As I said yesterday in my post about my Grandmother, I've been fortunate in my life that I was able to grow up having both sets of grandparents around to get to know and to spoil me beyond reason. As I said before, I was the first grandchild born on either side (both of my parents are single children) and so my arrival was a pretty darn big deal. And like I said--I've always known my family loves me, which is a wonderful feeling.
I also think I was fortunate that when my parents asked my grandparents what they wanted to be called, my mom's parents chose Grandmother and Granddaddy and my dad's parents chose Granny and Grandpa. I remember growing up and hearing other people talk about going to see Grandmother Smith or Granny Jones and I always felt secretly cool because I had individual names for each of my grandparents.
My Granny was quite a character, let me tell you. She was quite the cook as well, though her cooking skills were of a different variety than my Grandmother's. Let me back up the story here a bit and fill you in on some details. When Grandpa retired from working for International Harvester, he and Granny moved out to Lanexa, Virginia. Most of you probably have not heard of Lanexa. It's because, quite frankly, it's a post office and little more. To say it's out in the country is an understatement. It was 20 minutes from Granny's to the 7/11 and 30 minutes to the nearest grocery store. Seriously, I think they had to pipe in the sunlight most days. Granny and Grandpa moved out there because their house was near the Chicahominee River. Grandpa loved to fish and hunt and Granny took up fishing so she could spend time with him. I also think she did it to make sure she could keep an eye on him and keep him out of too much mischief. (You will understand more when I post about Grandpa later).
Some of my earliest memories of Granny were going out fishing with her. Granny was up early and would take me out fishing with her. We'd go out on various piers and catch brim, croppie and catfish. We'd keep the ones that were big enough, take them home, have Grandpa clean them and she'd cook them up. Granny had one of those tiny, deep fryers that she'd fry up fish in for us..and fried okra. OK, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Granny and Grandpa had two lots out in Lanexa--one for their house and one for the garden. And they'd grow a ton of fresh vegetables each summer and then Granny would freeze and store them for the winter. I still remember going to the freezer at her house and at home to get out bags of veggies. She also canned tomatoes--let me just say they make the BEST spaghetti sauce EVER. I also remember Granny made superb chicken and dumpling as well as chicken tetrazani in her Crock Pot. In fact, I remember that she'd make chicken tetrazini for me every time we'd come to see her so we could have it the first night I was there for dinner.
In our travels around the country, we lived near D.C. twice--only about three hours from Granny and Grandpa, so we could visit them a bit more often. And so we could go fishing. Which I enjoyed--I still do, but I haven't gone fishing in years.
Granny and Grandpa lived near door to her sister, Aunt Anna and her husband Russell. There was a third-sister who was the "black sheep" of the family, though I've never really found out why this was. Granny and Anna got along like most family do--most of the time it was quite good but when they had a fight, it could get ugly. In fact, toward the end of Granny's life, she and Anna argued over who had the better grandchildren and ended up having this ugly feud that was never resolved. Granny died of a stroke before she and Anna could reconcile, which led to a lot of guilt on Anna's part. If I learn nothing else from my Granny, it would be how we need to forgive sooner rather than later since you never know...
Going to Granny's house was always interesting. Granny knew of my love for comic books--or as she called them "funny books." I can remember that a special treat was getting into her car and driving up the grocery store. There was a drug store next to it called the Cardinal that had comic books. I remember she'd buy me one or two comic books and I'd read them on the long trip back home. Granny had a little white car and because they lived out so far, going into the city for anything was a huge expedition. You planned every last part of it becuase if you forgot something, it wasn't just a hop-skip-and-a-jump to Wal-Mart to pick up one or two things. Granny's house ran on a well and I remember the water coming out of the tap was cold and tasted different than city water. They also had a drainage ditch next to the house and I remember my sister and I would try and jump over it. (There was a bridge that went across to get from Granny's to Aunt Anna's house).
My Granny was a strong-willed woman. She didn't take any sass--something I quickly learned. She had a good sense of humor as well. She loved to get up in the morning, cook her breakfast and read the funny papers as she called them. She loved the comic strip Marmaduke. She read a lot--she and Grandpa had bookshelves full of paperbacks. I remember late in her life, she joked about her hair color being whatever bottle she wanted and the length being whichever wig she picked that day. She'd always say this and then giggle. She also would pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. She had a huge stereo and I remember listening to old records on it. It was one where you could pile up a ton of albums on it and then have them drop down into place. I think the stereo even had an eight-track player in it, if that tells you how old it was. In fact, I'm sure it did as I had a copy of the soundtrack to Empire Strikes Back
for it. Man, I wonder how much that would sell for on E-Bay today?
But what I remember most about Granny is the mornings out fishing. We'd be up at the crack of dawn and head out to fish. I remember her helping me bait my hook, tell me where to cast and helping me pull in my catch. Those hours out there on the various piers were great. We didn't talk about much that was earth-shattering, but we had a great time.
Even after she was gone, the strong-willed person my Granny was helped me. A few years ago, I was struggling in a lot of ways. My marriage was crumbling and I was in deep denial about it. I didn't want to get a divorce because I felt like it was one of those things that did't run in my family. I remember talking to my dad and he told me something I'd never known. Granny had been married before Grandpa. He said that her first husband fooled around on her on so she went down and divorced him. And that it wasn't something she was ashamed of and that her life went on. I didn't use this as an excuse or a reason for getting a divorce, but the fact that my Granny, a woman I respected and loved, did this because she knew what had to be done and got through it all, really helped me a lot. It didn't mean I stopped trying on my marriage, but it also helped me realize some things about myself, who I was and my family that I needed to think about.
It's one of the ways I know I'm truly blessed. Even across the expanse of years since I've last seen Granny, I can still learn things from her. She was truly an amazing lady.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/08/2005 12:24:00 PM