Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Dedication to A Strong Woman: Granny Franny

The sun shone down in all its late Summer glory as I drove down the quiet two-lane highway 89. On a Wednesday morning in early September, the traffic wasn't much to worry about. Occasionally, I'd have to inch out across the dotted yellow lines to see if there was any oncoming traffic before passing a hay truck, a combine, or a horse trailer. This was common scenery, along with the yellow fields that stretched all the way up to the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. 

I'd driven this stretch many a time in my life, alone, and with my siblings and mom, to visit the beautiful southern belle we called Granny Franny who lived in a small red brick farmhouse that bordered the highway. The town was off the beaten path. The Interstate had been built on the other side of the mountain, which had slowed the amount of traffic that came through, and allowed it to become a peaceful, sleepy, little place.

I spent many a childhood holiday stopping in, playing on her rectangular trampoline, finding the cats in the fields next to the house, and gently running my hand along all her many collectibles that sat on shelves of her many curio cabinets. If we stopped in late summer, the flies would cover the front of the house and she'd prefer we use the back door. Her living room's shag carpeting became a cushion for me while we sat and talked all about life. 

I didn't come here as much as I should have, but we tried to visit as much as possible. It's hard when your parents get divorced when you're a baby, and you are visiting the grandparents on the estranged father's side. They rarely had family reunions. I don't know if it's because there was bad blood from choices made years ago, or if it was just their way. I hardly knew the family, but Granny Franny was a big part of my life.  My mother always made sure we knew her. 

This time was different. I wouldn't be greeted with her big smile and a bear hug. 

I drove down the highway and kept going past her house. I was headed straight for the little chapel nestled between farms a mile down the road. I was later than the rest of the family. I had done this on purpose. I didn't need to see her body to know she was gone. I had been told a few days before of her passing. A week before, she had fallen in her home, broken her hip, and hit her head. My family ended up saying goodbye to her a few days later in the hospital. I had chosen not to visit her there, either. My dad had kept me updated about every step of the way in her journey to the great beyond, and I knew it was a situation I didn't want to be a part of. 

"Dad, everyone's going to think I'm a jerk if I don't come say goodbye, but I won't go through that again. I watched mom die, and I don't want to watch anyone else."

"It doesn't matter what anyone thinks," he said, "you do what is right for you, I understand. This is my mom, so I am going to watch her die, like you did for yours." 

He always did understand me for the most part. It was weird, too, since we had hardly talked much while I was growing up. What was even weirder was that I was helping him through the loss of a parent. He was my parent, and I was helping him grieve since I'd been walking that road for the past 18 months since we lost my mom.

The funeral wasn't sad to me. My normal reaction at funerals was of having a tender heart, and a somber mood. I felt nothing. In fact, I didn't even need to be there. I felt like a jerk not crying while my cousins, relatives and father sobbed. I even apologized to my dad for not being sad. I wasn't sure if this was me completely accepting grandma's death, or me desensitized to death after such a traumatic loss with my mom the year before. Either way, I was oddly cheerful, and it felt like any other day, not the day we buried my grandma.

When I drove home in the early evening, I pictured her telling me something she had said to me half a decade before, during one of our many chats about life lessons. 

"I've always admired your strength. You handle things with grace, things that most people would not handle well. You're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. I've always know that about you. I love you. " 

My heart filled with love, and I knew she understood. She had always understood me. She knew why I wasn't sad, even if I didn't. As I looked out over the yellow fields, and the long stretch of lonely highway, I said goodbye to my grandma, the strong, southern belle, Frances Faye. She was one of the beautiful, strong, influences of womanhood in my life. I'm so lucky to have known her, been her friend, and been her granddaughter. 

Fly with the angels, Granny Franny, you are loved and missed.    

Photo borrowed from my Aunt

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