Well, Georgia is on my mind because my body is actually in Georgia. As I was starting my day yesterday, my mom called to tell me that my Grandmother had passed in the night. Grandmartha (what we have always called her) was 91 and had been in a steady decline with Alzheimer's/dementia for quite some time. So while the news was a bit a sad, and expectedly unexpected (like my mom told me on the phone, "Well, I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't know it would be today) in many ways, I feel a certain measure of relief and gratitude as she hasn't really been "Grandmartha" for quite some time.
So Anne and I hopped on a plane together and made our way to Georgia. (Thanks to all who are helping with the subbing and sorry to any who are inconvenienced by my absence. But here is something fun- Kelly is subbing tonight in San Marcos so anyone who wants to come a support him in San Marcos tonight is welcome to drop in to the series tonight ($10) and give him a boost of support for his teaching debut!)
Also- if you need me by email while I am gone, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am having trouble getting my other program to work right now and this one is web-based where my usual address is computer-based.
So back to my Grandmother, who, if I dare to say to say so, was kind of radical. Now this is a family story (and not appropriate to share in the eulogies in rural Georgia) but my Grandmother married her first husband twice. The first ceremony was private. No one knew about it. Then a little later they had the public ceremony which had already been planned. Now, keep in mind that whenever that happened, the social mores about things were really different. Her first husband was the love of her life. So you can fill in the blanks for yourself about why a woman, with a date already set to be married, found it necessary to get married ahead of time without telling anyone. This is great thing to ponder and truly one of the best doorways into who Grandmartha really was- a woman of great passion.
Her first husband died tragically of a brain disease, leaving her widowed with a child, John. She remarried my Mom's father, Dan, who was also widowed with a child, my Mom, Andrea. So back in the mid to late 1940's, they were a step family. We do not think much about that now, but back then, this was quite unusual. So, Grandmartha was a stepmother before this was a common occurrence and I think of her as a kind of a pioneer in this.
Grandmartha also was college-educated. This was quite uncommon at the time as well.
There is a lot more to be said about the specifics (at least I am hoping there is more to be said because I am supposed to say something about her at her funeral and as I have already said, the most interesting story is "inappropriate" to share at a funeral. But certain themes definitely emerge:
1. She was a religious woman whose faith brought her strength in times of adversity and loss. She was a long-standing member of the Lavonia United Methodist church and was a beacon of moral and religious support to the members of that church.
2. She was dedicated to serving others. She made steady efforts to remember what other people liked and enjoyed and to provide that for them. One of my most deeply etched memories of her is Grape Jello. Our family would drive 18 hours from New York to Georgia to visit in the summers and when we arrived, bedraggled and tired, she would set out bowls of Grape Jello with Cool Whip for me and Anne to eat. Now at that time, our family was on a pretty strict budget and things like Cool Whip were not part of our life except at Grandmartha and Granddan's. Very fond memories of this.
3. She was a great cook. Not to get stuck on the food theme but she was such a great cook that once when Dad was visiting Lavonia he ate so much during the trip that he couldn't fit into the pants he brought when it was time to go. So on the day he was supposed to leave, Mom had to let out the seams in his pants so he could fit back into them! (Southern Food is not so "light, nor were we after any visit to Lavonia.)
4. She loved to travel. Grandmartha didn't ask for much. She wasn't raised to be someone who expressed her wants and needs readily but she did tell my Grandfather that she wanted to travel and see the world and so they did. They went everywhere- India, China, Japan, Europe, etc., sometimes begin gone for a month at a time.
5. She practiced Gratitude. Her life brought her lots of loss but she really was not one to complain. More, she was one to pray in Thanksgiving and to recognize her Blessings.
Well, there is more but that is it for now. I am tempted to erase the first story but I figure that while she might be blushing in Heaven somewhere, she would understand that the story about her and her first husband is meant with the utmost respect and celebration. And I figure no one in Lavonia, Georgia who wouldn't see it that way is reading this anyway. (DO NOT WORRY, MOM! I AM NOT GOING TO SAY IT IN THE FUNERAL. I do know better.)