This piece is dedicated to my maternal grandmother Mary E, may she rest in peace.
"What God has for you is for you and you only."- Grandma
Today would have been my maternal grandmother's bday. I stopped counting how old she would've been years ago. She was in my life for 30-plus years. I loved that lady so it hits me kinda hard around this time every year.
My mood changes and I revert back to that little brown girl looking and longing for Grandma's words of encouragement while feeling consumed with a myriad of feelings and longing for the freedom of wanting to feel free by shaving off my hair.
It's like she always knew what to say to make things right. Being the oldest child of many forced me to grow up a lot faster than I would have liked to. I became the responsible one at a young age. At one point, I wore that characteristic like a badge of honor.
Eventually being the “responsible one” for so many others led me to be irresponsible to and with myself. I had to learn how to navigate my world as a "kidult". I accepted early on that it was a part of my journey this lifetime.
Kidult- my interpretation of a kid that had to take on adult responsibilities
Grandma was my first therapist. She knew the various sides of me and loved and never judged me. There were so many unspoken secrets between us that we never ever revisited. She understood duality and like Alexander Pope "to err is to be human".
When things get tough for me, I long for her words and energy even more. Hearing “It's gonna be okay Sug/Shug” or “there's a ram in the bush for you” were a few of her isms. She had plenty of one-liners that would have a scholar scratch their head trying to ascertain and unpack the depth of them.
Today was tough for me on so many levels. I had some old birthday cards that she had given me. They make a debut twice a year, her birthday day in July and my birthday in August.
The words on the card and seeing her cursive handwriting "May God Keep You", took me back to her Brooklyn brownstone where she reared me and so many others. She was the original hood healer. She had an open door policy, she would send plates to neighbors on Thanksgiving and leave a recycled tin pie plate filled with leftovers for the cats. Her funeral service was held on a snowy and icy night in January but the church was standing room only. I had the pleasure of writing her obituary, and so many people shared their anecdotes about her love, kindness, and generosity. But the beauty of this all was that she received her flowers while she was alive. People would call her landline years later and she would answer “ yellow” (or that’s what it sounded like to her family) to thank her for whatever kind deed she had done for them.
I see her in me. Turns out she was the “responsible one” too but it cost her her health. Being
there for everyone is commendable and all good until you realize that you haven’t left much for yourself.
Growing up, it was common for the elders to say that “ each generation is smarter and wiser”. I'm Grandma 2.0. I have her wisdom of discernment and helping others coupled with my resources for creating healthy boundaries and preserving myself for myself.
Looking down, I can see how my fingers are a hybrid of generations. They're unique to say the least, a hodgepodge of my maternal grandmother, my mother, and my father.
These are the same hands that I create with. So grateful for Grandma’s hands that prayed for me, cooked for me, and nurtured me.