Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bye-Bye Mamaw Ruth

I've been dreading writing this post, but knew I needed to do it, for my own peace of mind if nothing else. Last week my only remaining grandparent, my Mamaw Ruth, passed away. She was 87 years old. Six years ago, she had a stroke and has since lived in a nursing home, a prisoner to her body's deterioration, but still mentally acute.

When I think of my grandma, this is how I picture her:

This photo was probably taken about 20 years ago in my parent's house, but that is how she lives on in my mind. She was sharp as a tack, wiley and witty. My grandparents lived next door to us and I spent many, many hours with them. My mom went back to work when I was three and Mamaw babysat for me a lot. I got off the bus at her house after school for many years, until I was deemed old enough to stay at home alone. After school, I always had a cheese sandwich and an RC and watched cartoons on their giant console tv. I spent hours sprawled on my stomach on their living room floor, watching Cowboy Bob, Heathcliff, Woody Woodpecker and Fat Albert. Mamaw had her favorite shows as well, and I was soon introduced to The Price is Right, Another World, Different Strokes, Dallas, Fame and every year The Sound of Music. She told me I "got on her nerves" because I followed her around the house from room to room. If I stayed at their house until after dark fell, I would call my mom (on our party-line phone) and tell her to turn the porch light on. Mamaw would watch out the window as I ran home as fast as my feet would carry me, sure the Boogeyman would grab me in the middle of the garden.

This picture was taken at the Orangeville Community Center when I was about 3 or 4. That's me in front (obviously) with Mamaw to the right of me in the green suit. My grandpa is also in the picture, on the right side at the very far end of the table. You can just make out his arm and half his face. They went to the community center for lunch during the week and I tagged along, just me and all the old folks! I had a lot of friends there! I still have a small rolling pin that one of the men made for me.

Some days we would go to town to run errands. We'd stop at the farmer's Co-op to get gas and if I was lucky, she'd let me tell the serviceman to "fill'er up". My favorite place to go was the drugstore, where I could get a piece of Super Bubble or a Dum Dum sucker (butterscotch was my favorite flavor). I don't remember her ever swearing, but she said "fiddle sticks" and "hen's teeth" a lot. I loved her ham and navy beans, mashed potatoes (Hungry Jack) and biscuits (also Hungry Jack). She would say I "didn't eat enough to keep a bird alive" (those days are long gone!). I always sat on her lap and she would count my ribs (i.e. tickle me). I didn't like it when I grew too big to set on her lap.

The longest months of my life were the winters that Mamaw and Papaw spent in Florida. I would cry when she called and ask when they were coming home. They were probably gone all of four months, but it seemed like a lifetime to me. Mamaw had an entire fence row planted in irises and I knew when the flowers started to bloom, it would soon be time for them to return. I would check every day to see if I could spot their truck and trailer sitting in the drive.

Mamaw loved to make quilts and I can remember her sitting on the end of the "davenport" (couch) stitching away and there were always needles, quilt pieces and pattern pieces cut out of sandpaper on the arm of the couch. I have several of her quilts and I will post those some day.

My aunt and uncle and their three kids lived in Kentucky, and when they would come to visit either my cousin S would spend the night with me or we would all stay at my grandparents, camped out on the living room floor. I was always the first one to wake up, and Mamaw would start her day with a cup of hot tea.

When I got older and learned how to cook, she liked for me to come to their house and make Rice Krispie treats and "sit a spell". She always had a bag of the colored marshmellows in the refrigerator. The second semester of my freshman year of college, I decided to come home and return to school the following fall. She threatened to "yank a knot in my tail" for quitting school. I promised her that I would return and I did, graduating a few years later.

I am thankful that she got to see Arwyn many times, and Arwyn knew who "Mamaw Roof" was, even if she won't remember later. The last time I saw Mamaw was at Arwyn's second birthday party when my parents brought her down for a visit. She had never been to our house before and we sat in the yard for a couple of hours. It is difficult for my husband to comprehend the scope of our loss. She had her first stroke before he met her and couldn't talk much in later years. He didn't know her the way we did. It is hard for me to let her go, moreso knowing she is the last and the one I was closest to. I miss you already, Mamaw.


natalie said...

Leta, what beautiful memories you have of your Mamaw, and how hard to let her go. Keep telling those stories.

Destany said...

I read in the paper where your grandmother passed away. I am so sorry for your loss, and your family is in my prayers.

iMollie said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of those wonderful stories and memories. I love your Grandma Ruth now too. Arwyn is so fortunate that you'll keep Grandmaw Roof alive for her...

Still thinking of you and your loss.

Ninotchka said...

Aww, I'm so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute, though! Very well written and I enjoyed reading it immensely. She sounds like a great lady. :)

Beth Erickson said...

Such a sweet tribute. So sorry to hear of your loss. Thinking of you.