Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saying Good Bye to Granny

In my Granny's arms when I was just three days old.
Earlier this week, I lost my last living grandparent. My sweet grandmother, Tina, has passed away. One of the hardest working women I've ever known, Granny filled many of my young summers with music, card games, fried chicken, bowling, and laughter. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. She will be deeply missed.

Granny with my great-aunt Sandie in Alabama.
Strong Southern women is where I come from.
She Remembers Love 

They say her mind has started to slip,
she’s let herself go. She’s old now,
in her seventies. Hair has grayed,
photographs have yellowed. Son
and daughters have moved to places
like Hayward, Honolulu, Vegas. She stays
in the South but they say she’s too much
to handle. Gave up her crocheting,
crosswords puzzles and cups of
sugary coffee. Each bittersweet day after
day after day, she stares at the screen,
comforted by murder mysteries
and memories of men she once
loved and loved her back. Her stories
are compilations of many, a blurred
mixture of truth and dreams, the dead
relatives. Orphanages in Louisiana.
Bad marriages in California.
True love in Tellico Plains.
Over a clumsy game of solitaire,
she shuffles the cards and recalls
a day trip to Knoxville when she knew
her second husband had fallen
in love with her for the first time. His left
hand on the steering wheel. His right,
careening around the edges of her
Southern heart. As they cross a bridge,
the swaying hips of the Tennessee River,
reminds him of their first kiss. Words tumble
from his mouth and she drinks them up,
allows them to melt inside of her, cooling
the simmering regrets that have begun
to plague her like the sorrow she felt
in her Cherokee blood on The Cherohala
Skyway, when he took her to Stratton
Meadows and she feared the ghosts. Their trail
of tears haunt her, later, in his hospital
room when his heart gives way and she
suddenly becomes a widow, a nuisance,
a door that won’t shut all the way. She lays
down the king of hearts, winning
the game. She doesn’t always remember
his name. But the bridge, the river, the allure
of the city, strike a familiar chord
in the nostalgic belfry of her beautiful heart.

Me. Granny. Bunnies.
The Departure

My parents lied to the airline, said I was five. Rules
were made to be broken when convenient, when
getting rid of me, when I needed to be old enough
to fly alone. The stewardess gave me wings. The pilot
showed me the cockpit, my first view of cerulean sky.

I was four. I flew south. For the summer, I was sent
to Carson, California where I ate cinnamon
toast, drank chocolate milkshakes for breakfast made
each morning by my stoned and seventeen Aunt Lawana,
who embodied the fearlessness I would always crave.

First rule: Granny refused to let Jolene be played
in her house. Said it was about a cheatin’ woman
and no good would ever come of that filthy song.
One night, after a bucket of fried chicken, I caught
her singing a verse or two. Bad memories got stuck

down deep in her throat, ‘til she nearly choked
to death and Pa had to save her. He gave her
a can of Fresca, bought her endless bags of yarn
to knit dresses for her toilet paper dolls, living
like banished woman in the bathroom, breathing.

Granny rubbed tobacco into my skin so I would know
how to always soothe a sting. Pa filled the Doughboy
pool so I could float on my back beneath the pomegranate
trees. So I could throw my dreams up to the sun, hoping
in September the truthful sky would carry me home.

In loving memory of Tina Elsie Axley (née Womack).

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