WH Chronicle No. 1.32

March 27, 2011

My grandmother passed away this week.  Mimi was my last grandparent to depart, and it was especially disheartening to be so far away from my family.  But in lieu of my presence, I sent some memories and reflections to be read at the funeral.  I've included them in this week's Chronicle.  I attempted to capture smoke with my bare hands by writing about Mimi, but I perhaps the effort was appreciated. 

Other news here on the African front: Carolyn, kids, and Tom are off to Zanzibar for the week.  They will be in charge of next week's report.  The peace and quiet in our house is very unfamiliar. 


One of Mimi’s favorite poems:
When I'm An Old Lady
by Joanne Bailey Baxter

When I'm an old lady, I'll live with each kid,
And bring so much happiness just as they did.
I want to pay back all the joy they've provided.
Returning each deed! Oh, they'll be so excited!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids...)

I'll write on the walls with reds, whites, and blues,
And bounce on the furniture.....wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets and oh, how they'll shout!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids...)

When they're on the phone and just out of reach,
I'll get into things like sugar and bleach.
Oh, they'll snap their fingers and then shake their head,
And when that is done, I'll hide under the bed.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids...)

When they cook dinner and call me to eat,
I'll not eat my green beans or salad or meat.
I'll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
And when they get angry...I'll run....if I'm able!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids...)

I'll sit close to the TV., through the channels I'll click
I'll cross both eyes just to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks and throw one away,
And play in the mud 'til the end of the day!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids...)

And later in bed, I'll lay back and sigh,
I'll thank God in prayer and then close my eyes.
My kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
And say with a groan, "She's so sweet when she's sleeping!"

When Mimi first read that poem to me, I thought she had written it herself.   She loved that poem.

Mimi loved to tell stories.  
We all will remember her enthusiastic tales of family history, ancestors, as well as her time-honored fables, skits and poems.  She regaled us with her youthful experiences of life on the farm, and daily walks to the schoolhouse, which interestingly enough, resembled her most requested bedtime story, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

But perhaps the best story is the one about a little old lady, named Mimi.  Of course, Mimi wasn’t always old, but her youth has transcended your narrator’s reference.
In the beginning Mimi was a loving grandmother.  She thoroughly enjoyed the company of her three granddaughters, and never showed annoyance for childhood curiosity nor tired from our endless energy.   Laurie, Patti, and I were blessed with ‘Mimi Summer Camps’, weekends and holidays spent on the peaceful farm outside of Lometa.  Mimi approached each occasion with us as if she were a professional activities coordinator for the busiest of cruise ships.  She indulged us with games of checkers, plaster hand prints, picnics on Biscuit Rock, needle-pointing pillows, and a seasonal favorite, Jack Horner pie gift boxes at Christmas.   She took us swimming in the stock tank and to the creek on the old Godwin place--both of which required her to perform a thorough de-leeching afterwards.   To maintain respectability and reclaim any lost ground from leeches or coif-buried cockleburs, she employed Lavern--to shave, sheer, or trim the errant hairs on her young Godwin representatives.  And when the wind died down and the hot bugs sang, she directed us to find relief from sweltering heat within the fresh peach juice running down our chins, assisting her with homemade ice cream or simply hogging the swamp cooler breezes.     These pastoral experiences and memories were divinely offered through Mimi.  She stamped an indelible mark on our youth and the only ill moment for us, and her, was the time to say, ‘Goodbye’.

Goodbyes are difficult.  She told me several times about what I said to her at Umpaw’s funeral when I was only 5:   “Mimi, I know exactly how you feel.  It’s just like you want to sit in the corner and curl up into a ball.” I assume she found peace in that sentiment, because I know that’s how I feel today.

But back to our story…

Much to Mimi’s chagrin, those three adorable granddaughters became grandteenagers.   Mimi lamented that with age we would become too busy for our summer visits.  The sadness she expressed pained me just as much as the thought of our youthful adventures ending.   So much so, that I made a naïve promise I could not keep, “Mimi, I’ll always spend my summers with you.”

 But Mimi knew.

She faithfully endured our teen years.  Her loyalty was not deterred by any haughty teenage attitudes.  She attended football games, horseshows, basketball games, and music concerts, but perhaps her devotion backfired as horsecamps and bandcamps eventually replaced our beloved “Mimi camps”. 

After outlasting her second round of teenage drivers, University tribulations, and the parade of boyfriends, Mimi’s patience was rewarded with the happy weddings of her granddaughters.  As always, she got all gussied-up, applied her Jergens hand lotion, a fresh layer of Aqua Net and spritely attended those festive events.  For Patti’s wedding she even gussied me up with an unsolicited haircut.  Wedding album documentation demonstrated Mimi’s deficits in Cosmetology. 

When it came time for me to marry, Mimi proclaimed about Tom, “Seems like such a nice young man, it’s a shame he can’t afford a haircut.”  Before our wedding, she offered him her scissorly services, but knowing my own testimony about a cleaved coiffure, he politely declined.

And then, of course, came round three of children to love and cherish.  Six beautiful great-grandkids entertained Mimi with their youthful curiosity and childhood antics.  The youngest of the clan, Daryl and Sam, loved to act as Mimi’s chauffeur by driving her to the mailbox on her scooter.  Despite the 88 year age gap their time together was relished by all parties involved. 

Over time the family visits were not as frequent but Mimi still busied herself by sculpturing her own life and aspirations.  She wrote several books by researching and laboring endless hours; all for the sake of preserving regional history and family lineage.  She also beautified, maintained and preserved local cemeteries.   She traveled the globe and was forever supportive of us doing the same.  Hence, today, my family is living in another world a hemisphere away.   Though our time here is cherished, it is sad to be away from our family on this occasion.

But Mimi knew.

Years turned to decades.  Mimi grew older and her body became less cooperative.  She would remark, “Getting old is a lot of hard work.”  So, instead of continuing to managing the farm, she began to read more and travel less.  And all too soon, even the simplest tasks were less available to her.

Now one might think that this story is winding down, but rather, I’d like to suggest that we’re coming to another deficiency in the omniscience of your story teller. 

As Mimi appears to us to depart, I imagine an open-armed reunion of family, full of joyous welcome, awaiting her.  The love and warmth she feels dwarfs all the grief endured from their previous adieus.    And now, I take heart, for when our own opportunity arises, she will be there to ensure we receive the same beautiful and blessed reception.
We love her so much.
And Mimi knows.

Parable of Immortality
Author: Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
Gone where?
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
" Here she comes! "

Mimi with Daryl and Sam

Frankie T  – (April 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM)  

What a beautiful poem and picture of her and the kids. I am so sorry that you had such a grand loss, however, it sounds like she was an amazing blessing and still a large part of all of your hearts! XOXO! -Frankie

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