I'll Always Be Just A Thought Away...
by Sharel E. Gordon-Love
My grandmother signed her correspondence and letters to friends and relatives with this beautiful sentiment, something I'd totally forgotten about until she recently passed away. Not knowing all those years ago that this very meaningful conclusion to happy greetings would be what would take me through the days I had to face with only her memory.
Grandma lived for 84 years! It had gotten to the place that without a doubt in my mind, I knew she would be right there when I came to visit. Certainly she was getting up in age, and her mobility was becoming limited, yet to me, she'd always be there to share her wisdom, correct us and tell us a thing or two, if need be.
My grandmother helped to raise my brothers, sister and myself. She was old fashioned and did not play. Punishment was dished out according to the crime… just ask my brothers about that hot wheels track they eventually hid away. Not that that would ever stop her; coming from the old school, the broomstick came in just as handy, as well as an old slipper or a switch.
I can't talk about punishment and not embellish heavily on the good times and the good things at Grandma's house. She loved to cook and bake, but I fell in love with the sweet things… apple pies, lemon meringue pies, peach cobbler, and one of my all time favorites, strawberry shortcakes! We would hurry to eat dinner and wish the hours away until dessert time. Let us not forget the cookie jar that was always filled. I'm grateful my own children were able to experience cookies at Grandma's house, as well as a whole lot of what I had growing up with her.
Living through puberty with Grandma wasn't easy since I felt by the time I turned 16 I knew what being grown was all about. I had to sneak and talk to boys on the phone until I turned 14. Dating? Not until 16 and that had the worst restrictions, but I would always devise a great plan that worked, only I found out in later years she knew! What I would do is plan my visits with my boyfriend on bingo night… Grandma and her sisters would visit the bingo hall about 3 or 4 days out of the week. What I treasured the most was midnight bingo. My brothers, sister and I would make sure we stayed up late snacking out in front of the TV, or go to a party and make it back home just before Grandma did. There were times that she would go to Bingo at noon with an aunt, so that would end up being hooky day if we could get away with it.
As much as I would act like I resented my grandmother's advice, I secretly pondered it in my heart. By the time I'd started becoming a young lady, she'd been through a lot and had seen many a-changing thing through the decades. Most times I'd act like I had a serious attitude thinking I knew everything, but I could always go back to her words and count them true. Trying to come into your own being grown was a milestone I thought I had a patent on and didn’t want to hear that I was doing anything wrong.
When I was married and became a mother, I didn't come right out and tell her I wanted her advice on anything. I would sit with her and watch her favorite channel (TNT - In the Heat of the Night) and bring up subjects that I knew would get her talking and ease in the real questions as we went along.
Today I am grateful that I finally grew up and put my immaturity behind me so that I could enjoy asking questions that I needed answers to. She was very quick to share whatever she had, whether it was through experience or something she knew about first hand. Even if it were something I'd heard over the years many, many times, I would sit patiently as if I was hearing it for the first time. These are the times I realized that it was her upbringing, chastisement, love and the sharing of her experiences that made me who I am today. She was truly the epitome of a strong black woman, only it took her death to make me realize this.
Thankfully I saw my grandmother two weeks before she died, and she was still giving out candy to her great-grands, asking questions about their welfare and reminiscing about the time we spent with her. I am grateful for the memories of Grandma and what she means in my life, and how I am yet able to share her with my children, friends and others. Since she named me, just for someone to ask about its unusual spelling and pronunciation is enough to spark memories and conversation of her. It took me well into adulthood to appreciate the uniqueness of it and the conversation piece it makes. Because of all of these things, Grandma will always be just a thought away…