“Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.” ~Charles Dickens
I had the great joy of attending my niece’s high school graduation in North Carolina this weekend. It was great to see her celebrate her achievements with family and friends. I smiled as I saw the pride on my brother and sister-in-law’s faces while they watched their girl enter the auditorium and later take her walk across the stage. It was bittersweet for me because Jordan is the first grandchild on my side of the family to finish high school and because I began to think about next year, of course, when my Jacob will graduate. I also had the great privilege of spending time with my parents and my two grandmothers, Granny Hobbs and Grandma Nell, ages 93 and 91, respectively. It was a weekend of great joy and sorrow for me.
I realize that there are not many 42 year old women out there who are fortunate enough to still have their grandmas here on earth. Two great ladies. Each awesome in her own way. I was reminded ever too harshly of the reality of their ages this weekend. Grandma Nell had a total knee replacement last May at age 90, and was a total rock star. She lives alone and does remarkably well, considering she is almost totally blind now as a result of macular degeneration. Since December, my Granny Hobbs, who is my Dad’s mom and also lives alone and has done remarkably well, has declined rapidly.
Granny Hobbs was raised, from what I understand, by a harsh father and mother who I know very little about. In fact, she rarely speaks of it. Granny Hobbs was a single mom before it was cool. It was not by her choice—World War II deprived her son of his father, something else she rarely speaks of. When my dad was a small boy, she moved away from the town where her in-laws and family lived, and worked her butt off to keep a roof over their heads. She says moving to the beach is the best thing she ever did. She raised an amazing son and with very little outside help from one of her brothers, saw my dad graduate high school and college. In addition to my dad, she has raised countless numbers of plants and cats.
She gives away nearly everything she buys, because she thought about you when she saw it. She always has lollipops, soda, $5, or some other trinket, for her great-grandkids. Everyone who knows her calls her Granny Hobbs. Up until this summer, for the past umpteen summers, she has worked in a little beach shop down at Carolina Beach, NC, to which, she drove herself, just for some spending money. And if you ever ask her if she needs anything, she just laughs and says, “Oh, I’m alright.” And then gives you the box of muffins she bought the other day that she decided she didn’t like.
She is the one who, when I was a young girl, and her only granddaughter, insisted I say, “yes, ma’am” or else she would not respond to me further. She is the one who would call me by both my names, even if she was not mad. She is the one who would examine my chewed up fingernails and offer me a bribe if, the next time she saw me, my nails were looking, well, less chewed on. She is the one who would buy me pink dresses until I hated the color so much I refused to wear it for years. She is the one who nearly made my mom’s head pop off when she brought my brothers and me a dog…without asking Mom first. She is the one who would say to me, as a teenager (please keep in mind her generation), “You’re not dating any colored boys, are you? You need to make sure you hang on to that Clyn boy. He’s a good one!” To which I would respond (keep in mind my generation and snarky nature), “What color do you mean, Granny Hobbs?”
Suddenly now, the vibrant, fiercely independent, sharp-as-a-tack, lady I’ve known all my life is slipping away. Oh, she is still feisty. But she occasionally looks lost and loses time and place. She may not make sense and she is visibly distressed when she doesn’t recognize where she is. What makes it so hard to watch is that afterwards, when she is lucid, she realizes that she was confused before. And she hates it. She hates not being able to drive anymore. She hates having to rely on others for help. She hates that she just can’t quite reach into her brain and retrieve that word she is trying to say. And though I know aging is part of this life, I hate to see it happening to her. I hate to see how it frustrates her.
It hurts. It hurt when we watched my father-in-law slipping away and the hurt doesn’t seem less even though I’ve experienced it before.
In spite of it all, she is the one who still laughs easily, loves fiercely and gives freely. She is one awesome lady who chooses to live in the now and gives people the benefit of the doubt.
She is also the one, who, when asked how she is doing, responds in her Southern drawl, “Oh, I’m doin’ alright. I cain’t complain. I woke up this mornin’ and didn’t see my name in the paper, so I reckon I’m purty good.”
I reckon I’ve got nothing to complain about either. Love you, Granny Hobbs.