Birds and Squirrels
A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.
— Author Unknown
Since Sarah’s recent death, the reality of the amount of grieving that must be done on this very long and arduous journey through DID and trauma recovery has become painfully apparent. I thought that I had at least some understanding of the level of grief that I’m now forced to deal with. The truth is that the level that I have envisioned is nowhere close to what seems to be becoming ever more evident. Grief also isn’t always about someone’s demise. Grieving can encapsulate things related to career, education, personal life, etc. Sarah’s death seems to have ripped scabs off old feelings that seemed to be buried. I look over so many of the conversations that Sarah and I had together about life and there was always one particular topic that I never wanted to discuss because it’s so incredibly painful to me. This topic about, my grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton’s death.
Recently, I’ve had many memories of my childhood and life that just do nothing more than circulate throughout my brain continuously. Many if not most of these memories somehow include my grandmother. Why? Plain and Simple…she spoiled me as an adult like she did when I was a kid. She was also one of my closest and dearest friends. To me, she was MY Nannie. My grandfather Samuel E Buxton died September 1975. Ironically, only 4 months prior to me being born. These grandparents were my mom’s side of the family that has much less decedents than my daddy’s side of the family. I’ve always grown up hearing stories from my parents and Nannie about my grandfather. My Nannie was it when it came to grandparents from my mom’s family. I’m going to do my best to paint you an accurate and yet sometimes comical picture of who my grandmother was.
Some of my earliest memories include spending the night with my Nannie, at her house, in the very small town of New Augusta, MS. When I was younger, there wasn’t much there except some kin folk. And well….not much has changed. There was a place called the Tip Top, which was a hamburger stand on the side of the road that had the best box of grease that I had ever eaten. Remember, that it took my parents several years for them to be able to adopt both me and my sister. So, yea we got extra spoiled. However, my grandmother was from a totally different generation and the differences would become even more evident the older I got. But, she was still MY Nannie.
One of the fondest memories I have about my grandmother are of us smelling all the spices in her spice rack. She would make some of the funniest faces which would have me laughing like a hyena. We played card games that I swear to this day, I think she made up. We would go to cousins’ houses and play Pokeno or dice. And at night, I would snuggle up to her warm hump in her back that somehow always spelled S-A-F-E-T-Y to me.
My Nannie would sit and tell me stories about her childhood for as many hours as I could hold my eyes open. She would tell me such vivid and heartwarming stories about my grandfather that I always felt close to him without ever meeting him. I listened to Conway Twitty and Alabama on the radio with her. I laugh now at some of the lyrics to the songs Conway Twitty sang and wonder, “Why was I ever allowed to listen to this at such a young age?” I always have a good chuckle about that.
Nannie would tell me stories about being at the last public hanging and the KKK. Understand that my grandmother was born December 28, 1919, so she was right slap dab in the middle of a lot of history that was made. When we were younger, The Cosby Show was not allowed to be watched in her house. And when she passed away in January 2, 2006, Wheel of Fortune wasn’t watched if someone black was participating because, “Blacks take all the money.”
She and I obviously didn’t agree on the whole race issue or politics, but she was my Nannie. I think about it and if I recall correctly, she had a Chihuahua every day I was around her. She had a couple of dogs that I liked but they were all mostly from the devil. Apparently, only the last dog that she owned ever conveyed to her that he enjoyed the theme song to the game show Jeopardy. In her life, the magazine The Enquirer, might as well have been equal to the Bible.
She loved nature to the extreme. Both my parents and I get some good laughs when we talk about my grandmother and her ideas about birds and squirrels. My grandmother, in her later years, once she moved from New Augusta, MS where she was raised and subsequently raised my mom and aunt finally moved to Petal, MS and lived in an efficiency apartment behind my parents house. Her hobby became feeding the squirrels and birds. She loved them both but seemed to forget that they were animals not toddlers with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Anyway, she would share her frustrations with me in whatever language she saw fit and I could tell this was becoming a big source of stress. The main problem was that the squirrels were not only eating the corn cobs nailed to the tree but also climbing the bird feeder and eating the seed. She didn’t understand that cussing at a squirrel gets you absolutely nowhere. Nannie was becoming ever more frustrated by these invited rodents. The wooden chairs outside on her patio were slowly starting to lose the legs because the squirrels were chewing them off. I could hardly hold the laughter in but knew she was one small smartass remark from going on a squirrel killing spree that would even leave PETA speechless.
Not long after that, I guess she just couldn’t take it anymore. In the general direction of the birdfeeder were house shoes, knives, forks and whatever else that could be used as a weapon to be strategically thrown at random squirrels that would sit and have a stare down like that out of the old west. Her contradictions were some of the funniest non-filtered comments I had ever heard. She would be all about, “Death to all squirrels by any means!” And then flip on the television and say, “Can you believe how people treat animals?” And yes that “rainy day” comment time has finally arrived.
She had no filter. Speed limits signs were suggestions only. The motorized chairs at Wal-Mart were considered fully operational weapons that were to be used at all times. If you got in the way, you should’ve moved because that’s what caused the pain. She never understood the point in going to salvage stores because in her eyes, “Who wants to pay for dirty crap?” This is pretty much how she viewed everyday life. But, you know what? She was still MY Nannie.
I can honestly say that I have no regrets about things that should’ve been said or done with my relationship with my grandmother. At the time of her death, I was interning at Pine Grove’s Women’s Center as an undergraduate. I was still living and somehow surviving an abusive marriage and working two jobs with very minimal sleep. I didn’t nor did I make or take the time to grieve. I went through the motions and tried to forget it.
It has been 9 years since my grandmother died and the hurt is still like the night she died. My heart continues to feel the pain of the part of my soul that died that day. This is one traumatic event that I dread dealing with more than life itself. It’s also one of the events that keep me from resting and having some sort of peace. My world, my balance, my friend, my comedian, my really bad politician, my Nannie is who she was and still is to me.