that part of town (only frequented when we visited Poppy’s grave).  Mom corrected, added to, or confirmed my memories.

I wondered how she would react to visiting Nanny’s grave.  She was almost 100 when she died several years ago.   They had been close.  Mom had never lived farther than a 15 minute drive from her mother – probably 5 miles, or less, as the crow flies. In her later years, Mom visited her every day – caring for her needs and making sure she was okay.

Both of my grandfathers died when I was six. The care of my grandmothers fell to my parents, especially in their later years when they lost their independence and ability to care for themselves. Nanny and MeeMaw were always a part of my childhood family, especially on Sundays. MeeMaw would drive to our house and ride to church with us.  We would stop on the way and pick up Nanny.  Our car would be full of people, conversation, and love as we drove to church. After church, we all would go home for Sunday dinner and enjoy the afternoon together. MeeMaw would head home, usually before we left for the evening service.  Nanny would either accompany us, or we would drop her off at home on our way to church Sunday evening.

Mom’s thoughts were on her mother.  Mine were on my grandmother – and my mother.  And, on my father, who died last Father’s Day.  I’ll admit, I looked forward a month to what it will be like to celebrate my first Father’s Day without him here.  I wondered what Mom was feeling…thinking.

I turned right and we entered the cemetery.  At the first crossroad I asked, “Left?” Mom nodded.

It had been 9 months or more since I had last been to her grave.  The last time, I rode in the backseat as my dad drove us.  Daughter and I had spent a week with my parents in the Fall and we had visited Nanny/Poppy’s grave and MeeMaw/PeePaw’s grave to place Autumn flowers on them. I knew from childhood, that to reach Poppy’s grave, I needed to bear left at every opportunity.

We talked little as I drove past graves.  She pointed out changes and additions, noting where people she had known were buried and that she had never ventured into the older part of the cemetery.

Left, left, left, left…always left until we could go left no more.  I pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road in the spot that felt “right.” To my left there was a field with grass and a border of trees. Ahead of us, the road stretched straight.  To my right, graves stretched as far as I could see, evident only by the vases standing above the flat bronze grave markers.

“Do you remember which one it is?” I asked Mom.  She was silent for a moment.  Her eyesight is not good. Nanny’s and Poppy’s grave sits 75 feet or more from the road. As she gazed out the window, I closed my eyes and saw in my childhood memories the location of the grave site. (Brother and I had played there many times while awaiting the completion of the adults’ graveside work.) When I opened them, it was as if I had placed an overlay of my memory on the image before me – the grave stood out as though highlighted.

“Are you ready?” I asked Mom.  She seemed hesitant…lost in thought.  “I’m not sure which one it is, but I’m sure this is the right place.”

“It is,” I assured her.  “Come on, we will find it – no problem.”

By the time I made it around to her door, she had it open and she was giving orders. (Mothers, don’t you just love ’em?!?)

“Get that white trash bag out of the back seat and look under my seat and get that little whisk broom out.  We will need it to sweep off the marker. Be careful, there’s a sharp knife in the bag. We might need it to cut grass from around the marker. Here, let me take your hand. Let’s see…which marker is it…?”

I asked if she would like me to run ahead and locate the grave. She asked why I would want to do that and when I replied, “to save you a few steps”, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was fully capable of wandering the cemetery if necessary and locating the marker on her own.”

With her hand in mine (or was it my hand in hers?) we tottered across uneven ground as I lead her toward the grave I felt certain was the one she sought.  When close enough to view the name on the flat marker, I pointed it out to her.  “You can see that from here?” she asked. Her reply to my, “Um, yes, Ma’am. You can’t?” was a stern glare that made me smile.  It was the same one she’d given me countless times over the past 55 years.

Within a few steps, she was upon the grave and stood looking down on the marker bearing the names of her parents…their birth and their death dates.

We fell silent.

I don’t know what thoughts held her captive or what memories flashed through her mind.  I don’t know if she felt regret, sorrow, longing…I just don’t know. It wasn’t my place to ask…or to know.  This was private – personal.  I stood there as long as I could bear it. Emotions flooded me as memories of my grandmothers flowed through my mind.  I was not around in their later years.  Life had called me 400 miles away and given me a family of my own.  I visited when I could. The last time I saw Nanny, she didn’t recognize me.  The last time I spoke with her on the phone, she didn’t know me – it frightened her that a stranger knew so much about her and her family.

When I could stand it no longer, I turned from Mom and walked back to the white garbage bag and began removing items we would need.  Mom (sensing my absence and the reason for it) said “The marker’s not dirty…a good sweeping with the whisk broom is all it needs. Be sure to pull the tags off of the flowers and put them in the garbage bag so they don’t litter the ground.”

We set about the task of cleaning the marker, removing the faded flowers, dumping water from the vase, trimming the floral styrofoam, inserting the flowers and arranging them.

When the task was done, we stepped back and fell silent once again.  Lost in thought and in emotion, we stood looking at the marker.  “Nanny would like the pink flowers,” I softly offered.  “Yes, she would,” was Mom’s reply.

“I miss her so much,” Mom said. “Sometimes at night when I say my prayer, I almost forget and pray for her.” Tears stung my eyes as I allowed emotion to well up within me – the strength of which surprised me. I choked it off before it consumed me.

I asked if she would like to linger.  She shook her head and said there was nothing more to be done there.

We talked quietly as we walked back to the car. My 85 year old white haired mother missed her mother…missed the mothering of her mother…missed the friendship of her mother…missed her mother’s prayers. As I held her hand – or she held mine – I knew that one day I would miss my mother and wondered how I would bear the pain and sorrow of it.

My sister-in-law faces her first Mother’s Day without her mother.  I cannot wrap my mind around the emotions she must feel.  A tear slips from my eye as I type this….

As a child, on Mother’s Day we wore red roses to church.  Dad would pick them from a big rose bush across the street from our house – I can see him now, dressed for church, crossing the street to pluck four small red roses for us all to wear.   My grandmothers wore white roses, not red.  I asked why and was told that children wore red roses in honor of mothers who were living, and white roses in memory of mothers who had died.

It was hard to think of my grandmothers as children.  They had been old forever as far as I knew. Their mothers long dead, I assumed they thought of them only at Mother’s Day when they placed the white rose in memory.

I knew Mother’s Day was difficult for many.  I have friends who wish to be mothers and cannot conceive. Mother’s Day is emotional for them…they have no one to celebrate them as Mother.  For some, Mother’s Day brings up bad memories of a less than perfect mother.  And, others lost their mother to death and still grieve.

Mother’s Day was always a happy day for me.  As a child, I loved my mother.  She was the absolute best in all ways. Mother’s Day was the perfect opportunity to show my love for her.  Even when I lived 400 miles away, I wore a red rose to celebrate her life and impact on my life.

This year is the first Mother’s Day I’ve spend with Mom in many years.  I don’t know how many more there will be. No one knows.  Last year, Father’s Day dawned with me at Dad’s bedside. No one thought that before noon he would take his last breath.

Mother’s Day is more than candy, cards, flowers and dinner out.  Happy Mother’s Day is more than a red rose pinned to a lapel. It’s an emotional basket filled with memories, hopes, dreams, tears, sorrow, laughter, pain, birth, loss, fear, happiness, love, longing….

From childhood, I’ve understood the reason for Mother’s Day and have celebrated my mom and the others who have mothered me. This year I find myself beginning to understand why many find it to be a difficult day and why some choose not to celebrate Mother’s Day at all.

To those of you who see me wearing a red rose, know that beneath that rose beats a heart that weeps for the loss you feel today.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!  And, to all the mother’s reading this – God bless you and thank you for all you do for those you love.

(P.S.)The words above were penned yesterday, in anticipation of posting today.  Between the time I wrote them and now (1:31 a.m. Sunday), my mother became ill and was admitted to the hospital for tests.  My family and I will take Mother’s Day dinner to her hospital room and spend the day celebrating her and her love for us.  It’s not quite the day we had planned, but she’s still with us and for that I am grateful!

And, yes, a red rose will be pinned to my shirt.  Be sure to look for it when you see me.

(P.P.S) 7:57 AM Sunday – received a call from the doctor at 6:30.  Mom had an episode during the night…is in ICU on a respirator.  Dr is unsure what is going on. Heading there now.

Choosing a Name

Who would have thought selecting a name for your first grandchild to call you would be difficult?

When I imagine stretching out my arms to a granddaughter and saying, “Come to _______” I go blank.

For years I said “Big Momma” would be my designation.  But, when we learned Son would become a Dad, Daughter nixed the “Big Momma” idea.

It would appear that being a Southern grandmother is not enough reason to be “Big Momma.” Apparently, for some people, grandmother names have cultural connotations.

If I’ll not be “Big Momma,” who will I be?

Hubby had mentioned the possibility of G-M for me and G-P for him.  After repeating them several times we realized I would become “Jim” and he would become “Jeep.”  Funny.  But, I don’t see myself as a “Jim” and he’s certainly not a “Jeep.”

Daughter-in-love shared grandmother names that are taken: GrandMom, Grammy, Nana and Memaw. That helps, but it also complicates things, at least for me.  When I was a child my grandmothers were Nanny and MeMaw – distinct sounding names without the possibility of confusion.

I considered using either “Me, Mom” (the signature I use when writing my son).

But, MeMom is too close to MeMaw – and Grammy rules out Granny, Granma and others similar.  My children had a GrandMom and GrandMa – and when young would confuse the two names.

Unique is not my goal, but it could help my grandchild differentiate between the individuals who love her/him and are involved in his/her life.

Who would have thought this would be so difficult?

A search online for “grandmother names” led me to the Ultimate Guide to Grandparent Names which offered traditional, trendy, playful and international grandmother names.

Among those on the trendy list were:

Ama
Babo
Coco
Dally
Fo-Ma, Faux Ma
GeezerGirl
Hamma
Kitty
LaLa
Mammi
Nimo
OtherMother
Pebbles
Sugar
TeeMa
Uma, Umma
Vanna
Womba
YaYoo

Um…no.  I don’t see myself in that list.  Apparently I’m not “trendy.”

The playful list is even wilder.

Abba
Bubbles
Cha-cha
Doodie, Dooty
Gitchey
Hugme
Jamagramma
Khakie, Kakie
LoveyDovey
Muddy
NuNu
Pittypat
QueenB/Queen Bee
Sunny
Tinkerbell
Upsy
Wicky

Hmmm…I’m not so much “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  I have a little “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” thrown in for good measure.

And, that’s “Big Momma” for certain.

Perhaps a twist on the traditional “Grandmother” will yield a satisfactory nickname and one that expresses my traditional self, trendy self, and playful self.

I’d much rather make mud pies than apple. And, though I know it’s been said that cleanliness is next to godliness, I tend to lean toward getting close enough to God’s good earth to get some on me.

I think I will be…Granmudder – Muddee, if I decide to shorten it.

Now, all Granmudder and PaPa have to do is wait.  And, that’s harder than selecting a name for Granddaughter to call me. 😉