Thursday, September 19, 2013

Always Missing Her

Mrs. G. has written many times about her grandmother, a loving,  funny, loyal, odd bird kind of broad, a second mother, really. She married Mrs G's grandfather on their first date and they were together for 56 years. When he pulled some bullshit way back in the day with another woman, Mrs. G's grandmother leased out their bedroom to a young newlywed couple and forced him to sleep in his car until the six month lease was up.

Mrs. G. has mentioned before that her grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Western Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Alternative Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother, a woman of modest means, was a proponent of what we now call Pipe Dream Medicine—the kind that did not cost more than a four ounce tub of Vicks Vaporub or a jar of yellow mustard.
She also believed she was a licensed physician with a medical degree from the University of I Think Doctors Are Full Of Shit.
She was a confident woman and when she told you to do something, you let nothing but fear and common sense stop you from doing it. Fast.
Mrs. G’s grandmother believed in home remedies, and Mrs. G. was her last generation of guinea pig. So Mrs. G. endured the mustard plaster and the onion poultice. She endured arbitrary spoonfuls of cod-liver oil and Phillip’s Milk of the devil Magnesia. She endured…well, you get the idea, she just endured.  The first day of a sore throat demanded round-the-clock gargling with salt water. The second day of a sore throat demanded tonsils being painted with liquid mercury red Mercurochrome. The third day of a sore throat demanded swallowing a substantial dollop of Mentholatum. The fourth day of a sore throat demanded a mild cussing out, because, clearly, you, the afflicted, were at fault and not following her exclusive, unwavering and tirelessly recited Hippocratic Oath: MIND OVER MATTER!
Oh, and just so you know, menstrual cramps are nonexistent and for the weak.
Mrs. G. would persuasively cry and carry on during each of these iron-handed (but mainly innocuous) procedures for survival purposes only, because another of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical convictions was that the level of pain was directly proportional to the level of cure. If it didn't hurt, it didn't heal.  Hysterics were required.
Mrs. G. begged her mother for orange baby aspirin or grape Robitussun—for First-Do-No-Harm mercy, but Mrs. G’s mother just shrugged it off and told Mrs. G. to count her lucky stars that she had not been forced to endure her grandmother’s chief, front office miracle cure: the enema. Apparently, back in the early days of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical residency, also known as Mrs. G’s mother’s childhood, Mrs. G’s grandmother believed an enema was akin to the polio vaccine in its curative properties, and she administered them liberally. Mrs. G’s aunt has confirmed the horror.
Mrs. G's grandmother  did not trust telephones, grocery store clerks, or the post office. She despised all politicians besides FDR and Jimmy Carter. She was not friendly to many people outside the family, a nearly impenetrable, private person unless it was your privacy that required penetrating. She was less into Neighborhood Watch and more into Neighborhood Stalk. If anything was going down on West Lakeland Drive, it would not be on her beat. Her two greatest passions were Murder She Wrote and the Memphis State Tigers. Mrs. G's grandmother rarely held her tongue about anything at social gatherings and believed if you consumed alcohol more than zero times a year, you were a full-fledged alcoholic. She was judgmental and sometimes difficult to be around. Her favorite candy was Aplets & Cotletts (which she hid on the top shelf of the linen closet) and if you begged, pleaded and promised to never shave above your knees, she might, might share a piece or two with you. 

Mrs. G's grandmother loved Christmas. Let's just say it was her Secret Boyfriend. She spent months sewing felt snowmen and sparkly sequins onto stockings, crocheting red and green toilet paper roll covers and saving her sheets and sheets of green stamps to trade in for a porcelain sheep, camel or surplus Baby Jesus to add to her colossal Nativity Scene.

In 1973, flocked Christmas trees were all the rage. Despite Mrs. G's Grandfather's and Uncle Hugh's urging, no pleading, that she just go and buy one of these trees off the lot, Mrs. G's grandmother insisted that she could flock her own for half the price. So she filled her Electrolux vacuum cleaner canister with white asbestochemical snow and switched the vacuum hose around so that rather than sucking in, it blew out. She flocked her tree, for sure, but in her spirited holiday-induced hysteria and her inability to limit the vacuum's lawless spray, she also flocked most of the den. By the time she was finished, it looked like there had been some sort of radioactive fallout of miniature marshmallows and synthetic dandruff. The whole house smelled strangely of Tupperware. It was sensational.

Today marks the 17th year since Mrs. G's grandmother died. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor, given six weeks to live and died in two. She wasn't a procrastinator.

It is not a sad day for Mrs. G, not at all. It's a day centered around memories of a woman Mrs. G. loved with all of her beating heart.

Tired, Mrs. G. hit the sack tonight at 8pm tonight and slept soundly until her eyes popped open at 1:16am. She lay in bed, hoping to drift off but found herself thinking once more of this woman who gave her so much.

Mrs. G. periodically lived months at her grandparents' house, a house that embodied unconditional love, security, respect, clean cotton sheets and three squares a day.

The memory Mrs. G. is sitting with in this wee hour of the night is when her grandmother would crawl into Mrs. G's bed, smelling of Pond's Cold Cream and, her prophylactic antibiotic of choice, Vicks Vaporub, and tell Mrs. G. homemade stories, various riffs on brave, tiny fairies who hid in the oak and magnolia trees in her grandparents' backyard. The fairies wore silky skirts of butterfly wings and bathed in acorn caps. They slept in downy birds' nests and rode fireflies from tree to tree. These were gutsy fairies and not surprisingly, given Mrs. G's grandmother's straight-laced nature, asexual. If there were any boy fairies flitting around the neighborhood, they did not dare cross Mrs. G's grandmother's property line. So the two of them would snuggle up, hold hands and fully inhabit the moment, their moment. When Mrs. G's grandmother slipped out of Mrs. G's bed to go to her own, they would spend a moment or two whispering about possible scenarios of what the fairies would do the next night and the night after that.

Be good to children and they will never forget you. 

Remembering you tonight, Mamaw. 


  1. My mother also graduated from "University of I Think Doctors Are Full Of Shit" (love this line!).

    I never knew either of my grandmothers and do feel as though I missed out on something special.

    Great story.

  2. I love it. Now even I miss her.

    Jen H

  3. In much the same way as the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" believed that Windex could fix anything, my father still believes in Vicks. It can cure anything from athletes foot to cancer. Lovely rememberings (is that a word?), Mrs. G.

  4. Pure unadulterated wonderful.

  5. Love you, Mrs. G. And you wouldn't be the person you are without your Mamaw, so love her, too. She sounds exceptional! PS Is that a Sally Mann photo at the top of the page?

    1. Yes it is, Laura, and she gave me permission to use it. Swoon!

  6. This is so good. You're an awesome writer.

    My father believed in the antiseptic properties of Dial orange soap.

  7. Lovely way to start my day, finding this post....
    And my parents believed in Vicks too.

  8. "if you begged, pleaded and promised to never shave above your knees" Example of the classic Mrs. G writing, that I love. My best friend growing up, her grandmother used to regularly give her enemas when she was a girl. And I regularly thanked my stars that I didn't have a grandmother so inclined.

    p.s. My grandmother was Mamaw (though we spelled it Mama) and I loved her very much and miss her deeply.

  9. Sounds very much like my Grandmother, although she was a very outgoing, hysterically funny lady. My mother had to endure things like a spoonful of "sugar and turpentine" to cure worms she didn't even have. I think our geriatrics today are living so long because they are the strongest of their generation. Otherwise their home remedies would have killed them off decades ago. My grandmother lived until 2 months shy of 100 years old - no one was going to tell HER how long to live!

  10. What a beautiful tribute. Makes me miss my Grandma and Granny. Two very different women that I didn't learn to appreciate until my adult years. And I still believe in the power of Vicks. Best cough remedy ever!! My kids will remember me as the ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, vicks, cinnamon/honey doctor!

  11. If every child had that kind of love, the world would be a better place.

  12. I think my Grandma graduated from that same medical school, as did my mother :).

    Thank you for the memories and the laughs - a wonderful woman to have had in your life!

  13. Beautiful memories and beautifully written.

  14. Sounds like she was consistent, solid and present, which are some of the very best qualities a person can possess. I'll raise my glass to her.

  15. Wow. That was a stunningly beautiful tribute, Mrs. G. Some of your best writing.

  16. This is absolutely gorgeous, thanks for this Mrs. G.

  17. LOVE THIS! Hugs to you! And good advice as I'm raising my three little ones!

  18. Love this tribute -- is it wrong for me to admit I still prescribe to the if it doesn't hurt... philosophy? And I'm married to a physician. Shh.

  19. I hope that someday I can be the grandmother who spins stories of fairies riding fireflies.
    May you have many happy memories, Mrs. G.

  20. You are such a gifted, talented, special person to share this wonderful love with us. Thanks Mamaw for helping Mrs. G become the awesome person she is.

  21. My mom always said "No one will ever love you like your mother", well, I would add my nana to that....I know I was the answer to her prayers. That unconditional love can only make a child strong. To have such a wonderful memory of her and the fairies, well, it brought tears to my eyes....but also took my breath away. When I put my grand baby to bed, after reading her story, she always wants me to lay with her a bit to talk some more. So often I'm in a rush.....tonight, I'll tell her about the fairies.

  22. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother and what a marvelous imagination she had with her bedtime tales. Thanks for sharing.

    My mother probably was around your grandmother's age and Aplets and Cotlets were her favorite candies as well. She was so excited when we moved to Portland and she could get them when she visited. Thankfully, she never forced swallowing of Mentholatum but I remember the Mercurochrome, the Phillips MofM and the occasional dreaded enema.

  23. Your beautiful words of love for your Mamaw bring tears to my eyes. My own dear Grandmother was the source of love and sanity in a world of hurt created by a mentally ill mother. Although Grandma lost her own mother at the age of eight, she become the true mother to myself and my siblings and many others throughout her ninety-seven years of joyful living. As a new grandmother, I will never underestimate the power of a close and loving relationship with a grandchild! Your writing inspires me!

  24. Ah, the magical powers of Vicks Vaporub! My grandmother always wanted me to swallow it for some reason. This was such wonderful writing and it reminds me of my dearly departed maternal grandmother. She didn't like anyone other than family either...and was even suspicious of some of them! In her later years she was suffering from Alzheimer's but the stories were hilarious. One Sunday as she was fading in and out of conciousness, she told her husband (my grandfather who was long dead) that if he tried to come near her any more she was going to 'sew it up' as she was tired of all the sex. This just came out of the blue and my mom, aunt and I were at first stunned (grandmother never ever discussed delicate matters) and then burst out laughing. It was a point of relief during a tough time. I will never forget her; thanks for reminding me today about her; it made me smile and I needed that.

    ReplyDelete's our secret.