I reached over and held her hand... Played with her long, strong fingernails the way I always did. I remembered countless nights just like this when I was a child, sandwiched between her and my Papa on their bed, my head at their feet, watching the 10 o'clock news and eating Peanut M&Ms after I'd already brushed my teeth. (To this day, Papa brings them to me late at night like a kid sharing a forbidden treasure.)
Helping "nana-great" feed the chickens.
Papa was down at the coast with some of the family, riding 4-wheelers at the sand dunes. (Yes, you read that right. My 80-year-old grandpa still tears up the dunes on a quad.) Grandma and I stayed back home, talking about growing flowers and children, and hopes and hurts, the painful-beautiful past and dreams for the future. The days were slow and long and unspeakably beautiful: watching Cora play, eating lots of berries, and just being together. I loved hearing her stories - even the painful ones - it reminds me that I come from a legacy of strong women. And I felt confidence swell as she told me I was a good mama, "one of the best," she said.
Thank-you-Jesus, I breathe. My life has its aches and voids, just like the rest of the world, but it has its gifts, too. And she is one of them. A grandma so wise, so strong, so loving, so full-of-life; I want to be just like her. A rock in my life since I was a child, she makes me believe that I am enough for whatever comes next.
I love this crazy-strong woman with every ounce of my being. Her foster mother's (but her mama-of-the-heart) gold mirror hangs in my daughter's room. And when I look at it, I see my face but think of grandma... as a little girl, resolute that her future would be different than her past, going to a neighbor and asking her to take her in. I want to always have that kind of drive - a belief that what is broken can be turned into something beautiful. An abiding trust that God has good things for me, a conviction that painful pasts don't have to become painful futures, and the faith to take bold leaps. And in the end, the neighbor became mama; I grew up calling her great-grandma and pray that the generosity of her spirit makes its way through the generations to me.
Icee's and Starbucks - Grandma's always known the ingredients to a good girl's outing!
I've had a hard year - much harder than I've shared in this space. Not because I'm afraid of being vulnerable, but because I am afraid of hurting others. I haven't yet discovered the balance and answer to that. But this spring Grandma was in Texas and I overheard her talking to my mother-in-law. "She's stronger now," she said, looking at me.
And so I became what she said. Just like always...