Tuesday, September 27, 2016
She joined many of her family and friends in Heaven twenty years ago today... and I miss her.
I was about ten years old when Granny invited me to spend two weeks of the summer with her. My brothers weren't invited, nor my parents, just me. Given the throng of our cousins and large family that typically gathered at the South Texas ranch, to be there by myself and have Granny's undivided attention was a real treat.
I'm sure we ate beans and tortillas every meal, I really don't remember. But I would remember if it had been something different, as that's the only meal Granny seemed to serve, period. And we all loved it. I especially loved the tortillas... big surprise.
Each day we walked up and down the dirt road from the house to the big oak at the highway. I forget how many laps made a mile, but Granny knew, and we walked 3 miles every day. I don’t remember constant conversation on those walks, though we would not have been at a loss for words. Being outside in nature was soothing for her, therapeutic, and she simply appreciated a slight breeze, the tall green grass that didn't have to be mowed, and swaying mesquite trees that provided pockets of shade in the sprawling front lawn.
We swam in the pool each evening and performed water ballet routines under the watchful eyes of cattle and horses grazing just beyond the barbed-wire fence. Granny's long, slender body every bit as agile as mine, I thought of her as a modern day Audrey Hepburn. Hair pulled back from her face, cheekbones prominent even without rouge, I can still see her sitting gracefully on the side of the pool with the silver Somerset water tower and huge oak trees framing her silhouette.
Granny told and retold stories, and I listened with delight, even when I already knew the ending. I’m sure I told my share as well. Granny appreciated stimulating conversation, so much so that she could dialogue with, laugh with, and even argue with animals to keep her mind sharp. Even though I offered a mere decade of insight, she was interested in my thoughts and opinions on things like politics, relationships and movie stars.
We stayed up until wee hours of the night, and I mean really wee hours... we read aloud to each other from her stash of books and magazines filled with quotes, quips and jokes. She laughed loud and long at the jokes I read... as I would come across ones that amused her, I read them over and over again, her laughter never subsiding. She loved the written word, and in those midnight hours we celebrated the beauty of poetry and prose alike.
Granny told me later the highlight of our time together that summer was when we went to her weekly painting class, and her teacher recognized me as her granddaughter. "You must be here with Gladys," he said when he saw me, though I’d never met him before. Granny got a kick out of the fact that our resemblance was so strong.
I look back on that summer with great tenderness, grateful for the time Granny poured into me, and for the intimacy that comes with shared interests. And grateful for a strong resemblance...
I've posted it here before, but my favorite of her poems...
Headnote: Smarting from my husband's remark of "Aren't you going to do the other side?" after I had completed the admittedly impossible task of clearing the tall and partly seeded grassburs from the patch between our mesquites and the oak by the highway. I felt driven to write an angry response to this attitude about women but decided instead to write something that I could use to build me back up after he tore me down.
This should do it.
I can work like a field hand with pitchfork or hoe;
I can mow or edge or prune
And make it more effective
At the right time of the moon.
I can learn from the slowest mental case
Or stimulate the smartest
Or laugh aloud at boredom;
At living, I'm an artist.
I can wage a war with the grassburs
And ignore the ridicule;
I can drip with sweat til it blinds my eyes
Then languish in my pool.
I can make something of nothing
Or make-do when I must;
I can really pinch a penny;
I can survive on dry bread crust.
Or I can delight the hungry crowds
With hearty home cooked dishes
Or play most gracious hostess
And cater to their wishes.
I come by my talents naturally
From the finest of the fine
What a blessed thing to follow
In the line of Caroline.
I can sing and dance and write and sketch
I can play and sometimes win;
I can thrill to the touch of attentive males
Whether stranger, acquaintance, or kin.
I can jog three miles in the heat of the day;
I can ride and swim and dive;
I can swap tall tales and listen well
And charm any man alive.
I can lull a fretting child to sleep
In a matter of minutes or less
Or soothe a frightened, snarling beast
Or make a thief confess.
I can talk to crowds, control their thoughts,
Awake their admiration,
Or humbly bow before my God
In prayerful meditiation,
Or talk with Him, solicit help
And feel the exultation
Of surging power that accompanies truth
And dissipates depression.
I'm wonderful when I'm with God;
When I am One with Him,
I'm capable of anything:
Dear God, help me be slim.
- Gladys James
Missing you, Granny!