My grandparents are both in the hospital at the moment. My grandmother had a bad fall, and my grandfather has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. They have tried to be independent up until now.
Some of my first recallable memories are of them and their house. When I was little, Papaw, or Paw, used to sit me up on their picnic table and hand me a piece of watermelon. I would make a huge sticky mess. He would say, “It’s not good unless you get it all over you.” Afterward, he would hose me down to help with the sticky.
Mamaw always made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. They were a staple of my childhood. On Saturday mornings, my cousins and I would eat grilled cheeses with jelly with Papaw and watch cartoons. Sunday mornings Mamaw made a big breakfast with bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, and homemade biscuits. Papaw taught us kids how to mix soft butter with syrup and dip our biscuits in it. Once a month, we’d have pizza night. Mamaw would call in our pepperoni pizza, and Papaw would load me up and take me to Mr. Tom’s store. He’d get me a Dr. Pepper, put peanuts in it, and get a Mickey Mouse ice cream. Leaving there, we would go pick up the pizza. Papaw would tell me not to tell Mamaw about the ice cream before hand. It was our secret. I’m sure she figured it out.
Papaw was always singing, and still would if he could. His voice projects and is full of old Southern sound. I learned songs by Kittie Wells, Hank Williams, and Charlie Pride at his knee. We’d sit out on the swing, sing, and watch the sunset until the bushes sparkled with lightning bugs. There was always music, and maybe a little dancing. He’d take us for walks around the neighborhood and let us play in the churchyard up the street. We’d go fishing and talk more than fish. He has always had a sweettooth and been keeper of the candy. I only heard my name from Papaw when I was in trouble. Otherwise, he called me Baby My Baby, gal, or just girl. We’d eat breakfast, and then he’d say, “C’mon girl, let’s go work in the garden.” I think that’s why I love plants. I would hold the bottom of my t-shirt out and walk back to the house with fresh vegetables or plums from the tree in the front yard.
A few days ago, when he went into the hospital, he told me that he wouldn’t come out of this. I told him that he would have to get some rest and eat some protein so he could build up his strength and get better. He took my hand. He said, “Whatever happens will happen. I’m ready.” This is not what I was ready to hear, but I know he is tired. He’s ready, but my heart is not.