100 years! I have yet to determine if living so long should be considered a blessing. I often wonder if living past the point of mental awareness in a state of constant confusion would border on the line of a living curse. Life can be cruel, but perhaps living in a state of oblivion is what has caused her to bear the circumstance with such ease. I always told her that she would never be put in a home and that I would take care of her when she got old. The dreams and aspirations of a 7 year old girl that had no idea of the distances that life would take her. Now here I sit, 27 years later, in the half empty parking lot of the Mt.Order now
Pleasant Assisted Living Retirement home. Waiting to visit the woman who I hold so dear to my heart for what I have good reason to believe may be the last time. In all the years of my life Granny had never been a “young woman in age. Being born May 29, 1914, made her already 57 years old at the time of my birth. But she had the git up and go, of any southern woman of the age of 40, if not even possibly 35. Her white and silver hair, was always done with the most care, curled and feathered up, making that classic “Big Texas style bouffant atop her thin wrinkled face.
Not a day would go by that she would be seen without her Ruby Rouge Avon blush adorn her checks. She had a peach colored mole that was the good size of a large pea, it rested inside her left nostril. She referred to it as here beauty mark, “The bigger the mole, the more beautiful the soul, Kellie-Ann. she would chime. She wasn’t a small woman by any means, I was always in amazement at the grand size of her breasts and how they rested on the top of her belly. Her short torso gave her a very petite stature, which worked to lessen the appearance of the girth of her abdomen and favored her figure.
The skin on her arms was thin and covered in brown and eggplant purple colored age spots, reminders of the years she worked out in the cotton fields as a younger girl. She was what I always believed to be the essence of the south, by beauty, charm, and by nature. She was a kind woman, with only love and patience for me; I don’t believe I have ever been loved by someone so much as by her. Not even by my own parents. She helped my daddy raise me from the age of 2 to the age of 7, him being a single father he needed all the help he could get.
Patience was a definite requirement with me, as I was always getin into trouble, for as long as can remember back. It had been a threatening morning, the warning sirens had gone off and we had spent what I had thought to be the better part of the early hours in Grannies cellar. In that old rickety house scurrying down to the cellar had become a routine with nearly every passing storm. There was not much air circulation 7 feet underground, so the smell was stale, and at times like this when it rained so heavily the humidity would all but take your breath away.
Shelves had been built against one wall to store a small amount of water and a bit of food, “just in case. A mattress was laid on the cement floor draped in eloquently designed quilts, each handmade by Granny herself. She always sat in her wooden rocking chair next to an old antique sofa table that was now used to store her yarn and crochet needles. She would sit patiently just rocking and crocheting, humming an old tune that her mamma used to sing to her. I was allowed to pass the time by either coloring or watching her crochet. She could sit for hours, making the tiniest of stiches on her intricately detailed doilies. Granny, why do you do that so much?
I asked. My boredom was beginning to take over and the countless, pointless questions that can be made by a 6 year old were to commence. “Kellie-Ann, a lady should always keep herself busy. Besides, they make pritty place mats and gifts for friends. Maybe I’ll make one for you some day, when you’re old enough to appreciate it. she replied in her twangiest east Texas drawl. “Huuuhhh, I sighed. “Are we ever gonna git out of her? I wanna go outside and play! “Would you like to learn to crotchet? she asked, unbeknown to me was her plot to keep me quiet and entertained for the deration of our stay in the hole.
“Here, I have a bigger needle and some blue yarn you can use. I’d like you to make be a pot holder. “A pot holder, I don’t know how to make a pot holder! I did not want to make a pot holder, crocheting was for old people. “Now looki here. She began, handing me the needle and yarn, “Ya take it and tie yer knot around the needle like this here. Ya see? She wrapped and tied the yarn in one quick motion, it was like a magic trick, and I was astounded. “Now, you watchin child? She knew how easily distracted I could be, even by just the imaginary dust floating in the air. But her sorcery with that needle and yarn had my full attention. “Now ya take yer thread and make a loop, like this. Then put the needle through the loop and pull it through. She weaved the needle and yarn in and out of each other a few more times before handing it over to me. “Now it’s yer turn, go on. Just start slow and take yer time. I began to do as instructed, and before long I had made the longest chain stich one had ever seen. I now had a new toy to play with while waiting for the storm to pass.
And Granny seemed quite pleased; she remained in her rocker crocheting and humming that familiar tune, watching me play on the ground with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her face. I never did forget how to make that chain stich. Finally the 2 hour stay in that hole in the ground was over. Granny proceeded to go inside the old white house to fix me something to eat. The smell of the bluebonnet flowers that were painted across the field behind the house was soon suppressed by the smell of biscuits cooking in Grannies oven. It was so peaceful outside, as that seemed to always be the atmosphere at her house.
I went on to play in the yard while waiting for my biscuits and chocolate gravy, which was a staple of grannies fixins. As I sat in the grass, making mud pies from the dug up ground and puddles of water that surrounded me. My interest was abruptly redirected by the movement of the mud below my right hand. It was as if something was begging to be set free, the mud swirled and wriggled and waved. As I pushed my finger down to see what could be causing the motion, I was startled to find the tail end of an earthworm that was bigger than the butt end of a whippin-stick.
It was a dirty greyish color with rings around its tail. I grabbed it and pulled and tugged and stretched till it came completely out of the ground. I mean this was biggest worm I had ever seen! I knew Granny would be just as excited as I was at the size of this monster. Excitement bursting through my chest, I bolted though the door of the kitchen. (Absolute Phrase) She was bent over the stove taking out the cast iron skillet with the fresh baked biscuits in hand. “Granny, Granny! I exclaimed breathlessly. “Look at the worm I just found!
Have you ever seen one so big? Ever! It took only a microsecond for the calm demeanor of this sweet woman to change to a horrific state of fear. She jumped backwards as if trying to save herself from something that might attack at any moment. “Kellie-Ann, put that thang down, Right Now, RIGH NOW! she demanded. “Lord have mercy child! She was ready to go for the kill, I immediately did has she commanded and dropped the slithering creature on the kitchen floor. I was terrified, but the excitement of the situation would not allow me to move an inch.
She screamed and bellowed the most menacing growl of defense I had ever heard come from a human, like a mother bear protecting her cub from definite danger. The sound of the cast iron skillet hitting the old wood floor made a loud thud, and the biscuits that I was so looking forward to enjoying, now lay in a heap of foulness at front of my feet. The tail twitched and glided from side to side for moment longer as the head end of it lay smashed under the black cast iron. I burst into tears for no other reason than pure adrenaline and confusion. “Come here child!
Get away from that thang just in case it ain’t dead, Hurry now! She grasped my arm with a force she had never done before, but at the same time it was very comforting and safe. “What was that! ” I screeched, finally able to make a sound escape my mouth. “Don’t you worry now, it’s all over. Now we’re gonna wait for it to stop moving and get the shovel and throw it out. Granny said, as she regained her confident composure. Clasping her long skinny fingers around my shoulders she pulled me to face her straight on. She looked at me in scolding manner, “Child don’t you ever bring a snake into my house again, Ever!
You hear me now? She warned. I knew right then I had made a big mistake, and if my daddy had been home I’d of gotten the belt for sure. Her disapproval didn’t last much longer and she consoled me a while more to be sure I was settled. I dramatically sobbed in her bosom eating up all the affection I could get. “Ok, that’s enough. Now let’s get this mess cleaned up before your daddy gets home. Go to the shed and get the shovel. She directed in a rushed tone. We cleaned up the dead snake and ruined bread that remained scattered across the floor.
Then she continued on to make a new batch of her most desire buttermilk biscuits as we went about the rest of our day uneventfully. Sitting in that parking lot I couldn’t help but chuckle remembering back on that day. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking about the look on Grannies face and the traumatic excitement that had followed the introduction of my “worm. So long ago, but I can remember it like yesterday. Now the only thing I could think of was the words of my Aunt Donna echoing through my mind. “Don’t be too upset if she don’t remember you.
She don’t know no body no more. It hurts my heart to think that all the years this woman has lived, are now lost to her. I wouldn’t wish Alzheimer’s on my worst enemy. I exited my truck and proceeded to enter the front doors of the rest home. My chest felt full as I open the glass door to the foyer. I was met by a beautiful sitting room, with large engraved mirrors and antique paintings placed strategically on the walls. It was more than I had expected from a nursing home. I made my way across the tiled floor where the sitting room intersected with the dining area.
Granny was sitting at the square table with some of her less elder companions. I approached the table and set in the chair beside her and noticed how frail she appeared. She was slouched over in her wheelchair; her back was hunched due to the deterioration of muscle. Her hair had lost its natural silver shimmer and was replaced by a dull greyness. The magnificent Bouffant was now a combed over style with a pretty white bow snapped in her hair to keep her bangs back. Her face was thinner then I had ever seen before. She had recently stopped eating as much causing concern to the nurse that took care of her daily.
But you can believe that she still had that Ruby Rouge on her checks. Her belly was large and bloated looking, and where her enormous bosom once hung, was now a flat empty chest for which a small lump caused their removal several years back. She looked more aware then I had imagined, she was not a wasted shell of a body that had been described to me. She was staring at the food on her plate and did not look amused with what had been served to her. She used her plastic spork to move the plainly boiled sweet potatoes around and around in disgust.
She looked up at my face, with no recognition, then back down at her meal and grunted, “Phssht. “Hi Granny, it’s me Kellie-Ann, I calmly introduced myself. It was kind of awkward, not knowing what to except. “Do you need some help taking a bite? “Uhn uhh, she shook her head. Her speech was going away as well as her mind. She would ba ba baba ba ba babble, and then maybe be able to blurt out a few words or a short sentence before the stutter took over again. “I don’t blame ya, them don’t look like very good sweet potatoes to me either Granny. I admitted.
The truth is, nothing she ever cooked was plain, and everything this woman prepared was cooked precisely well and with love. And she had always been a judger of others expertise, or lack of in the kitchen. I knew exactly what she was thinking about those potatoes, and they were not going in her mouth. She set down her spork and picked up a small paper receipt, held it in one hand and with her long pointed index finger scrolled over the typed words. “M-M-Mry. Mry. Pr-Pr-Pr-Prks, she stammered, trying to introducing herself to me. “I know Granny. Mary Blanche Perkins, that’s your name.
Granny, I’m Kellie-Ann. Do you remember me? I looked right in her eyes to see if there was a glimpse of recognition. I remembered she had once told me that the eyes are the door to the soul. So just maybe, if her mind didn’t know who I was, if I talked to her soul I’d have a better chance at meeting her recollection. Crazy, I know. Her empty gaze affirmed that she was not familiar with our relationship. She continued to point and read down the receipt with not much clarity at all. Her finger rested on a word, and she began to tap it over and over again, becoming quit agitated.
I placed my hand softly on hers; I could feel her bones resting like delicate glass under a blanket of sheer worn skin. Realizing what she wanted, I quickly found a kitchen worker and retrieved the coke that she so insistently desired. It just sat in front of her, she didn’t want to drink it right then, but I could tell by the look of fulfilment that came across her face that it made her happy to have. I was very pleased so far with the communication we had between us, even if she didn’t know who I was. I could never forget who she was and still is to me.
As I had been re-introducing myself, the rest of my family had arrived and were waiting in the sitting area by the front entrance. “Granny I have some people for you to meet, would you be ok with that? I asked, never taking my eyes off hers. She only replied with a nod of her head. I first called over my three boys to say hello, but it was as though they were just random strangers whom she would not remember in the following minutes. Next my husband approached the table, and before he could even sit down her arm jolted up with her finger pointing straight at him like he was in for some trouble.
She pointed and cussed and shook her finger up and down, condemning him to remove himself from her table. I couldn’t help but laugh, “Tracy you better run before she throws her coke at you! His eyes were ready to pop out of his head from the shock of her disapproval, and he instantly agreed to return to the sitting room with the boys. “Far, far away, she repeated, “Far, far away. “That’s ok Granny, he’s gone, I giggled. “I don’t like him much sometimes either. I have one more person for you to meet. It’s my baby girl Presley-Ann. “Ba-ba-ba-by-by-by- bye-bye-bye, she stammered.
She attempted the word again with a bit more effectiveness. “Bey-bey-bey-bey? she questioned, lifting up that bony finger to point towards my face. “Yes ma’am, my baby. My baby girl. I looked over at the sitting room and gestured for Presley to join me at the table. Granny looked her over for a second, and as if digging down to the farthest depths that her mind might have something to offer, her eyes narrowed trying to focus in on the little child that sat by her side. Granny reached up and took her hand with an excitement that instantly brought tears to my eyes.
The old woman’s eyes brightened more than the light of heaven shining on its own angels. She whispered in amazement, as if her prayers had been answered, “Kele Ann, Kele Ann, Kele Ann? Kele? My Kele? It had been the first time in at least two years she had placed a face with a name. Even though it wasn’t my face, but the face of my 6 year old daughter, I was more than delighted to know that in that moment Granny knew I was there with her. We visited on for another couple hours, with her absolute attention. She was there with us that day, and not lost in her own confused world.
Enjoying watching and chatting with the kids, she could not get enough of Presley-Ann. We were even lucky enough to share a few laughs as Granny pointed and shock her finger at most of the boys in the room, in her old teasing manner. I, nor anyone, would have imagined the time we had. When Granny began to tire I helped the nurse take her to her room and lay her in bed. The nurse lifted her to her bed and I removed her socks and pulled the blanket up over her weakened legs. I couldn’t help but think how much I pitied her for being so old.
The woman that taught me so much diligently cared for me when I was young, was now so fragile and broken. I felt shame for moving so far away and not being there for her. I wanted to crawl up next to her and just hold her for as long as I could. I bent over to give her a hug and say my good byes, when I felt her arms embrace me, she pulled me so tight that she about lifted herself off the bed. “Luh ya, luh ya, luh ya. she insisted. Tears welled up in my eyes, and my throat just about closed from the size of the knot that I had to choke past. “I love you too Granny. I love you too.