MY GRAND-MOTHER, MY GUARDIAN ANGEL

GrandBitty, that’s what we grandchildren called her, except for Granddad who simply called her Bitty. My father and his siblings called her Mama. To me she was grand no matter what she was called.

Grand indeed was my maternal grandmother. She was like a mother hen over her seven boys and one girl. Later on, those under her wings included her grandchildren and those whom her children married. This became quite a number as the family grew. I didn’t know if this was how the nickname of Bitty began to take hold. It could also have been because she was a tiny woman. The wedding picture of my grandfather and grandmother on their wedding day shows her as very small in stature with a waist size that must have been the envy of every young woman of her era.

I was the first born grandchild and a girl at that but only on my father’s side of the family. I can only imagine everyone on my paternal side of the family was thrilled to see another female added to the family fold. Daddy had only one female sibling. I was almost an oddity until the other granddaughters arrived on the scene. Still, no grandchild born after me could hold title of being the first. I loved that. Oh yes I did.

My paternal Grandmother had a special warmth about her that was irresistible. It seemed to me that sweetness and love poured freely from every pore and I wanted to scoop up as much of that as I possibly could when I was around her. I remember the many comments of friends and neighbors after her death. They described her as loving, kind, caring, sweet woman with a pleasant nature. She was my saving grace, my angel, who gave me what I need most in life, unconditional love. I wanted to be just like her.

How blessed was I, I thought. I lived in the same neighborhood as both sets of grandparents so I could visit them when I got old enough to walk to their homes. My maternal grandmother was more of a no-nonsense kind of woman with a good heart but in my child’s eyes, I had to look harder for the love in her while GrandBitty exuded love, tenderness, and warmth without reservation or effort. The latter’s hugs just enfolded me in a protective, I’m-glad-to-see-you cocoon. Like a breath of fresh air I gulped it in greedily like a loved starved orphan.

At home I often felt love was something that was rarely expressed but if things were pleasant, if I wasn’t yelled at or I wasn’t hit with a belt, that was close enough. If my brother or I was able to make my mother laugh, keep her from being depressed or angry, then it almost felt like love. If Mama ever said, “I love you”, I don’t remember it. Daddy didn’t say he loved me either but somehow he was able to covey his love through other ways. For example, I must have been eight or nine and I can remember Daddy kissed me on the top of my head as he left for work. Did he get angry sometimes and yell? Oh yes he did but I never recall his spanking me or hitting me. Was it because I was a girl or was it that he wasn’t with us all the time like Mama was? Perhaps it was because his own father would beat his children with fists or belts that he vowed not to give in to hitting us. I recall his spanking my brother once with his hand

I’m not sure how but somewhere along the line, I got the impression, true or not, that I came through my childhood feeling that I was a burden or unwanted to some degree. I carried with me all the time (then and henceforth) that I was not good enough to be loved. I also carried with me a feeling that whatever happened that was not right or was unpleasant was my fault. For example once I can recall when I had been beaten with a belt because I had done something unacceptable though I cannot remember what it was. I was probably seven or eight. I do remember that time and many other similar times being beaten with a belt when I really had no idea that I had done anything wrong. This particular time, though, had a different twist. I was sent to bed crying. By the time I crawled into my bed I was whimpering. I just couldn’t cry anymore. After a few minutes my mother came to my bed. What was she going to do? I wondered. She sat down on the bed and in a softer voice she began to speak to me. “Why do you make me do these things to you?” she began. So now instead of finding comfort in my mother’s softer tone, the blame for what had happened was now fully mine. Now I knew for certain that anytime I was punished it was my fault and that I was a bad child. Looking back I think my mother was not really okay with beating us but she could not understand it nor change it even if she vowed to herself that she would; so, the only way it made sense to her was to blame me or my brother for what she did. At the time my child’s mind could not grasp that. All I knew was that I was responsible for the punishment because I couldn’t get it right – whatever “it” was. That was a heavy burden for a young child to carry for the rest of her life. My brother and I coped by trying to make Mama laugh so that she would be less angry or depressed. Sometimes it worked.

Is it any wonder then that I lapped up, soaked up and craved all the attention I could get from GrandBitty? She praised me for my efforts at playing the piano though my father also encouraged me but in a different way. GrandBitty would play Chinese checkers with me, share toast and honey with me, show me all the new things she had crocheted, knitted, sewed or other future projects she might be thinking about. And lemon drops! Oh, I remember she loved lemon drops and what a treat that was to receive them from her hands to mine. Her hugs were like a soothing balm to my confused and bruised idea of self. I got nothing but praise, love, and welcoming from her. Perhaps I gave her much of what she also needed in her life because what she gave me I gave back and it seem to work for both of us.

In my relationship with GrandBitty, I never lost sight of the fact that she was an older, wiser adult and I was the child yet many times she treated me as somewhat of an equal. Maybe you could say we connected soul to soul. One day we were sitting in rockers on her front porch having an adult-like conversation. I think it was evening and the sky was beginning to turn down the lights and to display the planets and stars on the stage for our entertainment. She looked up at the sky and asked me if I thought there was life on other planets. No one had ever posed such questions to me and I think I recalled the wonder of her even asking me what I thought. No one ever asked me what I thought. I was always told what to think, what to believe, what to do and not do. But she asked me my opinion. This amazing woman thought about things that were deep and if anyone else had such thoughts, no one but my beautiful grandmother ever shared them with me. She and I were very open souls exploring the infinite possibilities ever searching for something beyond, something more, something to help us understand our purpose for even being alive. I don’t know if you could call it spiritual but from this vantage point now upon which I stand and reminisce, I would say it was.

My grandmother was inquisitive when it came to God. The only time she got to go to any church was when they needed a pianist for their services. They would send someone for her and I imagine paid her a little something for her time so Granddad did not seem, to my knowledge, to object. I don’t know how many different churches she might have been exposed to during those years or if it was just one church but for some reason, I have the impression it was more than one. I think she had more questions than answers where her spiritual path was concerned but she did believe in God or a higher power. I was a lot like her in that respect and more. But, that’s another story.

Her husband, my grandfather, known as Oz, believed in God but to my knowledge never went to church. Even if he might have wanted to go, they never owned a car. Before he retired he rode his bicycle for quite a distance to work. Early in life, alcohol was the altar upon which he most worshiped, trying I imagine, to cope with his own pain and demons.  He managed to hold down a job and plant a garden every year. He was always good to me but later in life I was told that he had a mighty temper which he felt free to leash upon his children when they were young. I think my grandmother was the light of his life but it was evident that he ruled the roost in that household.

My maternal grandmother, better known to me as Granny, was a devout Baptist. She never missed a Sunday without good reason and wanted all of her children and grandchildren, daughter’s and son’s-in-law to become Baptist if they were not already. Unlike GrandBitty, she knew exactly what spiritual road to take and maintain and what her family should do. I thought she might have a stroke when this Baptist girl married a Catholic but if it upset her, I never knew it. Unlike GrandBitty who died at 64, Granny lived to be 99 and I was privileged to know her much better in my adult years. The years had softened her it seemed to me and she was always very happy to see me and my children when we visited her. It was a different but also positive relationship that I had with Granny.

Yes, Bitty died much too young. I remember the day the phone call came. I had been going about my day taking care of my children and doing what all young mothers and wives did. It seemed to be a normal day like any other day. I lifted the ringing phone and said hello totally unaware of what I was about to hear. My mother was on the other end of the line and as calmly as she could, told me that my beloved grandmother was dead. I almost dropped the phone but my whirring mind collected itself enough to ask how and when had this unbelievable thing happen.. When Mama told me that she had been taken to the hospital the night before and died this terrible, unbelievable morning, shock and grief rolled over me before the anger burst through. It was then that I demanded to know why I had not been called when she went into the hospital. I could have gone there and I could have seen her one last time. I had been cheated of one last time with my grandmother. Mama explained that she had been taken to the hospital and that while it was about her heart, everyone expected that things were under control in the hospital and that she would be alive the next day so there was no need to call me. I think at that point I was crying and yelling at the same time and none of it made sense to me. For me to display anger about anything was taboo. Anger towards my mother was unacceptable but this time I didn’t care. I felt that my parents had denied me the gift of seeing my grandmother one more time. Nothing could contain neither that fury nor my grief. Later I realized that I had something that no one could take from me and that was the gift that my grandmother had been to me.

My Bitty made me feel loved and wanted and in her presence I was able to get a glimpse that strengthened me during my tender years. She used to tell me that I would probably grow up to be a singer like the ones we saw on television. My mother scoffed at that as though my grandmother was filling my head with impossible dreams and ideas. But I held onto every positive thing my grandmother said to me. I learned to be open and inquisitive about many things and to entertain ideas that did not match what society in general and my family to some extent, was telling me. She had a hard life but she was a dreamer and without knowing it she gave me exactly what I needed to help me cope better for the rest of my life than perhaps I would have otherwise. She gave me the love and acceptance that I so desperately needed. She was my guardian angel and so much more. In fact, I think she probably still is.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

What Does It Mean to Walk Your Talk

In the movie “Jerry Maguire” the famous words that keeps getting used and repeated is, “Show me the money.” Don’t talk about it, show me.

How many times have you heard people talk about their religion or their relationship with God or Allah or whom or whatever and are so sure that they are walking the right spiritual path? Well for them, that might very well be the right path; but whatever spiritual path a person may take is less important to me than how they treat other people.

Yes, show me the money. Show me in every word, every action. Don’t tell me how great your God is, show me how your God treats others. Don’t just tell me how much better you feel or that your salvation is secure. Show me your love for all people whether you agree or not with their religion, their politics, their sexual orientation, their color, their life style. You don’t have to join them. You don’t have to like it or agree with it but do you allow them loving spiritual space to be who and what they are without tearing them down, fighting them, trying to force them to change, or treating them as what I call, others.

Once you put yourself into one category and put another person or group in an opposing camp, you can easily make them into the enemy. You start treating them as less than human and it them becomes easy to harm them or bully them or cause them grief. It is even easier to kill them if you let your idea of your need to control their behavior reaches that level of righteous intensity.

How do you treat yourself? How do you show love and affection or do you? How do you treat your mate or your children? How do you treat your neighbors? Is your heart tender? Do you see beauty everywhere or garbage or do you even notice? Do you want the best for others or is your goal to win or outdo or outshine or to be jealous? Does your heart go out to others in their suffering? Do you try to smile more and make someone’s day a little brighter by the things you say and do?

Show me the money. Don’t talk about it. Leave this world one day having known you did your best to leave it a better place. Show me a loving, caring, person. Show me a discerning person who knows how to handle the unpleasantness of life. There will be those who cannot or will not respond to love, who are bad to the bone it would seem. You don’t have to love the behavior but love them anyway if you can. Know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away. But love them anyway. Show me the divinity within you. That’s all I ask of you. Show me.

THE GRATEFUL HEART

I tell you, I would rather have a calendar and a to-do file than to not have anything happening in my life, but once in a while, it is nice to not have so much going on. There are the things I want to do that are so fulfilling like having lunch with family or friends, making changes to my house decor. Then there’s the necessary stuff like regular checkups and paying bills. But there are other things that I just groan about having to do that are necessary. Then I think to myself that at least I have the money to pay the bills. I have the brain power to think and plan and carry those things out. I am mobile. I can take walks. I can go places on my own. I have loads of fun stuff to place in between those not so fun things. I have three wonderful daughters, wonderful cousins, wonderful other relatives. I have a great little dog although at times his eating habits and stomach issues worry me. I have internet. I have phone. I belong to groups. I could go on and on and on. One day some of the things I do today I will not be able to do in the future. Who knows? I feel deep gratitude for the ability to do even the smallest thing or have the ability to get the help i need when there is something I cannot do. Giving thanks today with a grateful heart.

DON’T BE THE SNAKE THAT BIT HIS OWN TONGUE

Have you ever bitten your tongue or cut you nose off to spite your face? One is a metaphor for keeping your mouth shut when you want to say something and the other is a metaphor for doing something that doesn’t help your situation but makes it worse.

Sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut. You should know those times but there are times when you need to speak up and you should know those times as well. How many times do we get that backwards? Sometimes you need to shut your mouth and jump out of the emotion long enough to use your guts, your head, and your common sense before opening your mouth and speaking up. It’s always a good idea to cool down, find love or understand somewhere inside of you and lead with that. It’s not always our words but how we use and deliver them that determines the outcome.

What about the times when you poison yourself, so to speak, when you keep making choices that bite you in your rear because these choices were made in the heat of sexual or violet or angry passion? What about the times when you don’t want to face your own responsibility for doing exactly what you know is going to give you nothing but grief in the long run? That being said, if some people didn’t open their mouths when they knew they would be in danger or ridiculed or in prison some social changes would not have taken place. Some laws would not have been changed or revised. Progress would not have been made.

So we come to the word discretion and the word discernment. Use your powers of discretion and discernment when making choices. The only other choice is to let your passions and your ignorance run your life. In those cases you usually take others down with you and you don’t get what you thought you wanted in the end. Some nooses are not quite so hard to slip out of or to tolerate while you rectify, as best you can, the choice that you made, while others will surely suck the life out of you. Try not to be the snake that bit his own tongue and poisoned himself.

SLEEPY TIME GAL

Last night I climbed into bed (because I am that short and the bed is that high) I opened my book, read a while and bid the light a good night as the time keeper called out the time of eleven thirty. I went off to dreamland where I’m neither here nor there until I heard the sky rolling out peals of thunder. It begged me to awaken. It was still not quite light outside. I wondered what time it was but sleep closed my eyes and I cared not. Later when sleep began to leave me and the consciousness of my material life coaxed me to stir and arise, I greeted my dog who lay beside me, rubbed his ears and petted him with love. Finally it was time to know what the keeper of time had on his numbers. It was nine twenty in the morning. Almost ten hours of sleep for me. Imagine my shock because I never sleep like that unless I am sick or under anesthesia. But ah, a rainy day doth make for a nest in which to curl and dream of a land far, far away.

TODAY’S GIFTS

I have had a very interesting day today. First I got the stitches out of my body and the skin is healed nicely. The piece they took out showed no cancer so, that was one of many nice gifts Today gave to me. I’ll be good to go for swimming in a couple of days so I probably won’t have an urge to swim. Yeah, that’s how I am. When I can’t, I want to and when I can I don’t want to.

After I left there, I decided to go to Bealls Department Store because my dermatologist is on the east side of Ocala where this store is located. So, it was fun piddling around in there for a while. My phone vibrated, flashed and belted out “da da da da dum. da da da da dum…” . It was a high school friend who was going to be in town for just a bit calling to see if I could meet up at Wendy’s, have a glass of something and catch up on old times around 12:30. I was pleasantly surprised and made plans to meet. I had some time to while away before 12:30 so I headed in the direction that eventually would lead me closer to the appointed meeting destination making a stop along the way. I had a check waiting for me in one of our used house furnishings stores. They sold a couple of things of mine. While I was there I looked up and my ex-guy was also there with little Abby, Ollie’s half sister. What a surprise. Chances of our having been in the same store at the same time are probably somewhere in one in a million. It was good to see him and I offered to hold Abby while he signed something. Abby wasn’t feeling very well but I loved holding her just the same. It was a brief and bitter sweet encounter. Another gift that Today gave me.

I met up with my high school chum and we talked about the “good old days” when we were growing up. So much to talk about and so little time but I got caught up on what was going on with some of our other classmates. He has a lovely wife and grandchildren he adores. What a pleasant little while spent in reminiscing about the way things were when we were young. It was the best of times. My generation were the youngsters born during WWII. The war opened up some possibilities that had been closed before WWII and my generation took that and ran with it. That was one of the first shifts that has occurred in the culture.

The meeting with my high school classmate was the third gift on the agenda this magical Monday the eleventh of August 2014. The day isn’t over yet so who knows but I am so blessed. Thank you Universe/God/The All That Is for Your many blessings and opportunities to experience and to feel all the surprises and gifts of being a human and of interacting with others.

Today is all we have; so, enjoy the gifts no matter in what form those gifts may arrive.

IT’S ALL OKAY. IT’S ALRIGHT.

If you were like me growing up and even beyond sometimes all you wanted to hear from someone you loved and trusted was things like, “It’s okay”, “It’s alright”, “I’m here”, “I love you”. We like to think that no matter what has happened to us; no matter what we have done or said; no matter how different we are; no matter how unbelievable the story or situation, that someone cares. We want to know they are listening; they believe that it is real (for us if not for them); that they are with us; that even if they don’t understand, they are standing with and by us; that they love us no matter what; and that things are going to be okay, going to alright.

That is just so soothing and calming. First of all, though we may know that we are not alone and though we may know that the Power within us is with us (call this Power God or Love or whatever you wish), we want or need to feel it coming to us from another person or other persons in our darkest or scariest moments. We are never too old or too young or too brave or strong to not have moments like this.

Often times children or adults won’t talk about what they are going through or what has happened to them or is upsetting to them even though they crave to have someone put their arms around them and assure them in some way or another that everything is alright. It may be that they are afraid they won’t be believed or that if they are believed it may cause a worse problem. They may be called crazy or stupid or they may be abandoned in one way or another. Children still need people to take care of them until they can be on their own so they may worry about what the parent or person upon whom they depend will think or do. Will this person of these persons punish them. leave them, treat them like they are abnormal and need fixing, disbelieve them, disengage from them or make the situation worse?

As an adult, I have often looked to people who have been through something that I am going through or about to go through, to say something encouraging. I want to hear that I will survive it even if I know deep down somewhere in some part of me that I will get through it. Sometimes just to hear that other people have had some of the same experiences or problems is a blessing in itself.

A child needs to be scooped up in the arms of their parent when they are scared or hurt or upset or in pain. They need to hear soothing words. Adults need to hear soothing words and words of wisdom. We know the difference when other people’s words are empty or flung out with no great care and we know when they have true understanding and compassion.

The other side of the coin, is when you need this and don’t get it and have to somehow manage on your own. Perhaps not right then but latter, when you have come through it, you will see how you have changed for the better or could have, had you known how.

Come to the arms of Love and do not question in what form or from whom you will receive the knowing that everything is going to be, or is in fact, okay and so are you. I’s not only alright but it is all right.