This is the second part of a two part series of columns.
My grandfather died not long after that and my grandmother moved to Annapolis.
When I was 16, I moved in with her. She had rules and I never broke them.
She would wash my clothes by hand; sometimes hanging up clothes she determined weren’t as dirty as I did. I never said anything. I just wore them again.
She talked to me about her life. She talked to me about how I should live mine. I was working at the local newspaper and at times I would do dumb things, or I would want to be off so I could do things with my friends, and every time I would do something my boss at the paper seemed to know about it.
I always thought he was a genius. I didn’t find out till later that my grandmother and my boss had a direct line to each other, and he would come visit and spend hours drinking coffee with her discussing how they were going to keep me straight.
She never shared this with me. He did years later.
My friends felt as comfortable with her as I did and would stop by at times just to see her and talk over their problems.
She encouraged me to save money. I wish I had listened to her. She encouraged me to be a gentleman at all times.
I still say "Yes Ma’am" and "No Sir," even to young people.
She smoked about five packs of cigarettes a day, but she claimed she never inhaled. I always tried to catch her inhaling, but I never did. I always wondered if Bill Clinton got his famous line on not inhaling from her.
My grandmother was a pure Southern Lady. Every day she dressed to face the world wearing earrings and her big old fake pearl necklace.
At one time, I was way overweight — not much different than now — and I told her I was going to go on some diet. She said that was silly and she would fix foods and the right proportions of them and I would lose weight. She was right, as always. I followed her directions and soon I was at the correct weight.
When I was 21 I married and moved away from my grandmother. It broke her heart to see me get married so young.
About two years later my grandmother and I went on a grand trip as we drove through Charlottesville and on to Tennessee to meet and see relatives I had only heard of.
My grandmother was treated like she was the grand queen on that trip and I felt the happiest I had in years, just being with her. It was our last extended time together.
Soon after that my grandmother told my aunt that she just couldn’t handle things anymore, so my mother and aunt took her home with them. But she wanted what she had earned being in the service, so she rebelled until she was allowed to sign herself in at Perry Point Veterans Hospital outside of Baltimore, Md. — a beautiful place located on the Chesapeake Bay.
My grandmother, it turned out, had a form of dementia, but she had made her mind up before that disease sunk in that she deserved to be waited on and taken care of for the first time in her life.
I went to visit my grandmother when I could. She always seemed to be so sharp. She continued to challenge me on everything in my life.
I complained to my family that she was OK and should be home. But she really wasn’t. I think now she just rallied for me, or I just wanted to believe she was like the Grandma I knew.
She died in the early 1980s and was buried, in her own right, at Arlington Cemetery right next to my grandfather and with her own tombstone and with full military honors. She was proud of the fact she had earned that right on her own.
When I go to Washington, I go to Arlington to visit her. She and my grandfather are buried under a big oak tree. She told me once that if I didn’t come to visit her from time to time she would come back and scratch my eyes out. I know she was only kidding, I think.
When things got rough in her life, my grandmother would pull out her yellowed copy of the Serenity Prayer and she said that reading it always put things in perspective for her.
Grandma, you were an inspiration that has driven my very soul. I never got to tell you that. And guess what — I looked up that Serenity Prayer recently and you were right, as always, it helped put my disappointments into a perspective.
You told me once that you believed in me, and that you were proud of me and that you felt I would do great things some day.
I think I have not achieved all of your lofty predictions, but I am still trying.
I never have really written much about you before, at least not in as much detail.
The truth of the matter is, I should have written about you first. I just didn’t want to share with anybody else my feelings about you. Your picture is by my side always, and as I look at you with that big smile those pearls and fancy earrings, it makes me smile.
I hope you don’t mind that for Mothers Day I wrote this story about you. Most everybody I know has had and still has a fantastic grandma, and if they don’t I feel sorry for them. Those that still have their grandmas here, I hope they will take a few minutes to tell them that they love them this Mother’s Day.
I love you and I miss you.
Until next time.
T. Pat Cavanaugh is the publisher of The Rockdale News.