My feisty 85-year old Mamaw passed away on Saturday, May 15th. She would’ve turned 86 on Saturday (22nd). She was my last living grandparent. One of the main reasons I moved to Knoxville in 2002 was to be near Mamaw and Papaw. Papaw passed away 2 1/2 years ago and we had to move Mamaw to Kingsport so my Dad, stepmother, and sister could care for her. She had alzheimers, otherwise known as, “The Long Goodbye” disease.
Not many people have the joy of having their grandparents in their lives until the age of 35 and 37 like my sister, Maria and I have had. Mamaw and Papaw weren’t just the grandparents we saw on Christmas and once during the summer, but the grandparents who were actively involved in our lives.
They, along with my dad and stepmother would take us (along with our cousin Natalie) to Florida, Disneyworld, Myrtle Beach, Opryland, and a lot of other places, but the place I cherished most was their home in north Knoxville. There’s just something magical about grandparents homes.
My Mamaw and Papaw Payne’s (mom’s parents) home also had this effect on me. Sunrooms, great big closets, claw foot tubs, sunny, yellow kitchen where Mamaw let us drink out of the dipper, keyholes to peep through on the door that went down to the basement, and a Mamaw that would let us ring the big bell to wake everyone up for breakfast.
Maria told me about a song recently called, “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. We cannot listen to this song without crying because it reminds us of our grandparents and the impact the four of them have had on our lives.
We would go to Knoxville just about every other weekend of my childhood. There were some things we’d know for sure. Mamaw would have a red velvet cake in which my sister and I would fight over the corner pieces. She would also make us homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Daddy and Papaw would go to the football games and Mamaw either took us to the mall or she would be stuck with us watching the same movies over and over – Swiss Family Robinson, Annie, Jaws, and Pete’s Dragon. A fave memory was of her taking us to see, “Return of the Jedi” in which she fell asleep. She loved us with her baking and with her time.
Mamaw cleaned our ears rather painfully, and brushed our hair rather painfully, but she loved us well. My sister and Mamaw are so much alike it is uncanny, while I am more like my Papaw. I loved their imprint on our lives. As I was listening to the preacher at Papaw’s funeral, and again at Mamaw’s on Monday, I was overwhelmed with the weight of continuing a spiritual and Godly legacy. Harold and Mary (don’t you love their names?) were married for 63 years and were the epitome of consistent. Often I would get up in the morning and see Papaw at the table pouring over the Bible and his sunday school lessons. Mamaw served in the nursery for 50 years. I thought to myself, “I make this too complicated.” I worry about “calling” and doing great things for Jesus, but in reality, I just desire to walk with Him daily.
My friend Darren uses a phrase over and over, “simplicity and purity of devotion”. I love this. I believe this is how my grandparents walked with Jesus….with simplicity and purity of devotion.
Thanks for remembering and honoring Harold, Mary, Bill and Millie by reading this blog today. I’d love to hear about your grandparents home or your favorite memory with your grandparents.