A Tribute To My Southern Grandmother
Southern Cooking With Love
My Grandmother Annetta Died, But Lives On
It is hard to describe such a loss on a Sunday morning when my grandmother comes to mind and has silently appeared once again inside my heart when I woke up. When she was alive she would have been in church this morning in Los Angeles praying for loved one's or helping whoever needed her. This was the type of women she was and when a Pastor described her at her funeral the word he chose was "irreplaceble."
The hard part is coming to terms with her death so many years later and I feel that this is because she had replaced my mother many years ago after she died when I was eight. I didn't realize it until after my grandmother was gone, but since her only daughter died young she raised me along with my father. My father and my grandmother never got a long and used to fight all of the time and eventually she moved out of the family home. She became my Girl Scout counselor and introduced me to American Indians and different cultures and what it was like to give to others in need. I do feel it is because of her that I'm devoted to helping others and have a very deep well of compassion that keeps on giving!
When someone is gone for quite a while it is interesting what comes to mind so many years later and the things I remember most are like scattered memories through time. I remember her teaching me how to fold laundry when I was ten and going to watch the American Indians dance at their beautiful ceremonies all over Los Angeles every year. I still get teary eyed every time I go to watch this sort of ceremonial dance because I feel so content and I think of her. Although I had gone with her to church once in a while, my father would not allow me to go there often because of his religion and beliefs. I often looked forward to Christmas at her church because it was so festive and they would always put on an elaborate show with costumes. They also had the best "parties" in the world because everyone would bring their best home cooked dish to share. We also used to go to an Indian Center that helped families in need and bring old clothes and other things we no longer needed for young indian children. I would be there at her home every Christmas morning with my younger sister enjoying the sock filled with oranges and goodies and all of the treats under the tree. Other memories of her are like quick flashes, her at my wedding, graduation and many many performances. I will never forget her lovely postcards that she would send me where ever I was working and staying at some hotel in another country. Her phone calls and messages on my various phone numbers. Her little frail voice near the end of her life when she would ask me how I was and her concern for my life choices. The look on her face the first time I tried to ask her about "intimate" stuff with young boys and I was way too young to go there. She listened and her expression was priceless, but she never told me what I should or should not do. Her endless hours of listening to my stories and questions about life was a gift that helped me find my way and I'm so grateful for that time.
The funny thing is what I remember most is the food I had at her home or whenever I was in the South visiting relatives. Everything was full of butter and even the sweet potatoes had marshmallows on top! Can you imagine a meal with so much fat? Glorious I tell you! Let me tell you what I'm thinking of now. A dinner with buttered ham, biscuts with loads of butter, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, lima beans with more butter and some sort of berry cobbler with lots of sugar in it! The shame of it all! And let us not forget the "lucky" black eyed peas for New Years. Oh, and I forgot the huge ceramic tomato jar that always had treats waiting for me on the counter. I still have it and I fill it with something special for my kids and they enjoy lifting the top of the jar as much as I did.
When I think of all of these homecooked meals full of love and saturated fat I feel loved and nurtured. I often wonder if she cooked everything in a healthy way if it would have been the same and the answer is absolutely not! The point is that everything she did was what made it come from "her" and I was so fortunate to have this wonderful being in my life. Sometimes I wonder what I have in my life now that is a result of growing up with her and there are a lot of small things that some may never notice that are deep rooted in my inner voice. My inner strength came from her because she had the strongest "faith" that I had ever seen in my entire life. She didn't have to say it, it was in her actions and the way she dealt with pain until the day she died. She had suffered so much loss in her life when she lost the love of her life before I was born and then her only daughter to tragic circumstances. Even when she was in the critical condition unit in the hospital, she refused surgery in front of me and the only chance for her to live longer. She knew her time was done and she did not want to burden anyone with the next stage of living when she already knew that she was meant to go and she was ready.
That day I was in the gym and running on a treadmill and so terrified that I cried. I knew that she was about to leave me and I was scared to go to the hospital alone. But I had to go because it was important for me to be there so I left the gym and drove over to UCLA Hospital. The strange thing was when I was walking down the long hallway to her room and there was no way that she knew I was coming and I was still so far away, she said my name and asked me if it was me? I stopped in my tracks and looked around because I wondered if her spirit was already leaving and floating in the hallway. Nothing else could explain how she knew because I never checked in because I could not stop crying. When I reached her room I walked in to stand beside her and she had air blowing into her mouth and nose because she could not breathe that well. She asked me what the date was trying to speak over the sound of the air machine and when I told her she laid down and shut her eyes with a sort of calm on her face that I recognized. When I got home I tried to ring her church many times to make sure that her prayer group would come and be with her before she died. I was told that they made it just in time and right before she headed to the end of her road in the area of the hospital where people die. I was there when she took her last breath and although she was not completely conscious I knew that she heard me. I told her not to worry and that I would be fine and then my husband assured her that she was free to go and in a sudden and relaxed breath, she was gone.
I felt her energy leave the room and by no means am I saying that I'm describing any sort of phenomenom, but the glow in the room was gone and I felt she was not there at all in any form. When someone dies I try to imagine them going to a beautiful place like in the South with all of the flowers and the beautiful Georgian houses with the big white pillars. I see them in a rocking chair with beautiful classical music playing in the background and they are at total peace. I imagine that they are having tea parties with elegant china decorating the tables and even the butter is in a crystal holder.
Most of all I see my grandmother with the love of her life and her only daughter laughing and enjoying each others company in a beautiful sort of heaven. The funny thing is that she died the same day as her husband did, like she was waiting for that day to come so she could be with him. That was why she asked me that day in the hospital. What a beautiful thought.
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