a life well lived

On Sunday, January 20, 2012, my family and I will all convene in West Monroe, Louisiana to celebrate my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. This post may sound like an obit, but it is really just an expression of my love for her.

Meme (as we all called her) was a loving, roly-poly kind of grandmother. One of her main goals in life was to see that we all had enough to eat – and boy was her cooking wonderful. When people talk about “good ol’ down-home Southern cooking”, they were, naturally, talking about Meme’s cooking. She is best remembered for the following: Cheese and Spaghetti (with cream of mushroom soup), Chicken N Dumplins, corn bread, fresh-baked yeast rolls and her infamous cornbread dressing.

I respect her most for the dedication she has had for her family: nursing a sick sister, taking care of her mother, and of course raising two unruly boys (sorry dad!). All even in spite of being the cause for a major rift in the family – she held her own.

Some of my most fond memories of her have been after she moved in with my parents for a while. She had a series of small strokes in 1995 and was really unable to take care of herself. The small strokes effected her memory in such a way that she could not remember what things were called, but could totally remember what they were used for – so in trying to communicate she would say the first word that came to mind – and as you can imagine, some of those first words were hilarious.

One particular episode came one night at the dinner table. We were finishing dinner and Meme stood up and announced “well, I’m going to go rake the cat.” (Actually, I heard “rape”, so you can imagine my initial cause for concern.) I replied, rather cautiously, “Um…I don’t think he’ll like that very much…” and she replied rather confidently, “oh yes, he loves it.” Well, we spent some more time trying to question her and decipher what she was trying to say and it turns out that he did like it – being brushed, anyway. (We later figured out that while she could not remember specific words at the time, the substitutes were actually very similar in nature…raking and brushing are really the same motion and idea, just on different scales.)

Another thing that has impressed me about her is her creativity and artistic ability. She is a crocheter – always making things like table clothes and runners (she does thread crochet, which is teeny-tiny stuff!), and she has done lots of embroidery, embellishing many a t-shirt for us. She has even done some painting in her time (I have 2 lovely paintings hanging up in my house right now). What I will remember her most for would be the porcelain doll she made for me when I was 21. She had the head, arms and legs cast and fired, then she painted them and assembled the doll, making the body and clothing herself. Most of my friends think the doll is creepy (in a Freddy sort of way), but I think it is just marvelous and would not trade it for anything.

So this birthday – #90 – is a little bitter-sweet. Meme has been showing signs of early, onset dementia and has recurring UTIs, the medicine for which causes her to be a little loopey. I was there to visit in December and she was very weak and barely audible. She tends to fall asleep in the middle of sentences. But – and this is a really big one – but, she has always knows who we are when we visit. (Even if she doesn’t quite know “when” we are!)

Meme, I can’t wait to see you tomorrow. I love you very much! Happy Birthday, sweetheart!



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