Mamaw is heavy on my mind this morning. I suppose that’s because this is the first anniversary of her passing. My heart aches; I miss her.
Mamaw and I were close. She called me her baby – and in all the ways that count, I was.
One of my earliest memories is of Mamaw taking me to the chicken coop to collect eggs. I couldn’t have been more than three. Our rooster didn’t appreciate the intrusion and attempted to flog my eyes out. Mamaw flung her arm up over my face, taking the blow from the attack. She made Papaw shoot the rooster that evening. She wasn’t going to have an animal around the house that might hurt me. She wore that scar like a medal of honor – Mamaw was willing to bleed for me.
That rooster wasn’t the only thing that Mamaw wanted to put down over me. On more than one occasion, my five-foot-nothing grandmother threatened to put a bullet in someone when she thought they’d done me wrong. Mamaw was a tough old woman, and she didn’t play when it came to her baby.
As a little girl, I’d curl up in the crook of her knees on the couch while she read aloud. That’s how I fell in love with writing; by listening to her read with my head propped up on her hip. I knew Gone With the Wind by heart by the time I started grade school. It was her favorite book – and is now mine, not because of the story, but because of her.
Every day we walked up on the mountain to check on Papaw Cochran’s cattle. On those walks, she taught me about the world around me. She showed me where the wild blackberries and strawberries grew and how to spot a mountain spring. She taught me how to gather wild mint and branch lettuce. Those walks gave me a passion for the plants and wildlife around me.
I had night terrors growing up – so I slept with Mamaw. On nights that I woke up screaming or crying, she’d roll over and talk me back to sleep. In the middle of the night, she’d tell me stories. Sometimes recalling her childhood; others, my daddy’s. She just rambled on until I drifted back to sleep; it didn’t matter how long it took.
When I moved to Wilmington, Mamaw was shattered. I know because she became surly over it. That’s how she always got when she was hurt. The pain melted into anger, and that’s how she dealt with it. Even through that pain and anger, she never failed to tell me that she loved me a bushel and a peck.
On the nights I came home from Wilmington, Mamaw would climb out of bed, no matter the time, and cook a full-blown breakfast. I remember many a midnight sitting around the dinner table with scrambled eggs and fresh biscuits. She continued to get out of bed to feed me into my adult years.
As Mamaw aged, dementia took over. At times I’d visit, and she couldn’t speak a coherent sentence. But every time I walked through the door, her face lit up with the kind of adoration only a mother can give. She’d pat my cheeks and smile. She loved me, even as her memory faded.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a love like that. But then again, it’s a blessing to have experienced it at all.