Can I please just say? Writing tributes to loved ones after their passing is just getting old, and I intend to not do it anymore. Which means, everyone in my life whom I adore, please stay healthy and safe. You will not get a tribute from me if you choose to die anytime soon. My heart cannot take this. Just sayin'.
I shall explain...
My Dad called me yesterday to let us know that his mother, my Mimi, had become unresponsive and was not doing well. As they are in Charlotte, and we were at the lake in East Texas at the time of this call, I had little choice but to get on my knees pray for comfort and peace for this extraordinary woman, and all those who love her.
Later in the day, we packed up the car and headed back home from the lake. One child was scheduled for a nap during our car ride, and the other was in a Benadryl coma thanks to the multiple (thirty-five!) mosquito bites she fell victim to while under the watchful eyes of a parent. No names here, but that parent wasn't me. Just sayin'. Nevertheless, this quiet trip allowed me two hours in the car to reflect on my Mimi, and the way she touched our lives.
The three words which best describe my grandmother?
Larger Than Life.
She really was, that woman. Larger than life. Not just physically - she was gorgeous and captivating and tall (let's be honest here, compared to me, who isn't tall?). No, it was definitely her personality. She had a way of walking into a room and owning it. She never met a stranger, was always the life of the party, and had an uncanny ability to make everyone who knew her want to be around her all the time. Oh, and she had the most magnificent laugh - loud and throaty - she would frequently lose her breath in a fit of hysterics. She was so artistic and creative, always plopping down at the piano to bang out a tune, or generating fantastically funny songs or poems to honor a birthday or special occasion.
Put it this way, if she were a member of our generation, she would have a starring role on Glee. And she'd probably go on and rewrite it too, to make it even funnier. And direct it. And then she'd produce it. And lay down the tracks for all the songs. And then throw huge cast parties after wrap so everyone could be friends.
Up until illness waylaid her a couple of years ago, I swear that woman had a more active social life at 85 than me at.... well... ever. Her phone was always ringing, friends were always popping by for a cocktail and a good laugh. Mimi was never short on laughs. She loved telling jokes, and playing jokes. Her whole life seemed like one big fancy shindig, and she, the penultimate party planner.
She never discussed these things, but my beautiful grandmother was screentested for Gone With the Wind, and partied the night away with Frank Sinatra on the rooftop of the Carolina Inn shortly before she got engaged to my grandfather.
That's the stuff of legend, people. Can I getta amen?
Aside from her exquisite social skills, Mimi taught me a lot about family. She was never happier than when all her kids, grandkids, and later, great-grands, were all gathered around her. She always insisted on the family getting together several times a year, even if it was only for a quick brunch, or a few days in the mountains. Trust me, Mimi was like our own personal Chablis-swilling mafiosa - you did NOT say no to Mimi. Whatever she wanted, she got, and most often what she wanted was time with her beloved family.
She taught me to write poems and stories, she taught me to appreciate artwork, how to set a table, how to decorate a house, and how to throw a party. It was very important to her that her southern-born granddaughters master the fine skill of hosting a party, and also being the life of it.
And I'll never forget what she said to me the day I graduated with my Master's from Medical University of South Carolina and became a Nurse Practitioner.
"Sarah B (my family nickname), I used to think that you just needed to go to Davidson (College, the Harvard of the South), meet a nice boy to marry, join the Junior League, and learn how to make good chicken salad. I never imagined you would go to Clemson, then on to medical school (okay, not technically medical school, as it was a Master's in Nursing, but try explaining that to your grandmother), and now you're an almost doctor, and you take care of itty bitty tiny babies! I never thought you'd amount to much more than a housewife who made good chicken salad, and look at you now!"
Okay, the delivery may have been a little off, but the sentiment was there. And let me tell you, this was one of the prouder moments in my life. Knowing that I had exceeded my grandmother's expectations, and knowing that she recognized it. It also is a true testament to the bubble she lived in, in the Deep South, but that's probably a blog post for another day.
Oh, my Mimi, how I wish my girls could have known you back in the day, when you would chase each of us around the house with a hairbrush so we all looked "appropriate" in case you had company, or when we cousins used to jostle for the chance to sit by your side and listen to you laugh, or when I would open the mail to find a poem you had written for my birthday, or when you would host your annual Birthday Party for Everyone and we would all celebrate and feast on your famous Heath Bar Cool Whip cakes.
My dear, sweet, peculiar but authentic, Larger Than Life grandmother, you will be so missed.