Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gratitude 3: Sir Charles

"Damn you Charles Barkley!"

I was in my early teen years, or so it seems. My mom, dad and me were visiting my Grandma "Elksie", my dad's mom.  Her warm family room, set right off her small kitchen, was bright in the afternoon sun.  In the 18 years I knew her, Grandma never changed her family room.  A couch sat against the wall opposite the door, covered in an afghan made by Grandma.  A single tall-backed chair sat next to a beautiful wooden side table.  On the wall behind the door was TV stand holding an old television with rabbit ears.  A picture of grandma at 9 or 10 holding a china doll adorned one wall, while a watercolor painting of a cat (painted by my late grandfather) hung on the other wall.  It was strange, because you never entered my Grandma's house through the front door.  Well, maybe on Christmas, when all the family was gathered in her formal living room, but mostly you came in through the carport to step into this very room.

I can't remember what we were doing that day, but right before we left, Grandma threw out this very un-grandma-ish statement directed at Charles Barkley.  She had been watching the basketball game, and (according to Wikipedia, where I had to look in order to figure out what team Sir Charles would have been playing for during this time period), Charles Barkley and his Philadelphia 76ers were playing a game.  I guess Grandma didn't like the 76ers, or maybe she did and he was screwing up the game for them, because this utterance was said with disgust.  I don't know what he could have done, but she wasn't happy with him.

I wasn't super close with my grandma.  In my mind, she was Grandma Elsie, and my other grandma was Grandma.  The one that didn't need the qualifier.  But, despite our distance (I never slept over, we never had a day together, shopping or going for to Wendy's or the park the way I did with my other Grandma) she was my grandma.  She did pick me up from school every day for 2 months the year I was 14 and broke my ankle.  She came to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and birthday celebrations at our house, never failing to call our old male cat "Hooker" (his real name was "Hooter." Not much better, but still, hearing your grandma call your cat hooker is pretty amusing.)  I once found an old quilt in a trunk down in her basement while helping her go through her things; it had been made by her mother, my great-grandma Olive.  The quilt now hangs over my railing; I marvel at it every time I go up the stairs to my room. And I remember one cold October Sunday three years before she died, Grandma came over suddenly as Amy and I were making cheese potatoes for dinner.  The memory is still so vivid of me and Amy sitting at the kitchen table, cutting up potatoes and talking with our grandmother.

The things I did know about Grandma was she liked to walk.  She thought nothing of walking up to our house or my uncles' houses, 3 or 4 or 5 miles away.  She loved to travel.  In fact, I believe she went to every state in the country.  She was a widow from the time my dad was 16.  She lived in a house that was right next door to the house she grew up in.  She raised 3 sons.  I believe she and my grandfather had a rocky relationship.  I know she worked for the phone company for most of her life.  She loved loved cats and dolls.  She was a descendant of people from the Mayflower on her mother's side.  She lived to 80 years old and was in relatively good health for all but the last few months of her life.  She had 12 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and now great-great grandchildren at the rate of 3 or 4 per year.

So tonight, when Shane turned the TV to the game on TNT, I saw Charles Barkley.  And I can't see Charles Barkley without saying aloud, "Damn you Charles Barkley!" and remembering my grandma.  Who, despite her prickly nature, her independence and distance, was someone I love.  I wish I could talk to her now, as a grown-up.  I wish I could talk to her about my dad, her baby.  I wish I could ask her about raising sons, and who my grandfather was and hear the things I never knew about him.  I wonder if I would have understood her more from a grown-up's point of view.  My older cousin Rochelle said to me just a few years ago, "Ah, I loved Grandma.  I know she was hard to know, but I loved her."  I wish I could have known her the way Rochelle and a few of my older cousins knew her.

So tonight, I'm grateful for Charles.  Who, without knowing it, brings back a little bit of my Grandma to me everytime I see him.  I hope one day she and I will be able to know and understand each other.  Maybe she will introduce me to my grandpa.  That will be a great day.  So thanks, Chuck, for being at work tonight.  Whatever you did that long-ago day that made Grandma Elsie so mad, I'm glad you did it.


Anonymous said...

That's a great story, too. I think I'll have to always say it, too. Good thing there's not a whole lot of Charles Barkley going around:)

Amy Sorensen said...

I didn't know about Grandma picking you up from school. That is a sweet memory for you to have! My strongest Grandma Elsie memory is the day she drove me to a gymnastics meet, and I only ate a carrot before I left, and she was worried because I was only eating a carrot. But I also remember the cheese-potatoes day. It was a good day.

I wish I had been closer to her or known her better.

Apryl said...

Who is she related to on the Mayflower? OMG BECKY, WE COULD BE COUSINS!!!!