Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thinking about FAMILY - in all caps

I've been thinking a lot lately about my Grandmother "Tennie".  I'm not sure why, honestly, but she's been very much on my mind. 
I'm thinking about when I lived with her in Grand Rapids.  How she used to let me back the car into the turn-around in her driveway, but would never let me actually drive - even though I had my driver's license.  How each night she'd sit in the big, brown, corduroy chair that was my grandfather's and sip her scotch and milk (with 1 ice cube - ick) and smoke her Salem Light 100's menthols while watching the news.  (News at the time I lived with her revolved mostly around the Gulf War...)  How she loved her silly, floppy, moppy dog and turned into a goofy little girl when she and "Moppet" played tug-o-war together. 
I'm really just remembering her.  Her movements.  Her cadence of speech.  Her gestures.  The way she'd light a cigarette in the living room, put it in the ash-tray, then get up to go to the kitchen to work on supper and light another cigarette in there, completely forgetting the one burning in the living room.  (It was nothing back then for me to pick up the forgotten cigarette and finish it.  She never knew the difference!  I was so awful, wasn't I?)  The way she made an open-faced cheese sandwich like nobodies business; I've never been able to replicate it - and they were my favorite!  How strict she was with me and how angry I used to get with her about it; no outings with friends on a school night - not even to the library, Fridays home by 8PM and Saturdays home by 9PM.  I realize now that she really had my best interests in mind and don't blame her for acting/reacting the way she did; I was a pretty messed-up 17-year-old who had just lost her mother and was trying to find a way to live again.
Ah - I remember so many little things.  I can remember the back roads she used to take to drive me to school every morning.  I can close my eyes and run the route in my head without a wrong turn!  I remember going to Rosie's (I think that was the name) with her; a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant by the lake in East Grand Rapids; they had the best burgers there!  I can see her in her easy clothing, purse slung casually over her arm, cigarette in hand, perfectly coiffed hair - puffing on a cigarette standing there by the lake waiting for me as I chased ducks or other craziness...
I don't remember what month it was when I got the news that she'd died.  (Was it April?  Is that why I'm feeling this way?  I vaguely recall it being somewhat chilly out, but I was still living in Michigan when I'd gotten "the word" so it could have been summer everywhere else, and still vaguely cold in Michigan in April.)  She'd gone to France with my Aunt & Uncle (and my little sister, too) and I never saw her again.  We parted ways rather abruptly; it was the angry, depressed, independent-yet-desperately-needy-teenager thing again.  I think we were angry with one another.  I've always regretted not speaking kind words to her when she left Michigan for foreign parts unknown.  But honestly?  I was very much not myself back then and do not remember many, many things of my time in Michigan.
It's the little things that shine through for me now, as an adult, that mean so much.  I can make the "little things" list go on forever.  Of course, I can make the "little things" list for a lot of things because the "big things" list is so short.  Several major things I will never ever forget but don't especially like to talk about even though it would probably be good for me.
I guess I'm feeling a little weepy and nostalgic today.  I'm really missing my FAMILY.  FAMILY with all capital letters, meaning the family I knew (know) from birth and childhood.  The FAMILY that knows me, or is getting to know me again after all these years.
I have been in "negotiations" with AC & UB (One set of my Aunts & Uncles in Maryland) to go visit them sometime soon.  Just a long weekend.  Me, myself, and I - with the kids, of course, and Hubby, too, if he wants to (or can) come.  I haven't seen AC & UB in probably 20 years, and even though I don't really remember being especially close to them when I was younger, our relationship over the last couple of years we've been back in contact has blossomed and my heart is absolutely swelling with joy over this. 
Maybe this is the source of my weepiness?  A desire to go see FAMILY again?
We're headed to St. Augustine in October.  AP & UJ (the other set of Aunts & Uncles in Maryland) are letting us (me and mine) use their condo for a week.  I've never been to Florida; never set toe over the line; and am looking forward to being just minutes away from my little sister rather than hours and hours!  I'd like to see AP & UJ, as well - because it's been too many years under the bridge with that relationship, too.
I guess what would be best for me right now is to buckle down and get some work done, eh?  If I continue in this vein I might find myself too depressed or melancholy to do anything truly productive.  I'm OK.  Just missing...a lot.
Happy Tuesday!






Pam said...

Jen - Tennie died on my birthday -August 31! I miss her and I play tug of war with my dog and just realized that is who I mimic. We still have the brown corduroy ottoman (chair died in San Diego in 2000). More memories to come...

Anonymous said...

Jen- So funny I too have been thinking about my Grandmother-"Nanny" her birthday is 2 days after mine- today and she has been gone 3 years and April is always hard for me because I miss her so bad. I think about how I would sit on the washing machine and talk to her while she cooked. I remember telling her that Poppie(her husband) and Mama (my great- grandmother) always said I was their baby but I did not want to be their baby. Then in my 20s I she brought that up and I said I wish I was their baby and she said you will always be mine. I miss her fried chicken and chocolate pudding. I miss her terribly but I have to admit how blessed I have been to know 2 great- grandmothers and both set of grandparents, each one with all their differences made me into who I am today. That I would not change for nothing- Mia

rightonmom said...

I love how you described this. And I'm sorry for her loss. Isn't hindsight that way sometimes. It sounds like you have some lovely memories of you two together though.

Anonymous said...

I remember a lot of things about my Mom (your grandmother). She's and her Mom "Ga" (aka Gaggie) instilled in me a life-long love of antique furniture, gardening (both veg and flowers) and countless other things. I actually know a bit about Staffordshire china!

What redneck can say that?

She loved that little dog sooooo much. When I play tug-o-war with our Jack Russell, I tell her she's a "terrible dog" - just like my mother used to do with Moppet.

Listen, don't feel bad about whatever you put her through. I put her through as much - probably more.

Did you ever put a bullet though a neighor's kitchen window when his wife was at the sink washing dishes?

He (the neighor) came to our back door (a bit miffed) and asked if I had a gun. Who me? Don't be silly!

She was picking glass out of her hair when I was dragged over to confess my sins and offer my apologies.

They seemed to cool towards me a bit after that ....hmmmm, wonder why?

I skipped school for months at a time.

Got in car accidents. (my fault too)

Raced my car on the street. (see above)

I left for school in the morning and ....ended up at the beach. Huh? How'd that happen? I really meant to go to school, honest, I musta missed the turn. (We lived in Ft Lauderdale at the time)

I was a stupid, stupid kid. However, my mom believed in me when no one else did.

The rest of the world thought I was dumber than a box of rocks and twice as ugly. (they were not entirely wrong)

Finally, I grew up (some).

She never could have been talked out of taking you in. She would have given up her last dime if she thought it would help you. I knew her. She loved her family more than anything and your Mom's death was the hardest thing that ever happened to her. She didn't want to live.

So, all she COULD do to help her much-loved daughter was to take you in and try to get you to adulthood ... somehow. Nobody could have talked her out of it.

Ok, things didn't go to plan - so what? When do they ever?

However, she's looking down on us right now and I KNOW she's happy with the results of her efforts.

In your case anyway -- the jury is still out on me.

I've "blocked" the name of the neighbors.... they've probably blocked my name as well.

Love and hugs, UB