December 25, 2004
My grandmother - Ruth Aydelott died yesterday. The cancer and pain overtook her, her body finishing the shutdown it started even before my grandfather passed about a year ago. I don't know her age - call me a bad granddaughter but I'll admit I relied upon my father to keep track of those kinds of details.
Besides, there are other details I remember.
I remember her hugs and the softness of her shoulder as she would hold me. Her gray blue eyes that she kept insisting were hazel, the cleft in her chin that's echoed in the one on my father's. Large wire-rimmed glasses that she'd had as long as I can remember, silver gray hair short around her face. And then her voice - a melange of Louisiana and Texas, a touch of shrillness and a whole lot of softness. Even now I can almost hear her crooning to me, calling me "babygirl".
I remember her good nature, her kindness and her ready smile. Though I'm one of the three people who could call her grandma by love and blood, there were many more who called her it by love alone. Ask friends and family or anyone in her church and they'll all say the same thing - that she was a lovely kind sweet woman.
The vagueness in their, in my, descriptions of her is intentional. Ruth stayed out of the spotlight, willing and even eager to cede it to my grandfather. She enjoyed his being the center of attention, reminding people of his exploits rather than talk about or create any of her own. She humored, encouraged, defended and supported him - I don't know how she was when my father and aunt were growing up but after they left there was no question that she was entirely focused on taking care of him.
Such patient self-restraint was both her greatest strength and weakness. She made a marriage with my grandfather (by no means an easy man) work. She was a calming influence in situations, and taught me through words and example how the branch that bends is the one who doesn't break. That kind of patience, quiet kindness and denial made her a model wife, sliding right in with the dictates of her conservative evangelical church. After my grandfather's death she became increasingly childlike - part of it was the stroke related dementia but part seemed to be without him she was without the bedrock of her entire adult life.
But even as her mind lost the ability to hold on to the present she retained her past. She would tell stories about growing up in the bayou will all of her brothers and sisters, her father who died when the youngest girls were babies and her mother who made things work from that point forward. Tales of catching crawdads in the morning before school and having her mom cook them up in an omelette, of having to share a bike with her brother, of her father carrying her on his shoulders - she the first girl in a mess of boys. She talked about helping her mother take care of the twins, of going away to New Orleans to go to college, then of meeting my grandfather and marrying.
There's more of course. Her ability to innocently and sometimes unintentionally crack very funny jokes*. Her strength and desire for independence - seen in occasional flashes when she talked about growing up and in her frustration as her body and mind increasingly limited her.
I'm grateful that she recognized my
father (who visited her every day) and touched that she even remembered
me up until the end. I'm still absorbing that she's gone, really gone.
I mourn for her, for my father, for me, and for the one great aunt of
mine who in the course of 10 years lost all of her brothers and sisters.
I'm grateful that I was able to have her in my life for as long as I
was, hope that she'll be willing to continue to gift me with some of
her kindness and patience, and look forward to seeing more of her in
the life to come.
*(She was talking with my father and at one point forgot my stepmother's name but wanted to refer to her. She apparently floundered for a moment, getting increasingly frustrated, then in lieu of a name blurted out with "You know, the woman you're shacked up with!". My father and stepmother have been married for over 20 years but my father was mortified as if he'd been caught in something. My stepmother of course cracked up and tells the story all the time.)
all text, images (except those noted) copyright 2002-2010 Moryma Aydelott.