Friday, January 30, 2009

My Grandmother

I love hearing my grandmother talk about her life. It's fascinating to me and she has an interesting personality. The subject matter and the storyteller make for great conversation.

She just turned 89 in December, which means that she was 51 when I was born. That was back before "50 was the new 40", so she always looked like an old lady to me. I love it when she takes her pictures out so I can see what she looked like when she was younger. Because I've only known her as an older woman, it's wild to see her as a young girl. It's even more interesting, I think, to see her as a young wife and mother. To see her easy smile, and the way she obviously loved my grandfather, and how proud she was of her kids --- that's what I enjoy the most.

Here she is with my grandpa and my dad, probably more than 60 years ago. I love to look at her beautiful face!

She was the wife of a coal miner and that life wasn't easy. She spent her days taking care of her family. She made ends meet for herself, her husband, and their three kids. My dad says she can squeeze a buffalo nickle until it poops. I believe it. She's a "waste not, want not" type of woman and I love that about her. She is the epitome of matriarch to me and I mean that in a positive way.

She's lived without my grandpa for a very long time. He died when he was 63, more than 30 years ago. She still talks about him with reverence. There was never any question she would marry again. She's told me many times there was no other man she would marry after having been married to the best man for so many years.

My grandma loves her family. She would do anything for us. I have no doubt about that.

Tonight she is surrounded by family in a hospital in Charleston and is not expected to live through the night.

She's had a rough few months, due to pancreatic cancer. Surgery on Monday was supposed to make things easier on her, but it didn't work out. Just like when her daughter passed away a few weeks ago, my family was praying for something different.

Just six days ago, I talked to my grandma. I told her I was praying for her. I told her I loved her. Tonight I asked my sisters to make sure they whispered "Tina loves you" to her. I know she knows. I just want her to hear it one more time. For me, mostly.

My grandma believes in Jesus. She is saved by grace, through faith. She is on her way to heaven. I pray that her husband, her daughter, her parents, her brother, and her sister are there to welcome her with open arms. I'm clinging to that promise hard tonight because my heart is really breaking.

As my grandma always says, if you are a praying person, pray for me. Pray for my family. We are the ones in need of it. My grandma is about to be rejoicing.

Thank you for letting me have her in my life for so long. Welcome her home, Father, and let her know we'll see her soon!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I really did used to live in WV

But you would never know it these days because it's 32 degrees outside and I want to cry.

My mom and sister who work for public school systems in Raleigh County and Greenbrier County, respectively, were both off work today because of snow, ice, and actual cold weather. I just checked and the temp for where my mom lives is 13 degrees. Now that is cold.

I'm becoming a southern wuss. Last week when we were in WV we went to my sister's house to eat dinner and it was snowing and the roads were getting bad when we left. I came over with my dad instead of driving because it started snowing in the afternoon and I don't drive in the white stuff anymore. My father taught me to drive on slick roads when I was 17, but 20 years makes the details a bit fuzzy.

These days I don't like to drive in the rain. When my son and I were headed back to Georgia on Saturday, we stopped to spend the night in Tennessee because it was raining and getting dark. What a soft life I lead!

Driving back from my sister's house last week was my son's first experience of being in the car (well, a four wheel drive truck, actually) on roads covered with snow and ice. My dad did fishtail at one point, but other than that we were fine.

I guess it's all relative. When my family comes to Georgia in the summer, they talk about how hard it is to breathe with the humidity. The first time my niece came to visit years ago, she was shocked because we don't get the cool down from the mountain breezes at night here. We walked outside to go to the grocery store at around 9 p.m. and she said "It's still hot."

The heat, the humidity, I'm used to that now. I can even sit in the bleachers in 98 degree weather in the sticky heat and blazing sun of a July afternoon and watch my son play baseball, without a great deal of complaining.

What I can't do is drive in the snow or walk through my parents' drafty house on top of that big ol' hill in Midway in the dead of winter without saying brrrrrr.

Bundle up West Virginians! The high tomorrow for my hometown is a chilly 13 degrees. Down here our high will be about 20 degrees warmer, but you can bet I'll have my heat cranked up and will be thinking of you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feeling blue

I got home on Sunday afternoon. My wonderful husband had cleaned my house. All I've done the past couple of days is laundry and schooling my son. I haven't even cooked.

I'm feeling a little sad about everything. It's natural to feel sad about my aunt. I regret not having much of a relationship with her the past 15 years or so. I am sad that my grandma is ill and things are not looking up for her. I'm sad that my parents (especially my dad) have to deal with some very difficult decisions and some sleepless nights as my dad spends the majority of his time with my grandma.

I'm just generally blue. It's easy to be away from family when things are going smoothly, but when things are kinda rough, it's hard to be in no position to help whatsoever.

I already talk to my son about trying to stay close to us when he is making life decisions about where to work and raise a family. Once you make that decision to build a life somewhere else, it's hard to unravel it. I hate to think of him having to write a Georgia Expat blog one day to cope with his feelings about being away from family. :)

I know everything will work out. I'm happy to be home in GA, happy to be back to my life. It's just the worry and sadness that are getting to me. Honestly, the worry and sadness would be with me even if I lived in WV closer to family.

There's some things that you can't get away from --- even when you are 500 miles away.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I've been away

My family might have been a bit weird, but my dad, his two sisters, and all their related kin got together at my grandma's every single Christmas as I was growing up. We spent Christmas Eves together and got together on Christmas Day. We spent Thanksgivings together and a lot of other holidays.

We were a close bunch.

It never exactly changed. To this day Christmas Eve finds us at my grandma's house eating and opening a few gifts. Christmas Days have changed. As the kids have gotten married, we tend to go to the in-laws for Christmas Day. But Christmas Eve remains remarkably the same.

This Christmas we had planned to stay home in Georgia. Last Christmas my father-in-law passed away on Dec. 27th. It was a hard Christmas last year, so we wanted to spend a quiet Christmas at home. But plans change. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer in early December and my dad told me it might be her last Christmas. I knew we had to make the trip back home.

We spent a week at Christmas in WV with family. I spent most of my time staying with my grandma (who is 89 and also in ill health) while other family members traveled back and forth to Charlottesville, VA to be with my aunt. She was in the hospital for a few days before traveling back home and dying in hospice care on Jan. 3rd. Her funeral was last Tuesday and my son and I spent last week with family while we all said our goodbyes to my aunt.

She was an amazing woman. She was the Deputy Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Labor at the time of her death. She was always very work oriented, being promoted to a leadership position at every job she ever had in a short period of time. She was focused and committed. She was a hard worker and many people will remember her as someone who didn't suffer fools gladly.

But she was something else too. Underneath the fire, she was very caring. She would give anything to help a family member or friend. She was too generous for her own good and never really understood how much she was loved.

On a cold, rainy day last Tuesday in Beckley, WV, around 200 people gathered to bid my aunt farewell. Many of those mourners made the trek to the little cemetary in Sophia to say goodbye as she was buried. Family, friends, and co-workers all shared some time to talk about what a great person my aunt was.

Her death was unexpected. We thought something could be done to buy her more time. I think she deserved a better ending, but, as Christians, we leave all of that in the hands of our Lord. I know she's in a happier, pain-free place. That knowledge makes her death easier to take, but in no way makes it easy.

Bye, Fran. I love you.