I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen. At her elbow, I watched her make biscuits lovingly and with enough practice for it to have been considered an art. She raised her children along with children who weren’t born of her body but were hers all the same. If you tried to say different, you would most likely get more than your feelings hurt. She worked most of her life nursing broken bodies along with broken hearts. Nursing taught her to handle herself and keep calm in most any situation. She was blunt with her words and subtle with her emotions.
After she retired, she threw herself into her home whether it be baking, sewing, or mowing the yard because no one says lawn in the South. She cuddled any baby she ever met and sang the same song to every single one she rocked. Nursing did not end when she retired. She nursed for years her cancer stricken husband and a sister with severe diabetes. Her husband went first, and she never quite recovered. When she did not know anyone was around, she would spend quiet moments in the room where he wasted away before that final trip to the hospital. Sitting on his bed, she would close her eyes for a time, let out a slow breath, and then get on with her day to day chores.
If she ever loved you, she would cook for you, tend to you, and fight for you until she just couldn’t. She was never the most tender of people. After you got a hug and offered food in your time of need, you were told to dry your tears. Crying never did a single soul any good in her eyes.
When she died, my world shifted. It was hard to believe that someone so big, even if she was just so big to me, was gone. I cried for a time. I could hear her voice as clear as a bell telling me to dry it up and be tough like she knew I could. During her wake, the lights went out at the funeral home. Even though it startled everyone, those who knew her personally laughed. It was just the kind of stunt she would pull. I smiled for the first time since she died standing in the dark. When I think of her now, I can only smile. I picture her sitting on her porch in the rocking chairs she loved as she watched cars go by. Those chairs should have fell to pieces with all the miles she put on them. I see her in the kitchen at her stove mixing up a batch of cornbread batter for her cast iron skillet. When I try to describe her most words don’t seem enough. She taught me how to be polite and to swear. She was never anything more than herself and I wish I could have an ounce of the confidence she carried. She was my rock and taught me how to be one myself. I may not be what she was every minute of my life, but I have moments where I can feel her come to the surface. When I feel lost, I find her in me and it’s in her that I find myself.
Today, she would be 93 and has been on my heart all day.