For Lady Jane…

In the summer of 2004, I was living in Mississippi, losing my mind, becoming more and more depressed about the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in any area of my life. It was at this time that my grandmother, Madea, was in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s which would eventually become dementia and needed someone to be at her home with her during the day. One day I was at her house and she was shuffling around looking for a pair of shoes that she wanted to wear to church and getting irritated more and more by the minute that she couldn’t find them. Finally, she sat on the bed, exasperated and began to complain about not being able to find her shoes. I had been helping her look for them in every place but her room, not really sure which shoes I was looking for but looking nonetheless. As she sat on the bed fussing about not being able to find her shoes, I leaned against the door frame listening and watching her until finally I pointed down next to her feet and said “Are those the shoes right there?” The shoes she had been looking for all the time had been right next to her bed, she had simply forgotten where she had put them. She looked down at the shoes and chuckled and then looked up at me still laughing and said, “You are a quiet storm.” Her statement surprised me because there weren’t many occasions of her saying something that decent to me that I can recall. She continued to talk as she pulled her shoes on her feet and tied them up. I stood there and listened and watched this woman who I had known all my life, finally coming to realization that she was slowly losing herself in a way I knew she hated. This was the same woman who in her 70s beat me in a foot race by tricking me so that she got a head start, the same woman who helped build a cottage next to the house that she lived in, that was self-taught on the piano and organ. She went from being a sharecropper to eventually becoming the pastor of her own church and she wore a multitude of hats in between the two. My mother told me that when I was little, she would call me over to her just so she could feel my hands because they were so soft. I can remember her kissing my face all the time and me sneaking around the corner to wipe it off (I hated people kissing all over me when I was a kid). I remember her food; stuffed cabbage, roast, mashed potatoes, cakes, pies, homemade preserves. My cousin and I spent our summers with her and we would always sneak into the house when she wasn’t looking (or pretending that she wasn’t looking) and steal the pickles she made every year. She was extremely religious which caused a lot of friction between us when I was a teenager and as a young adult, but I always respected her because she was still my grandmother. She fussed about everything and she was quick witted. She had a temper; she didn’t take crap from anyone. She didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, life hadn’t been the greatest for her as a Black woman coming up in the South, born in the 1920s only about 56 years after the end of slavery. The repercussions of that part of history carried over from her grandmother, to her mother, and to her. Her life was definitely no crystal stair, and she didn’t make my mother’s one either, but I won’t get into that. Despite the negative things about my grandmother that I won’t share here, she was a woman in every sense of the word. We talk about how strong the Black woman is, the things that we have to endure, and the multiple roles that we take on in life, being mentally and physically knocked down but still persevering; through it all she was definitely an example of that. She didn’t just exist, she lived…she lived one hell of a life and I can’t do anything but respect it because she simply played the cards she was dealt.  Life gave her scars, both emotional and physical and it made her hard and cold at times, but she could be a pretty cool grandmother at times too. She was definitely an enigma. Last night, she passed away in a Mississippi hospital. When I got the news I couldn’t do anything but nod my head, no tears have come, they probably won’t come either. I can’t be sad about the fact that she has transitioned to the next life because I’m happy that she is at peace. After being on this earth for over 90 years, she has gone on to whatever the next thing is for her and I’m okay with that. I choose to remember everything, the good, the bad and the ugly about this lady. I appreciate her because from her came the amazing human being that was my mother who loved her despite everything. I’ll remember the unexpected words of wisdom she spoke, the jokes she made, her standing at the podium in church giving a fiery sermon, screaming into the microphone a little louder when she noticed me sitting next to the speakers falling asleep. I’ll always remember her fiddling with the piano at church, trying to find the right key and sometimes never finding it. I have her advice, her criticism, her stubbornness…I even have her name. So instead of mourning her…I’ll simply remember.

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