“What is tomorrow’s date?” I asked, prepping the next day’s sign in sheets on the front counter at work.
“August 6th.” she replied
“My grandmother’s birthday.” I replied, instinctively, not realizing what I was saying till the words had already fallen.
“Aww, well Happy Birthday to your grandmother!”
“She’s….she passed away a long time ago.” I could feel the tears forming. It has been 7 years since she passed away, and that moment still felt fresh. “Sorry.” My co-worker says, not really sure what else to say.
She keeps popping up, in conversations, in pictures, in those smells that remind you of something.
Later that evening I was unpacking yet another box, hoping to make some progress a full month after moving, and I came across the photo albums. I pulled out the album that contained the pictures from my summer camp experiences – hoping for a happy trip down memory lane. About halfway through, I came across a series from one of her birthday celebrations. Cruising around the bayou in the Lady Anderson.
I can’t seem to get her out of my head lately. I keep remembering the way I always bent down to hug her, and how she would raise her cheek up for a kiss first. The sound of fizzing coke and ice cubes in a real glass are the sounds of late afternoons in her living room. When funny commercials came on T.V., she would call our house, to tell us how they made her laugh. That annoyed us then – they were just commercials after all!
I remember being 13 or 14, riding in her car one morning on the way to church. I can’t remember why it was just the two of us – a rarity, as most often, my sister would be tagging along, and likely a cousin or two. But that day, it was just the two of us. We were talking about our church’s newest and first-ever female pastor. My grandmother challenged my preconceived notions of who belonged in ministry that day, and forever altered my views of equality and calling.
She loved to tell stories. There were some stories that became legends due to the fact that she told them so often. But sometimes, she would surprise us with a new story of her and Brother from when they were kids. Or a tale of life during the war. It didn’t matter if she was telling a story for the first time or the hundredth. If she did not have your full, undivided attention, she found a way to get it. Calling you out, kicking your foot, re-telling the story to be sure to be heard, rapping canes – all methods of ensuring the spotlight rested on her just a littler longer.
She was my biggest fan. I never felt like there was something she didn’t think I could do. Preach in “big church” on Mother’s Day? She was front and center. Travel to Africa when I was 16? She helped me think of ways to raise funds. Start graduate school in Kentucky with little idea of what I actually wanted to do? She wanted to know all about every book I was reading and the friends I was making. (and of course, she always wanted to tell me about the time she and my grandfather went to Derby!)
Even now, with her passing many years behind me, I still consider her my biggest fan. I think all the time about how proud I think she would be. I know how much she would love to hear stories from my job. She would laugh at the silly antics of the kiddos, and hug me tighter when I shared the sad stories. It may be weird, but I feel her, almost daily, as I go about my work. I feel her presence, encouraging me. It usually is this current that keeps me going; its what helps me smile when I want to cry; and what gives me that extra big of courage in tough conversations. I know its her, even when I forget to recognize where it came from. I know its her, because the best parts of me are a result of her loving me.