Over the last few weeks or so I have been working on a project… putting together thoughts… and memories from my childhood. For a long time people have been intrigued at hearing stories of my childhood, though it is rare.. sometimes I ltalk about things from then… things that made me the way I am today. Normally they are not the best of stories though… when your family break out into a fist fight at your grandfathers funeral and the like… you kind of end up telling those stories. No one wants to hear about the good things. It’s really more of a venting of thoughts.. not specifically typed in any specific format… it’s my thoughts.. as they come.. for what they are worth.
This little blog is not a “let me tell you about my childhood and how bad it was” type of stories… this one is about the good things… specifically the most honest person I have ever met in my life. Sarah Catherine Blount Akers. My grandmother. My memaw.
Four years ago tomorrow, the 25th, we lost her after a year or so of rapid decline due to Alzheimer’s. Oh how I hate the disease.
Growing up, my memaw watched me a lot… once school started I stayed with her on the weekends… for a while I would even ride the bus to her house and stay with her until my dad was off of work. I remember watching HeeHaw on Saturday nights after taking a hot bath in her claw foot tub, something that I still do when I am down, sad, irritated, depressed, or sick. I remember sitting on her front porch in the summer, she didn’t have air and it was often much cooler outside. We would sit in the swing and watch the heat lightning. I remember her home on Arington Drive when I was oh so small, no more than 2 or 3, where there was a piano… and where she would give me a bath in her sink (maybe I was smaller than I even know). I remember Easter Egg hunts in her yard. Her dog Sam which she loved.. and long after he died had a little memorial for… complete with fresh picked flowers often. I remember Saturday cooking…. she would always have lunch after church for the family… a very large family.. different uncles and aunts would come from week to week.. but her, my grandfather when he was alive, and my uncle — the reverend would come every week. She would often bake pies, and prepare the potato salad on Saturdays. Oh how I loved her cooking. I remember Christmas, when it was at her house.. always on Christmas Eve.. and always at 6pm so that everyone could make it.
I remember all of the happy times. Almost nothing but happy memories there. Sitting in the living room while she “put on her face” on Sundays before church. The constant use of Oil of Olay.. and even her Tube Rose snuff when I was younger. — When I was 7 or so I would walk to the store, not a block away, and buy her a can of snuff and me a candy bar. I remember her taking me to the library and pulling JFK books for me to read and look at while she went to do whatever it was she was there to do.
I remember her coming home from work before she retired, often with cotton in her hair from the mill… and I remember how much grace and poise she had when my grandfather died. How proud she was of him… and our entire family. How she looked after the nine kids and what was then thirteen or so grandchildren. How she attended to my grandfathers grave so much so it recently had to be re-glazed. She would go every few days and pour baby oil on the stone to keep it shining… slowly wearing off the gold that adorned the lettering.
And I remember that every single time the doors opened to the church.. we were there… always in the same row… always with a pack of gum in hand for me…. WinterMint or SpearMint… and her worn out Bible.. taking notes as my uncle read from the pulpit. She was the most Godly women I have ever met. I never heard her curse… but once… and I remember hearing her pray a few times afterwards for forgiveness.
She was so religious… so sweet… and so loving. When my dad told her I was gay, something I never actually talked to her about, she did not judge me.. she prayed for me… and for my partner of a few years at the time. She started asking about him and accepted him into the family, so much so that his name was added to the family directory and only recently removed. She didn’t treat me any different and loved me just the same.
I can still hear her voice.. and I’m thankful for that. I can still even smell what she smelled like…
The night before she died I posted: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” I didn’t realize how true that was when I posted it.. but it is. She had a pleasant life. A great life she would say. She wasn’t rich, by any means… but I never heard her complain about money. She always took pride in how she looked (red hair until she got really sick… straight out of the bottle but red none the less… and a perm). The transition took a while… and it was oh so troublesome.. I’m glad I was there for it all.. I literally stayed in Lexington, at my uncles, in the room with her and slept in the room next to her for two weeks straight. Once she was gone… it was so peaceful in the house. I remember holding her hand and praying… for hours and hours those two weeks… and then for a while after she had left us.. along with Jonathan who had been there most of the time as well. I remember how peaceful it was when they finally took her away. How quiet…. deathly quiet in fact… even with two dozen people, at least, in the house.
I miss her so much. I miss being able to go visit her with a hot-dog or hamburger. I miss being able to call her and get her advice on things. I miss not feeling judge and feeling nothing but 100%, undiluted love. I just miss her. My mother was referred to her as the brightest star in my sky… and she was right. She was my biggest fan.
I now have a picture of her and my grandfather hanging in my hallway so that I see it daily. It’s the original.. from the last 70’s and early 80’s… stained orange from her constant wiping with a Pledge covered rag. One of my prize possessions. I have a smaller (thumbnail sized print) of the same picture on my desk at work.. it’s taped to my monitor and is the only personal picture I have in my office. I think about her often, him too… and have them somewhat strategically in my life to remind me that they are always watching down on me… and reminding me that one day I’ll get to see them again daily.
In the end.. the very last day I saw her before getting the “come home” call.. for a split second, she didn’t know me.. she couldn’t remember me… that killed me a little.. a few minutes later she quickly said “Jamie”… letting me know she knew who I was.
I’ll never forget my memaw. Even if I do end up with that horrible disease… I hope to God I never forget how amazing my memaw was and how much of a force in my life she was and still is… and how much I love her.. and how much she loves me.