Next month will mark 30 years since my beloved Mama Yates passed away. My mother’s mother, she was my grandmother and so much more.
I was blessed to have grown up living next door to her. We lived in the middle of 46 acres in deep East Texas. Our nearest neighbor was a mile away. But all I had to do to get to Mama Yates was walk the 30-or-so yards from our doorstep to hers. I did it so often that the grass from our house to hers was beaten down into a little trail that told its own story of our years of adventures together.
We were partners in crime, inseparable except for the hours I spent at school or working my part-time job in high school. I would chauffeur her and her friend Edna to church — she let me drive them on the backroads even though I was only 14. (The law was a wee bit lax in the country back then … and probably still is.)
We would pick blackberries for hours, and then she’d make a fresh cobbler with them. I’ll never forget one hot, summer afternoon when we had picked a bucket full of berries, only to back over them in the car when we got ready to head home. We laughed and cried at the same time, half mad at ourselves that our efforts were in vain that day.
Only, they weren’t in vain at all. It took me getting older to realize just what a treasure any moment spent with her was, even if we had nothing to show for it at the end of the day but memories. Because, when it’s all said and done, memories are all we’re left with. And I’m so thankful that I have a ton of them with that precious, four-foot-eleven bundle of love and energy. She was the most loving and giving person, and she doted on me.
I wish now that I had done more for her. I was 19 when she was called to her heavenly home, a sophomore in college. I often think of all the things I would have done for her as I got older and had more means to do so. I never had the chance, but I’d like to think she knows I would’ve done anything for her.
What reminded me of her this morning, and inspired me to write about her, was something as simple as taking a spoon from the drawer to stir my coffee. I don’t know about you, but my silverware drawer is a hodgepodge of utensils I’ve accumulated over the years, with a couple of them being from my Mama Yates’s kitchen. They’re instantly recognizable when I grab them because they have an ornate flower pattern on them that must’ve been popular in the ‘70s or ‘80s, unlike my more-minimalist collection.
So, as I stirred my coffee, I was taken back to a simpler time, a time when all those I loved dearly were alive and well. The thought of death was the furthest from my mind. It’s funny, when you’re young and seemingly invincible, you think your loved ones will never die — or you convince yourself they won’t. That’s what I did, at least.
A wise woman once said this to me: Death doesn’t end a relationship; it just changes it. But, damn if it isn’t the hardest thing we’ll ever be tasked with — learning to continue a relationship with someone so special even though there’s no physical validation. (God, what I wouldn’t give for a bear hug from my Mama Yates or my sweet Mommie.)
Then, I remembered, still stirring my coffee, that it’s the memories that keep the love alive long after the physical fades. And mine are such happy ones. In fact, I’ve got happiness by the spoonful — right now, as I sip my coffee and type this. I hope you do, too.