This holiday season, my thoughts keep turning to my grandmother, my dad’s mom, Nellie Joyce Tomblin Cummons. Physically, she’s 5 hours away from me, but with alzheimers quickly eating away at her mind, she’s really much further away. On December 26th, she and my grandfather will have been married, I believe 57 years. Papaw has not always been the gentlest of men, not always the husband that women dream of marrying, but now, as the sun sets on their life together, I see him struggle to care for her and recognize the love that he’s kept tucked away for so long. Any day now, it’s going to get to the point where he can’t take it anymore, and Gran will have to be placed in a nursing home, and without the familiar things that surround her everyday, I’m sure that she will not last long. I wish that I were closer, so that I could soak in those last fleeting moments of clarity that she seems to have in the middle of the day.
I would tell her about what a thrill it was as a young girl to go with her to the laundromat, and watch all the close spin around. I’d tell her that it was all I could do, not to beg her to let me take a spin in one of the giant dryers… it looked so fun! Instead, I would settle for climbing into one of the carts you put your laundry in, and propel myself back and forth, pretending I was in a boat, with a shirt hanging from the tall metal hook for a sail.
I would tell her about how “cool” it was to have a Gran who worked for Geno’s and would bring home huge bags of imperfect pizza rolls that my cousins and I knew were in the freezer any time we got the munchies.
I would tell her thank you for allowing my cousin, Kelly, and I to pilfer through her makeup and jewelry, so that we could get dressed up and perform concerts on the back deck of her tiny trailer.
I would tell her that of all her possessions (which really weren’t many, Gran was never blessed with fine things), the things that I remember most, and would love to have someday, was her collection of Avon perfumes… the ones that come in bottles made to look like beautiful women in long, bustled dresses, and elaborate hair-dos. I would stare at those for what seemed like hours at night, dreaming up stories about the women.
I would tell her that one of the best memories of my childhood was of her, packing up Kelly and I (I was probably 14 or 15, Kelly was around 10), and taking us to Myrtle Beach for a week! I remember the thrill of driving through the tunnels that ran through the Appalachian mountains, stopping at HoJos for biscuits and gravy, and the little green, beachfront motel we stayed in. Everyday, Gran would bake in the sun, (and sleep!) while Kelly and I ran up and down the beach, knowing that we had the best grandmother in the world!
There are so many other things I would tell her, but more than anything else, I just pray that I have one more opportunity to tell her how much I love her. Merry Christmas, Gran!