"Grace was in all her steps. Heaven in her eye.
In every gesture dignity and love."
In every gesture dignity and love."
|Haskell and Marie Rhodes with a much younger me.|
Lately I have seen some things that have helped to bring back warm, happy memories of my great-grandmother. I like to think that I have always loved all of my grandparents equally. I have always been very close to my grandmothers, especially. However, there has always been a very special place in my heart for my Granny Rhodes. She was my mom’s mother’s mother. She’s gone on to Heaven now, but I thought I would take some time today to share with you some of the fondest memories I have of her. I have learned so much from the life she lived, and it is my prayer that you can also.
The one thing I remember most about my Granny is her humble, selfless, and giving spirit. I noticed this about her from the time I was very young. When I was a young boy, she was not only Granny to me but she was also babysitter. Sometimes, to keep me from getting bored from sitting around the house all day, she would take me to visit her friends. However, I have no recollection of her ever showing up at anyone’s doorstep empty-handed. Whether it was a pie that she had baked or fresh picked vegetables from her garden, she always had something to give to the person we were visiting.
My Granny had the greenest thumb around. She loved the outdoors and she loved to grow things. Every summer, Granny would turn the back portion of her yard into the largest vegetable garden I ever saw. Squash. Green beans. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Okra. If you can name it, she grew it. Her summer gardens provided many Sunday dinners for our family. My Granny also grew strawberries, blueberries, and figs, which she used to make the most delicious pies, cakes, and preserves.
Granny had her gardens for more than just our family, however. I cannot remember a summer when Granny did not invite friends, family, and church members to freely pick from anything she had grown. And it would not have bothered her the least bit if they had picked her garden clean. Giving brought her the greatest satisfaction. And it was her giving spirit that always determined what she did and how she did it.
My Granny was a calm, gentle woman. She was soft-spoken. She had the patience of Job. I have absolutely no memory of her ever being angry or raising her voice about anything. Perhaps my earliest memory of her was her explaining that very thing to me. I must have been no more than three or four years old. While I do not have the slightest idea what day it was or what I had done, I can remember her words very clearly. All I remember of that day is her carrying me through her dark hallway, the wood floor probably squeaking as she walked, and her deep, soothing voice saying ever so gently, “I told you Granny don’t get mad easy.” Those words were all it took to brighten my day. And after having spent fifteen wonderful years with her, I can tell you from experience that those words were very, very true.
Though she was always patient, gentle, kind, and soft-spoken, my Granny was no pushover. Anybody that knew her will tell you that in a heartbeat. A classic example is a story told to me after Granny’s passing. Where we live, we have always had to take our garbage to the dump ourselves. One day while at the dump, Granny unknowingly put something in the wrong dumpster. The overseer there did not take too well to that and said something to her about it. Unshaken, she simply looked the man in the eye and said, “Well, would you like me to crawl in there and get it”? The overseer stopped his complaining and walked away, and Granny simply finished what she had gone there to do.
My Granny only left home three times a week. On Fridays, she went to Betty’s beauty shop. On Saturdays, she went to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. And on Sundays, she drove two miles up the road to Beaverdam Baptist Church where she attended faithfully for more than sixty years. And whenever she went out, she was usually the best dressed person around. However, when she was at home, she dressed for comfort.
I have very fond memories of my Granny’s unique fashion choices. I can see her now walking around the yard in one of my Papa’s old, ragged shirts, her famous polka dot polyester pants, and those old, black leather shoes—one of which had a hole in the sole from when she stepped too close to the fire when burning trash in her back yard. And how could I forget the walking stick? My Granny never went out in the yard without that old, homemade walking stick that my Papa had made so many years ago. It was tall and straight and had no handle. I never could figure out which end was the bottom and which end was the top. My Granny was not the least bit feeble. She did not need that stick to help her walk. I always kind of thought of it as a symbol of the strong, independent, powerful woman that she was. You know the saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Yes, that was my Granny.
Two weeks before she would go into the hospital and never return home again, I sat down on that old, hard, tacky sofa covered by a hand-crocheted green afghan and had a heartfelt, sentimental conversation with my Granny. She did most of the talking. I don’t remember a whole lot of that conversation, but I will never forget what she said right before I left her house that day. She said, “I love you. Don’t ever forget it.” And I haven’t.
Just writing this today has brought back so many memories. Not a day goes by that I do not miss my Granny. Whether it is the way she pronounced words ending with the letter “a” (she always pronounced them as if they ended with “-er” instead), her quick wit, or the way she would throw her table scraps in the bush beside her back porch (sometimes you would see a dog or cat walking around the yard with ketchup or mustard on its back and you would know that the bush was not the only thing beside the back porch when Granny decided to throw out her scraps), I simply miss having her around. She was a joy and a delight to grow up with. And I am honored and privileged that of all people God chose me to be the one to call her my great-grandmother. What a day it will be when we are reunited in Heaven!