I don't know what time I finally went to sleep. Funny how a body can be so tired and the mind just keeps going and going and going and they won't work together sometimes. I fell asleep with tears on my pillow and slept fitfully, waking often. When I finally woke up for good, the tears and overwhelming feeling of loss were waiting, but I kept them somewhat at bay, let them fall silently.....Ashlyn was sleeping next to me and I didn't want to wake her, didn't want her to hear. Mama keeps saying that someone can sleep in the back bedroom, that there's plenty of beds, but that's Granny's bedroom. I used to sleep in that bed with her when we were here, until the day I decided I was too big....I think sometime shortly after we moved to Florida. I suspected that she was somewhat sad when I stopped.....that king-sized bed was awfully big for one person.....but she understood. I was growing up.
The thoughts & feelings are bouncing around like pinballs out of control today. I feel like I have cotton stuffed in my brain. Georgia cotton, like we'd see in the fields on our way here. This time of year, we take in the view of peach trees laden with their sweet fruit on the trip.....when we'd come for Thanksgiving and Christmas, those trees were bare, but the cotton plants would be filled with their puffy white offerings. I remember asking Mark to pull off the road on one trip when the kids were smaller and had him go pick one pieace of cottton so that they could see what it looked like and felt like before we would buy it in plastic bags from the store.
She's everywhere I look in this house. The memory of her in the bathroom while I dry my hair....putting on her make-up. Standing in the hallway, opening the closet to get towels or washcloths for us. In the kitchen cooking up a storm. In the years I lived in Georgia, we were here every Sunday, without fail. We'd come into this house and there'd be a spread of food on the counter/buffet that you wouldn't believe. Unless it was a holiday, there was always fried chicken and cornbread....the other dishes would vary, but it was always way too much. That saying about cooking with love was never more true than it was about her.....she planned her menus making sure there was something for everyone, each dish was someone's favorite and she made it with them in mind. "Dan, I got you some Red Velvet Cake in there", she'd say. Squash Casserole for Mama. Something for Aunt Joyce.....different things for different people. For me, it might be Macaroni and Cheese one week, Zipper Peas or Fruit Salad on another, or maybe a dessert..... Chocolate Torte. Turtle Cake. Banana Pudding. The list could go on and on.
I look out the kitchen window and I think of Smut, the fluffy black kitten I left with her the summer we moved to Florida. She was never one for pets....I don't think she'd ever had one before, but she said she'd take care of my kitten for me and I could visit him when I came to see her. That little kitten worked his way into her heart before she knew what was happening. He grew into a beautiful cat and would sit on the sill on the other side of the window while she did dishes and she would talk to him. She would give hinm little bits of her food.....whatever she had cooked for herself and I think she may have cooked a little extra just for him. She loved that cat, and it surprised us all. He ran behind her car one day when she was backing out of the carport and she didn't see him. She talked for years about how much she hated that, would talk about the way he'd look at her though that kitchen window and would come and wind in between her legs when she'd go sit on the back porch swing, in and out, round and round. In the last year or so, she would have bouts of dimentia...not constantly and usually when she was sick. She would see all kinds of things that weren't there......often she would see cats, lots of cats all over the place and I wonder if one of them that she saw was Smut. I like to think that it was.
I swang on that back porch swing with her countless times....her on the left, me on the right. We'd all be out there on a Sunday afternoon, the adults shootin' the breeze, and me just listening, taking it all in. She'd sit slightly turned, her right arm sometimes propped up by the back of the swing, her right foot wrapped behind her left leg, using her left leg to rock back and forth, gentle and steady. I'd get up, go play, and always end up right there again. Sometimes someone else would sit with us, but I always tried to manipulate it so that I was the one sitting by her.
I look out towards the shed, weathered and worn now, with Uncle Dan's John Deere parked in the car-port type area underneath. For so many years, PawPaw's old Ford pick-up would be there. I remember hopping up in that pick-up beside her when I was here and she needed to collect rent from her rental houses. We would drive, turning and bouncing along the dirt road to where they were. People would come out of the houses and give her the money, calling her "Mizz Hortman", and I thought my Granny must be very important. Then we'd go take all that money down to the BB&T to deposit it, and I'd walk in so proud that I was with my Granny.
In the wood-paneled family room, I look at the faux brick fireplace and the hearth that extends past it, along the entire length of the wall. There's a long leather cushion and it creates extra seating......and I think about my PawPaw. He died when I was only 4, and I only know him by photographs and other people's memories. Granny has told me over and over again how much he loved me, loved all of us grandchildren.....how he would take a Sunday nap on that cushion underneath the window and pull my little self up beside him to take a nap with him, wrapping me up in his arms. It hurts to think about it and I wonder what that would have felt like.....a little girl all wrapped up in the arms of her PawPaw, to have the love of the kind of man that he was in my life. I imagine the feeling that little girl would have felt is safe and secure....and happy and completley loved..... a little like Heaven and much like what it will feel like when I get there one day and am finally wrapped up in the arms of my sweet Savior.
Every person I've ever met in this town has praised my PawPaw up and down.....what a good man he was, God-fearing, hard-working, always kind and gracious, a friend to everyone. They always talk about the restaurant/grocery store/gas station they owned on 341 and I like to try to imagine what it was like in those days. Before I-75 was built, 341 was the main route to Florida and they had quite the booming business. I-75 put them out of business and I always think of them and their restaurant when we watch Cars.
Granny would say that there never was a man on this earth that was as good as he was and she missed him every single day that she lived on without him. She would often talk about getting to see him again, to be with him again. I think she was quite the woman to have to live with at times, a feisty Southern gal with quite a kick to her. I've never seen that side of her...... she was never that way with me. But he loved her and she loved him.....the last time I was here, someone mentioned him and the look that came over her sweet face was priceless. "He shore was good to me", she said. "He shore was a good man....he died in 1978 and I've missed him every day". In the week after I left, she started saying things that now, looking back, everyone says are signs that she knew it wouldn't be long. Instead of saying "I love you" to my mama, she would say, "Now, just remember.....I love you".....other little things, too. She told one of her sitters a week or so ago, "My husband's come to get me"....
We went to take some shoes to the funeral home not long ago.....slippers for Granny to wear. Her viewing is tonight.
I can't do this.
I don't want it to be real.
We got there and there was a sign on the door that they're closed until 3:00 for Independence Day. I keep forgetting. It dawns on me that this is the one holiday that hasn't had Granny written all over it, and I will now think of her on this holiday as well for the rest of my life. The sign on the door has her name on it and the times of the viewing as well as the graveside funeral in the morning.
Louise B. Hortman
Seeing her sweet name, her precious name, on that announcement makes me feel like a tidal wave has hit and I don't know how I'm going to walk into that funeral home. I don't know how I'm going to make it through this.
She was sick and she had lived a long life......it was time for her to go. I wouldn't have wanted more pain for her, not a bit more suffering....and yet I don't want it to be true. I know she's been reunited with her love, with her Savior, where she belongs, and yet I don't want it to be true.
I wish I could get a grasp on this and think I should be handling it better than I am.
I feel so very selfish.