After watching a show on PBS on Geneology the subject of my family and ancestors was brought up. This led me to think of my Mamaw Carter, who has been gone for several years now. Last night as I lay in bed, I thought of her and all the wonderful memories I have of her. It is so hard to believe sometimes, that someone who was so “large in life” and so much an integral part of me, is now just a memory. A lot of who I am today, I owe to her.
Mamaw devoted her life to her family. She never worked outside the home, she never drove a car, she didn’t go visit friends, and after her husband passed away (My “Gran” died before I was born), she always lived with one of her sons. So her family WAS her life. We were all she had.
It is funny, what memories choose to stay with us and linger. Some of the smallest things and tiniest details are imprinted in my memory.
My Mamaw kept my brother, sister, and I when we were little while my parents were working. Most of my childhood she lived with us. Even after my mom and dad divorced Mamaw came to live with my mom and step dad (she was my father’s mother) for several more years. Every morning she waited with us at the bus stops in the morning, and she was always there waiting when we got off in the afternoon. On cold mornings, Mamaw would put her back to the wind and have my sister and I stand in front of her so that she blocked most of the wind from us. When it was raining or too cold, she stood out there alone, leaving us sheltered on the porch, or standing just inside the door as she watched for the bus.
I have never been a morning person, even as a child. When Mamaw would come in to wake us in the mornings, I would stand on the bed and wrap my arms around her neck, laying my head on her shoulder with my eyes closed, half asleep while standing up. Mamaw would hold me like that for several moments before telling me to get dressed. Somehow it made it easier to wake up that way. Being a twin, Mamaw always dressed my sister and I alike, even after we reached the age where we really didn’t want to dress alike anymore. She picked out our clothes every morning and layed them on the bed for us. We never had to lift a finger to clean, she viewed that as “her” job. After playing she picked up our toys, she made our bed, and picked up our plates when we were done eating.
After school, Mamaw always had something ready for us to eat. Some of my favorites (back then atleast) were Veg-All with crumbled hamburger meat mixed in, weenies that were split down the middle with a stick of cheese inserted in them then baked, Fried bologna, and Baked Apples. Mamaw catered to us as children. If one of us didn’t like what was fixed, she would cook us a seperate meal. She sometimes made 2 or 3 meat dishes, plus sides for each. I look back at some of the stuff I ate then, and gag. Such as the Veg-all with hamburger meat. I would douse it in ketchup and gobble it up. I LOVED it. NO WAY would I eat that today.
I remember hours and hours through the years of sitting on her lap watching Guiding Light, General Hospital, and The Price is Right….her “shows”. I don’t know if I ever sat in my own seat when she was around. It seems I was always in her lap. Mamaw would sit in her chair and my sister and I would play “Beauty Shop”, combing her hair, putting it in tiny pigtails…. Mom had a huge book shelf full of encyclopedias and lots of romance novels. Keri and I would get the Romance Novels and give it to Mamaw and tell her to “pick a page” on how she wanted her hair styled. She would pretend to browse through the book and finally find the “right” page and tell us she wanted that one. We would brush and brush, twist and pull, and then brush her hair more. She never complained. She never got tired of us and told us to “go play”, even when we got a little rough with our brushing. She smiled through it all.
Every night Mamaw would get up several times through out the night to “check on us” while we slept. Many a night I remember hearing her coming down the hallway and entering our room. She would make sure we were all covered up and breathing, before quietly leaving again. Keri and I always talked and giggled for a while before finally falling asleep. Mamaw had a distinctive walk, and when we would hear her coming we would fall silent pretending to sleep. Mamaw would come to the doorway and stand there for several moments before making her way back to her room. As her footsteps faded we began our chatter again. Years later, as an adult with children of my own, when I stayed over at my Aunt and Uncles, where Mamaw was living, she would still get up in the night, and I could hear her come into the room to “check on me”.
Growing up with her, I didn’t realize how rare and special that kind of love really is. How often are we ADORED by someone? How often do we find someone who loves us THAT much? When I came to visit Mamaw, we would sit in the living room and talk. There was no TV, no radio, no outside distractions, we would just sit and visit with Mamaw and my Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Barbara. Mamaw would sit and listen to every word I said in rapt attention, never once interrupting, losing interest, or rushing me. She always had time for us. As I visited and talked with my Aunt and Uncle, I could glance over at Mamaw and her eyes were always on me, as if soaking me up. She would smile and nod her head at me. I think back to that simple nod, and there was SO MUCH love and devotion in that simple gesture. What I wouldn’t give to have her just nod at me….one more time.
There are days the pain of losing her is still so strong. I just want to crawl into her lap again like I did as a child. I want to go back in time and ask her questions about herself. Why didn’t I? What her childhood was like. What her parents were like? What was she like as a child? What did she do for fun? What happened in her life that made her so DEVOTED to her family? Were her parents that way? Did she learn it from them? I am so much like her. So much of what she used to do, I find myself doing now with my own children. Was it the same for her?
I was with her in the end, along with my Brother and my Mom. As she took her last breath and left this world for a better one, I held her hand. I know she is at peace now, and I also know that she will never truly be gone. We all carry her with us every day in our memories.
A piece of her lives in each one of us whose lives she touched……