My grandmother was married 3 times and she outlived all three of her husbands. Her last husband, known as “Mr. Jim” and referred to as “Big Daddy,” reminded me of a kind-hearted old workhorse. He chewed tobacco and would not let us play cards in the house, nor could we listen to the radio on Sunday. Being the resilient children that we were, we found other places to play where we would not get caught with the cards.
During the visits to North Carolina we had a wonderful time playing on my grandmother’s farm. Granny had nine children and also raised two of my mother’s nephews (with nine children already, what were two more?). There were always plenty of other children to play with, and hide-and-seek was a favorite, as there were so many good places to hide on a farm. It was great sport to harass the chickens, feed the pigs and hide near the outhouse. It was a great improvement when a bathroom was installed on the enclosed back porch but it was still a chilly venture. Granny was very frugal and children were the recipients of the thinnest slice of her rich, buttery pound cakes. And you dare not make your dishpan water too sudsy as this was an indication that you had used entirely too much soap!
In her later years, she developed a skin condition known as vitiligo and in my naïve youth I thought it came from drinking water from the well. I remember when my mother brought her up North to live with us a short while, the doctors wanted to give her a pacemaker but she was having none of that. And she was right. In a short period of time, whatever was wrong with her heart corrected itself without the pacemaker. Another time I was upstairs in my bedroom reading a book and finally realized that someone was calling my name, “Tina,” “Tina” I heard faintly. When I ran downstairs, I found my grandmother lying on the floor beside the bed. She had just missed falling into a glass storm door pane left leaning against the wall. Even though I was visibly shaken, I made light of it by putting my hands on my hips, cocking my head to the side and saying, “Granny, now what are you doing down there on the floor?” She laughed when I said that, and as I helped her get up and back into bed, I thought that bones must get heavier with age because it was extremely hard to lift her.
My fondest memory is combing her thin silver hair as she sat in a chair in the dining room. As I was combing her hair, I told her that she looked like an old Native American and that made her laugh gently and smile. Before she passed at the age of 94, she said she was “tired, just tired.” To this day when I tease my 86-year-old Mom by calling her “Miss Fannie” we laugh together in memory and understanding as we both know that name means the spirit of Grandma is nearby.
Written by Bettina Thorpe-Tucker