Today would have been my mamaw’s 100th birthday. My mom reminded me of this last night as we chatted. To be honest I had gotten the year mixed up and thought she would have been 97. But I never forget that her birthday is February 2nd.
You see my mamaw meant an awful lot to me, as she was a godly woman who I got to spend summers with on occasion learning how to hand-sew quilts and make spaghetti from scratch, just for lunch. When she would get to giggling, it was something magical because to be honest, we never could get her to smile for a photograph. It was like she somehow knew a secret none of the rest of us did and she was holding it in for dear life.
I shared with some coworkers recently about how she had the phone book and would read the obituaries in the paper every morning and remove people from it. I asked her once why she was doing that, or if she knew them, and she told me very informatively that “Well no I don’t know them, but in case I needed to contact them now I know I can’t.” Part of me strongly believes I get my sweet tooth from her, and my knack for now holding my purse on my lap. We spent Saturdays with her alot, going to A&W for corn dogs, shopping in Wal-Mart and picking blackberries from the bushes in the garden. She used to put them on our fingers and tell us to enjoy with a smile.
Later in life, she started to forget us. Her mind becoming muddled with a different reality and confusion. It hurt my heart to see her get agitated because she didn’t know us, couldn’t remember my grandfather who she was married to for so long, not knowing her only daughter, my mother.
Memories are a tricky thing-they bring us such delight and also such pain. For a while after she passed away I could only remember the conversations of convincing her I was her granddaughter, of seeing her curled up in the nursing home bed not wanting to talk. I carried those around with alot of hurt, until I realized that’s not what I was supposed to see her as, the truth had gotten muddled with the picture before me. An illness tried to dilute my memories down to something else, to replace the images I knew with something that wasn’t. Much like it did to her in the latter years of her life.
So instead I choose the memories of my mamaw with her pink lipstick, color-coordinated pants suits and “ear bobs” because that is who she was to me, to us all. She was the kind-hearted woman who made hundreds of hand pies for church homecomings and would laugh when we told her she shouldn’t be “taste-testing” them all since she had diabetes.
We often don’t get to choose the story that is told about us, but memories provide a way for us to seek the good and true in a reality that is sometimes harsher and colder than we could ever imagine.