“An Interesting Woman,” Sept. 15, 2021

How well do you know the people you love? What stories do you tell about them? How do you hope they’ll remember you?

Most people are interesting, if we get to know them. But to me, my grandmother was more interesting than most. I love to tell stories about her. Especially the ones she hoped I’d forget.

She and my granddad married when they were too young to know better, but their marriage and their love lasted forever. One of my favorite memories is seeing them slow dance together in the kitchen to music that played only in their hearts.

They had twelve babies, suffered the loss of two, and raised nine chatty girls and one timid boy who seldom got much chance to speak. The kids grew up, married and produced a barn full of grandkids. We were close as a family, packing like dressed-up sardines into my grandparents’ house to share Sunday dinner, sit on the porch, swap stories and swat flies.

Not all of my memories of my grandmother are happy ones. My mother married my dad when she was 15, divorced him when I was 2, and moved back home with my older sister and me to live with her parents. I recall, as a child, covering my ears at the sound of heated, hurtful arguments between the two women I loved most.

I was 4, and didn’t know why they fought. I later learned reasons, but reasons aren’t always a cause. Some people are like fire and gasoline. They can’t mix without blowing up.

Mama got a job as a waitress, and Grandmama took care of me. I loved it. I was sure I was her favorite grandchild for two reasons: One, I needed to be somebody’s favorite. And two, she told me I was hers.

My cousins claimed she said they were her favorites, too. But with them, she was being nice. With me, she really meant it. I wish you could’ve known her.

She was a preacher’s wife who seldom went to church, said she loved Jesus, but couldn’t abide sinners pretending to be saints.

She liked to play cards with Aunt Agnes against Granddad and Uncle Hugo, and loved to win, even if she had to cheat. If she gave me wink, it meant the menfolk were going down.

She wore fancy hats and lots of costume jewelry and let me try them on any time I pleased.

She was a mischievous woman who loved a good joke. For years, she had an ill-tempered chihuahua named Poochie. And for a short while, she had a pet monkey. I think the monkey was a gift from Aunt Jane and Uncle Leory, who went to Florida every summer with their seven kids, an assortment of dogs and my sister. I begged to go, too, but they said there wasn’t room in the pickup for one more.

Grandmother loved that monkey, even when it sneaked in the closet and relieved itself on Granddad’s Sunday shoes. She told Granddad she would go to church if he would preach in those shoes. He was not amused and the monkey had to go.

For me, the most interesting thing about my grandmother was how she made me feel—smart and capable and loved. When I wanted to talk, she listened. If I needed anything—a dish of peach cobbler, a shoulder to cry on or just a good laugh—I could count on her.

I counted on her most every day when I was growing. And I count on her still in memory.

I wonder what my loved ones will remember about me when I’m not around to remind them? What stories will they tell?

I hope they’ll remember that I made them feel smart and capable and loved. That I listened, baked peach cobbler, gave them a shoulder to cry on, made them laugh, and told every one of them they are my favorite, because they are.

I want them to count on me forever. And I’d love for them to tell stories about me. But not the stories I hope they’ll forget.

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