Friday, March 28, 2014

Red Pepper & Prince Albert, Reunited

My dearest Emma,

What a hard week this has been. Your schedule has been completely thrown off. Naps didn't happen when they should, almost every meal was take-out, & I was not available to you like I normally am. Except for a melt-down or two, you handled beautifully the disruption to your normally routine & fairly placid life. I'm so proud of you. I have, in no small way, your sweet Daddy to thank for this. It's been a heartbreaking week for me, & he's been right by my side the whole way - supporting me, helping me, being a shoulder to cry on, & taking on the tasks that I simply wasn't able to do. It would have been sheer misery without him. Quite honestly, without his heroic effort, I would have missed out on the opportunity to see one of the dearest souls who ever lived before she breathed her last. I'm grateful to God for the gift your Daddy is to me.

You won't remember the sorrow of this week, but I'll never forget it. It's hard to think that it's already been a week. One week since I lost my Granny. One week since one of the brightest lights of my life dimmed, flickered, & went out. Just two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, this spunky, precious lady met her Lord & Savior face to face. What was the happiest day of her whole life was one of the saddest for me. Even now, my eyes are welling up with tears; but, make no mistake, these tears are for me, not her. They are for my loss, because I will - I already do - miss her something awful. I cry, also, for you, because you will never know her this side of heaven, & that is a great loss. I want you to know her as I do, though, so let me tell you about the Granny I grew up with.

First of all, she was as sweet as her famous iced tea, which is still the benchmark for tea in my book. "Well, it's not like Granny's" is my common reply when someone asks how the tea is. Secondly, she could cook. Especially desserts. All of them are wonderful, but we each have favorites. Your Mawmaw is partial to Granny's baked chocolate pudding, your Uncle Chris loves her lemon cake, & I adore her World's Best Cookies. I never ate a bad meal from her table, but the best of all was her Creole Sauce & Rice topped with a heaping amount of Parmesan cheese, all mixed together & patted down. Yes, sir! Good stuff!

Granny's laugh is infectious. I say "is" because the thought of it still makes me smile. Plus, I reckon she's laughing more now than she ever did before. And with our crazy family picking on her about dancing on the table, telling stories about Papaw Jack, & fighting over who was her favorite grandchild (me, obviously), she had plenty to laugh about! Her laugh was so infectious that she could be clear on the other side of the house, & her laugh would set me to giggling.

Every single time we stayed with her, Chris slept in the "school room", & I slept in her bed with her. Even when I was a teenager or when Chris went out to Papaw's, I slept with her. One night, I awoke to her saying,  "Ow! Oh! Oh!" & discovered that my dream about getting into a fight with Chris had turned into me bopping my poor sleeping Granny on the head! (It's our family's curse that I still laugh at that memory.) I remember feeling awful & apologizing, but promptly falling back asleep. She never said a thing about it the next day. Thankfully, it didn't make her skittish about continuing to share the bed with me. We even shared a bed the night before your Daddy & I got married. I treasure that memory.

Granny had all sorts of quirks & traits that made her so very lovable, & there are memories of her that still make me smile. She beat your back when she gave hugs. She closed her eyes when she talked on the phone (something I caught myself doing the other day). She would go through every other family member's name before getting to yours (Lisa, Brandy, Steve, CHRISSY!). She always kept Christmas coloring books for me because she knew I loved them. She sat on the floor & played Go Fish with Chris & me. She & I would go for walks & the insects would swarm around me & even dive bomb my head despite me being slathered in repellant while leaving her unprotected self completely alone (true story). She took us to the school with her (she taught 2nd grade for 20 years) so we could play in their blue carpeted gym. She bought us BBQ sandwiches at Claiborne's & snow cones at the stand at the end of her street. She made bubble baths for me, let us play in the sprinklers, & had Papaw set up a swing set for us. She'd sit on her front steps while I hung from the monkey bar & Chris leaped from the tire swing hanging from her big Oak tree. We set off fireworks in her driveway & watched "The Wizard of Oz" every year when it came on TV. Her living room at night with the curtains drawn was cozy & dim. I still try to get that effect myself in our home, even if it's just a corner. She loved to read & kept a little notebook of the books she'd read. She & Papaw would talk on the CB radio that sat by her bed; his handle was Prince Albert (the tobacco brand he rolled his cigarettes from) & hers was Red Pepper (red hair + feisty personality = her). She collected spoons, & they hung on her wall in the kitchen. She was always busy, always wanting to clean & help. She had pictures of every family member on the wall in her "school room". I only saw her angry once in my entire life. She said a cuss word, & I remember being shocked that she knew that word!

I look around our house & see vestiges of her:  Her cast iron skillets that I cook in every morning. Her chest of drawers that sits in our room & holds my sewing fabric & her sewing kit. Our little yellow sofa, "Granny's sofa" with the wooden frame, & the matching rocker. Her scalloped glass amber bowl (my favorite) that I sobbed over when it broke a few months ago. The little wooden mirror hanging in our hallway that used to hang in her front bedroom. Her mouli grater that I always use to grate cheese (just like she did when making pear salads for me). The "Autumn in New England" CD that she bought me because I loved hers so much. The hummingbird feeder hanging on our porch, which was never hers, but reminds me of how she always had one filled for her little feathered guests. The sound of a ceiling fan & the sight of curtains billowing in the breeze, which remind me of all the naps I took in her bed. The sound of night critters in the summer that always take me back to her little single-wide that was sort of in town yet almost in the country. The sight of pine trees stretching up to the sky, swaying back & forth in the wind just like those behind her house.

Granny was special. Spunky. Funny. Fun. Precious. Adorable. Beloved. Missed. These are all words that describe Ellie Evelyn Willis, your great grandmother. And, of course, Red Pepper, who has now been reunited with her Prince Albert before the King of Kings. One day, I pray you'll get to meet her. I guarantee you'll love her as much as we all do. And one of the beautiful things about that day is that we'll be able to throw away one of her adjectives, because she'll be missed no more. I look forward to that day. Until then, I'll tell you stories about your "Hip Granny" & we'll live out her legacy of spunkiness, fun, good food, & sweet tea.

Love Always,