At the funeral, I couldn't help but reflect on my own memories of her. So many described her as “prim and proper” and I couldn't help but smile. I had the privilege of also seeing a very different side.
She lived up to that status, of course, in that my first activities with her were to learn cursive, to help clean the house (although, I think she considered me a lost cause when it came to sweeping), and to learn scriptures and different songs. She taught me to have a love of books and music, a love I still carry today.
When I got engaged, Grandaddy reflected on his courtship of Nana. He smiled when he spoke about her being too proper to eat or drink in front of her. Specifically, he mentioned when he would buy her a coke and she would not take a sip unless he wasn't looking. He also told me how she refused the first time he asked her about marriage. Apparently it wasn't “proper” unless he had certain requirements met. Specifically, a house. So, later he came back to her and approached her about it, handing her the keys to her new house. When he asked “can we get married now?” she responded with “I guess so.” I guess I'm more related than I know... but technically I didn't tell Devin yes either (I forgot and when prompted, I said “yeah, that,” but still same end result... technically).
I grew up spending my summers at Nana and Grandaddy's farm. Sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. Usually the distinction depended on how much, uh, shall we say “influence” grandaddy had on the matter. He and Nana had a beautifully committed, loving, and “complementary” relationship. For those that have had education in art, they know the term complementary to refer to the color wheel and the color that is directly across/furthest away from the selected color; a complete opposite, if you will. The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look. This contrast in personalities created an equally vibrant love.
Now, a segway from the word “vibrant” to refer to my Nana. I got to see where Nana's very Irish side came in. As I said previously, Grandaddy's “influence” affected a lot. Sometimes it led to mischievous acts for my sister and myself. A lot of the funny memories I have involve a very un-cherubic face winking at my sister and I before approaching Nana with several “hey old lady” comments and usually involving a pinch on her butt. I've never seen a woman so quick to be fired up... nor have I see a dishcloth fly so fast or a broom move so quick. This was usually made all the more funny and equally alarming by her long morning flannel robe and hair in rollers.
This “vibrant” woman is also guilty of chasing Jenna and I down in the field with Grandaddy as we were hiding from her making us do chores. Most of the cursing from her then was “I swear,” “I have never,” or calling us hellions. I have never seen a woman more talented at cursing at grandkids without actually using curse words. I guess we were the instigators in that.
I profoundly remember this “vibrant” woman's assertive and quick action on several occasions. At the forefront of my mind are the memories of being chased by bees and her running after me with a pocket knife (a horrifying image for me at the time) to flick the bees out of my hair, and putting my cat out when he was on fire (long story short, cat walked on the table where there was a candle. We all stared, and my Nana was the only one to think to put him out... poor cat).
I have always felt like an odd person out in my family mix (not negative, I promise, just odd and, well, different). I was into theater and the arts. I enjoyed rock music, writing, and black clothes. I liked psychological thriller movies and didn't like country music. In my family, I have cheerleaders, popular and sporty men and women, beach loving kiddies and die hard country fans. So, black sheep definitely.
Nana definitely needed an adjustment period here, but she still had her core personality. You can imagine the break in poise when she sees her dark clothing toting granddaughter. I think I even got her to listen to rock music once or twice. It didn't go well, but she still listened. Nana was very traditional, but she loved me, and I loved her. She would always try to get me in dresses or lightly colored clothes. It didn't work, despite her... encouragement. Regardless of this, she supported and loved me and would tell me every time she saw me. Along with what she called “love pinches.” Never quite figured that one out.
This “vibrant” woman we will now describe as simply fiery Irish. And what is another trait that they are known for? STUBBORNNESS and IMPATIENCE!!! You could never do anything for her. She would never ask. If she did ask.... ya better do it. The memory that sticks out most sadly ended in injury, but was still true to being my Nana. There were wasp nests on the front of the house and she asked Grandaddy to spray them and get rid of them. He said to wait and he would do them eventually. But... this is my Nana. Think she would ask him to do it again? Think she would wait for him to do it? Nope. Next thing the family knows, we're getting a call saying Nana hurt her knees after trying to take on a wasp nest on her own.
As I said, Nana was very traditional. In addition to her telling me she loved me every time she saw me, she would ask me the same questions:
1. Are you married yet?
2. Do you have a boyfriend?
3. Do you have kids yet?
She seemed to have such urgency in these three continual questions. It got to a point where I would pick on her and say, “No, Nana, I'm a lesbian. Don't you remember meeting my girlfriend last week?” The shock was always priceless, but she quickly gathered her poise, told me she loved me anyways, and then would usually ask if I was sure.
I know these three questions were more than their superficial traditional requirements. She wanted to know what they represented:
1. Have you found the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, who makes you happy, who makes you laugh. Someone you trust? Someone you have faith in?
2. Have you started seeking companionship? Are you at a point where you would like to?
3. Where are my greatgranbabies!? (Just kidding). Will my legacy live on? Will you teach good values? Will they know the love I've taught you?
When Nana was moved to in home hospice, I was worried, but relieved that it was in home. I worried about Grandaddy with that too. My final memory is in that home with her.
I had brought Devin home to meet Grandaddy after we were engaged. After a very stern sit down between Grandaddy and Devin and a very painful surrendering of the explanation to Grandaddy of what a software engineer was, I was able to come back into the room and see Nana. Nana hadn't really called me by my name in years. She hadn't really acknowledged me. The last time I was there, I held her hand and I think she told me to “quit it.” But this time, I kissed her on her forehead. Held her hand and told her that I was engaged, I was happy, and there would be greatgrandchildren for her. She actually looked at me and said “I love you.” I was given this memory with the parting image of Grandaddy laying with her in her hospice bed, holding her hand, and telling his old lady that he loves her. spring evening gowns
At the reunion and throughout life, I've taken pride at looking like my Nana. I've also bragged about how I took pieces of my grandparent's personalities to make my own. From Nana, I got a stubborn, feisty, determined, strong willed, tradition appreciating, book and writing loving, independent personality.
Now, all of this.... this is the Nana that I knew.