To wrap up – I will end with the letter I purposely left out…V.
Velma L.T. died November 11, 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama. She was also my grandmother. She was a remarkable woman who had seven children and raised ten. Known for her quiet strengthen and fierce attitude, she invoked fear and love in her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. Remembering her for the qualities she didn’t have to exhibit still brings tears to my eyes as I write this memorial.
About fifteen years ago, my grandmother began forgetting things like turning on a stove, how to turn on a car, where her keys were (usually in her hand). Sometimes whole conversations stopped abruptly. For a long time, my mother and my aunts couldn’t understand what was wrong. Then my oldest aunt decided to have my grandmother tested for Alzheimer’s and she tested positive for the symptoms of the disease with dementia. Bama Boy came to live with us because my grandmother – our ladybug- could no longer care for him. This lead to serious issues with Bama Boy’s mom who took for granted to proximity her children were to her while she battled addiction…another post another time.
Anyhoo, my mom and her sisters gathered and took turns caring for her. They watched her slide from being talkative to being mute. Grandma evolved from being quiet woman to a woman who was combative at the drop of a hat. Her meals lasted hours because chewing took time; bathroom breaks included diapers and bedsores. It was not pretty but they rallied, we as grandkids supported where we could, and we carried on as a family.
Last October, I got the phone call from Momma Sense that I knew would be coming – Grandma was nearing the end. It was painful as I was at work and then had to muster a full presentation and then seek out my supervisor and explain the details of situation. When she passed, I had to let a deep breath and sit in the corner for a while. Traveling home was difficult but I had to rise to the occasion and sending her home (because a funeral isn’t a good bye just we’ll meet again) was beautiful. That last goodbye reminded me of the woman who stood out in a picture and in a crowd. Grandma really put forth idea that woman, a lady, was someone who made sure things were in its place, you acted right, and spoke with authority.
I draw from that inspiration as I proceed through life. I can only imagine raising an army of kids, some of whom were sent to schools that were under a desegregation order, and maintain a sense of calm the entire time. One of my aunts went to school with one of the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist church bombing…what do you say to your child about those events? Or worse, maintaining calm when you and your family went to church every Sunday with the fear that you could be next?
Another quality that I realize she had was forgiveness even when it is not expressed overtly…her father abandoned her family when she was young. My great grandfather was not a nice cat; he cheated and abused my great grandmother. His departure left my great grandmother broke (in the great depression, I might add) and the kids without a father…my grandmother later developed a distaste of chickens because it was her job to kill them, pluck them, and cook them (when you’re broke, you do everything to survive). My great grandmother passed away and my grandmother grew up and married my granddad. Many kids later, my great grandfather reappeared and asked my grandmother for help as he was dying. My grandmother cooked, cleaned, cared for him in his last years. I am not sure if she truly forgave him but she did take care of her father which to me looks like she did strive to forgive him.
I named my Lady Bug after her because I knew that, even in the womb, this child would be fierce like my grandmother and trust me she is. Funny, cute, and stands out. You should see her class picture – the only child smiling. In any case, she inspired me to revisit this project this year. To sum up as I did in 2009, I want to recall the quote from Carter G. Woodson:
If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. - Carter G. Woodson
Thanks for reading…