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A Tribute to my Grandma

I received some wonderful feedback from many of you regarding my last post.  Particularly as it related to my relationship with my Grandma.  Because of that, I have decided to share something that I wrote for her on May 21, 2000, the day after she died.  I have included it below exactly how it was written for her.  As a quick backdrop – I spent many summers with my grandparents in Tennessee.  I grew up in southern California, so the woods of Stewart County were like a different world to me.  My Grandpa was a carpenter, and he built their home, deep in the woods and only a couple of miles from Lake Barkley.  A wonderful little place called Loon Bay.

A Tribute To My Grandma

Mike Shippey

The sounds of crickets and katydids are chirping in my ears, the night is dark but full of sound.  I lay in bed so anxious to get to sleep, only because it means I will wake up sooner to another day of wonder and surprise, and to a big, fresh home-cooked breakfast that is fit for a king.

It is Loon Bay.  It is Grandma’s house.  Anytime…growing up.

I watched the lightening bugs only hours before as they brightened up the dusk with their flashing yellow and green tails.  not long before that I was standing at the back of the old Ford pickup truck, scaling the fish I had caught that day at Lake Barkley.  Before I left to go fishing I played a few hands of cards with Grandma, after scarfing down green beans from the garden, fried crappie from the freezer, and of course…Grandma’s ho cakes!  What a day!  Every day, any day.

So far this summer I have learned the difference between a wasp and a yellow jacket, poison oak and poison ivy and a wren and a sparrow.  I have eaten corn, beans, tomatoes, squash and okra from the garden. I’ve tasted the best homemade ice cream on the planet…and I just got here!

Sometimes I can remember those days and nights like they were yesterday.  They were really many years ago.  They will forever be in my heart and remind me of my Grandma.

As I got older, Grandma just kept getting more special.  She was, at times, my biggest fan.  She laughed at all of my jokes and constantly told me how proud of me she was.  It sure made being around her easy.  You know that really sums up the essence of the person that she was.

We talked about a lot of stuff.  We played a lot of Rook and oh, how we jammed together on the piano.  We would start off with church songs, but soon found our way to boogie-woogie.  There wasn’t much stopping Grandma once she cut loose on the ivories.  She could play all night long.  Just throw her a request and hold on.  I remember her playing for us anytime we wanted.

And I can still smell the ho cakes frying in the pan.  She used to say that she made them just for me.  I remember that she cooked for everyone.  I mean lunch was like a potluck dinner.  She always found a way to work those ho cakes into every meal that I was a part of.  They went with fish, chicken, roast, peanut butter, or anything really…you name it.  When she said she made them just for me, I felt on top of the world.  She always had a way of making you feel that way…even at lunch.

“If you could see me now, I’m walking streets of gold,

If you could see me now, I’m standing strong and whole,

If you could see me now, you’d know I’ve seen His face,

And you wouldn’t want me to ever leave this place”

-If You Could See Me Now by Michael English

My Grandma died Saturday morning, May 20th, 2000, after suffering through six years of Alzheimer’s Disease.  It was a cruel fate dealt to a person who brought so much happiness and joy into this life.  She left this world, which didn’t deserve her and entered a world that she deserves so much.  I say heaven is a better place now, and I know that it’s true.  Grandma always made every place better.  I wish I could bring back those days.  But I know that I can’t.  Boy, was I lucky to have them!

There was never a person who lived their life more for others than Grandma did.  She was, as we say, the real deal.  A true modern day saint, who touched us all and was so happy to do so.  She had a smile that would light up the room, light up your day, or light up your life.  She really cared about whatever it was you had to say and she really did anything she possibly could do to make our lives better and more enjoyable.

We never had to buy her a “World’s Best Grandma” tee shirt or coffee mug.  It was just one of those things in life that was true and we all knew it.  We told her, and I hope she believed us.  We had the world’s best Grandma!

Those summers growing up were the best.  They shaped my life and had a great deal to do with who I am today.  I will forever be thankful to my Grandma.  She always had time for me and she always had things to say to me.  I will keep some of those things to myself and take them with me to my own grave.  I cherished the moments that I shared with her and I always will.

Role models are hard to come by and even harder to follow when they do come along.  Here was a person that truly lived a model life.  She walked the walk and talked the talk.  She set a standard that should shame all of us just a little.

Grandma never had anything more important to do than what was most important to the people around her.  There was never an excuse for why she couldn’t be there.  She didn’t even offer up a reason when it might have been convenient to do so.  She truly found the joy in life by giving joy to those who lived around her.

Willie Mays once said, “It’s not difficult to be great from time to time.  What’s difficult is to be great every day”

Grandma sure made the difficult look easy!

Thank you for everything you were, are, and always will be to me.  You are the best!

Thank you for passing your kind heart and benevolent spirit along to my own Mother.  I know that my children will be able to say these things about their Grandma, too.  And I do need to mention my Mom in this tribute as well.  She was the biggest part of Grandma’s life for the last six years…all the way until the end.

Thanks Mom, for being the one to step up and give back to Grandma the way she gave to all of us.  You allowed her to live through that wicked disease that renders it’s victims death without dignity, with love and perfect dignity, style and grace.  You allowed her to be part of the family that she loved so much and gave so much to in her lifetime.  I wish that we all could have been like you.  You are my Hero.

I will miss you Grandma.  You made this place a better one for all of us.  I still hear the crickets at night and I still see the lightening bugs doing their thing, but truly, the world is just not as cool without you.

I love you.  Thank you.  See you again, someday.


In loving memory, Juanita Cox, April 11, 1920 – May 20, 2000

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