Today my grandmother would be 104 years old. Here is her baby picture...
If you see joy and an excitement for life, doused with spunkiness and a lot of mischiefism, you'll have an idea of my grandmother's personality.
She grew up in the deep South, of Bible-Belt culture, and as a teenager was the first to wear a low-back swimsuit. She smoked and was the first in the family to get divorced.
Throughout her life, she was a consternation to those who raised her, and even her own daughter.
Yet Grandmom and I totally understood each other, and when she entertained me about some of her adventures, we would fall into such a state of giggles we couldn't talk.
I can remember one time when she could have disciplined me. I was a teenager and was fed up with my parents. By the end of my rant, I had gone "global," announcing that teenagers should rule the world. I was absolutely serious about the whole thing. (You know how earnest we were back then.)
Rather than reprimanding me, she started laughing- I'm not sure if was at me or the idea of teenagers ruling the world- but it didn't hurt my feelings because I knew she loved me.
She just kept laughing and within a few minutes I was laughing, too.
She adored my two boys, and often, when he was little, my older son Matthew and I would argue about who was Grandmom's favorite, him or me. I had grown up hearing her call me her "pride and joy," so I was sure it was me.
Here she is at a birthday party I had for her. She was in her 80's. It's obvious the fire in her had not faded with time. (That's her sister in the background who is coming up on her 102nd birthday.)
I loved, I absolutely loved her eyebrows.
Grandmom was told she had terminal cancer in April of 2004. For four more months, she lived with the joy and happiness that was so her. I had the honor of caring for her up until the end. What an example of courage.
Grandmom's love gave me hope during some dark times in our family. Her love for me gave me the courage to be myself, regardless of what others thought. And my grandmother's love made me smile and laugh- a lot.
It still does.
Her final words to me, "Follow your dreams."
I am, Grandmom. I am.
Happy Birthday, Grandmom. I love you forever...
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.