It’s 3:50 a.m., and I can’t sleep.
For 31 years, God has blessed me with the world’s best parents and four wonderful grandparents.
Some children never enjoy the riches of knowing their grandparents, so I realize how fortunate I am. I can’t thank God enough.
The telephone ringing in the middle of the night, though, is seldom good news. The eerie, high-pitched ring attacks a peaceful sleep like a trigger-happy robber.
“I’m so sorry,” I heard my wife, Tamie, tell someone, the tone in her voice unmistakable.
Fear immediately coursed through my body.
“Your Grandma Nanney,” Dad began. I knew the rest. I didn’t know what to say.
I wanted to cry, but no tears came out.
Edith Nanney was my mom’s mom. She was the epitome of a fighter. She had been sick for many years. She had defied death many times.
When I was in first grade, Grandma Nanney had undergone surgery for cancer. The doctors gave her six months to live. She gave all her grandkids $10 – to buy something to remember her by.
My younger brother and I bought cap guns and bang caps, if I recall, and had a fine time.
Grandma Nanney, meanwhile, won the first of her many fights with cancer and frail bones and old age. I will always remember that $10, not to mention the birthday cards that she sent without exception year after year after year, no matter how she felt and no matter if her grandkids occasionally forgot her own birthday.
Grandma lived most of her life in southeastern Missouri’s “Bootheel.” She spent a few summers with my family when we lived in Tennessee and came to live with us in Texas for a while when I was a teen-ager. But most of my life, we lived several hundred miles away – in Louisiana, North Carolina and other states – and saw Grandma only once or twice a year.
My Paw-Paw Nanney has been in mental hospitals and nursing homes for 20 years, but Grandma always managed to send him chewing tobacco and give him canteen money and go see him whenever she could, although even a short drive often left her barely able to stand.
That’s called as-long-as-we-both-shall-live, for-better-or-worse true love.
My wife and sons, Brady, 6, and Keaton, 2, traveled to Cooter, Mo., to see Grandma in March. I’m thankful for that. I’m disappointed that Grandma never got to see or hold my daughter, Kendall, born in July.
It’s 4:31 a.m. Still no tears. Just memories.
In my mind, I’m a little boy again, playing on Grandma’s kitchen floor, making mountains out of vegetable and soup cans. Grandma is making corn because she knows it’s my favorite.
Grandma always liked to tell about the time I filled my brother Scott’s shoes with water while he was sitting on the commode. I blamed it on him, she’d laugh, even though he was too little to have gotten down by himself.
Grandma had a large-print Bible that she read every day. She loved stuffed animals and Elvis Presley. When my wife and I went to Memphis, Tenn., a few years ago (after visiting Grandma in nearby Missouri) and wrote about Elvis and Graceland, I meant to mail Grandma copies of our stories. I can’t remember if I did. I hope so.
Probably 25 years ago, I sat next to Grandma Nanney at the funeral of my dad’s grandmother, my Great-Grandma Stockton. I beamed with a little boy’s pride when the preacher talked about Grandma Stockton’s many great-grandchildren.
“I feel bad because I’m happy,” I whispered to Grandma Nanney. “I’m happy because I’m proud she was my great-grandmother.”
Grandma Nanney put her arm around me.
It was perfectly fine to be happy and proud, she assured me.
“Your Grandma wouldn’t want you to cry,” she said. “She knows how much you loved her.” The following fields overflowed: SECTION = Oklahoma NOW! EDUCATION – FAMILY – PARENTING