For those of you who know me, the one thing that no one can deny is how much I absolutely love my family. I have been blessed in this life to have a true relationship with not only my grandparents, but three of my great-grandparents. Yesterday, the last of those, passed away. At age 96 and 2/3rds, Clara Mae Stalvey joined those who have gone on before.
As my cousin and I spent time yesterday, we talked a lot about what we were so lucky to have over the years and all the good parts that we got because we lived so close. Any good southern girl knows how important Grandparents are, but when one lives so close, it's almost like another parent figure.
We never went to Daycare or the preschool... Grandma and Granny kept all 5 of us until we started school. Mom tells the story that she dropped me off at Grandma's early one morning before she had to go to work and had put a note in my baby tub telling Grandma that my vitamins were in the tub. Grandma interpreted this to mean that she was to disolve the vitamins in the bath water. Needless to say, I have had the healthiest skin and hair and nails ever since... maybe she had the right approach after all.
Speaking of Vitamins... Grandma always kept Flintstones Chewables and the really big Vitamin C tablets in her cabinet. We were allowed as many as we wanted... sometimes, we probably overdosed on the Flintstones... they just tasted good. The one thing our moms wished that Grandma would have left off on was the Garlic pills. (Absolutely no worries about vampires getting to us). She fed us garlic pills like they were candy... (I know gross, but she believed in them... ) But honestly, none of us have even been really sickly... in fact, we're pretty much healthy as horses...
Grandma could cook! She made the best buttermilk biscuits! She tried and tried to teach me how to make them, but I never quite mastered it. She did however teach me how to make communion bread. I still use the little tool that she used to make lines on it so that it will break easily when the plate is passed. And Peas... oh man, did I ever eat a bunch of peas at her house! The only other thing I think I ate more was greens! When I finally did learn to cook, she was game to try anything I would fix. The last thing I made for her was oyster stew... she ate the whole bowl... it was the only thing she ate that day...
Grandma's favorite candybar was a white chocolate hershey bar. If you knew where to look, there was always an extra one stashed in her pantry. (Only the special ones knew where to look) And she taught each of us to eat raw cake batter (Oh the bad things she taught us... at least she didn't put eggs in it first!) and chips with dip made out of onion soup mix. (That would still be my dip of preference)
From about the time I was 15, I had my own room and key at Grandma's. I spent so many nights and weekends there that I just kept clothes there. And she was the only one who would let you sleep as long as you wanted (All the people at my house were early risers) and wouldn't let someone else wake you up.
Grandma's house was always open to visitors. I can't tell you how many visiting preachers stayed with my grandparents over the years. But I was exposed to a whole lot more than most kids my age.
Until my Grandpa died in 1998, Grandma always wore her long hair in a bun. I can remember taking the hairpins out at night when we were getting ready for bed and brushing her long silver and black hair. After he died, we went and got her a very stylish perm and short hair cut.
When she had her first heart attack in 2000, I was going to school in Tampa at the time. I made it back to Gainesville in under 90 minutes. (Don't tell my mom, she'd kill me if she knew) When I would go stay at the hospital with her, she was always trying to feed me her hospital meals... come to think of it, she was always trying to feed all of us... (do you see a food trend?)
For 28 years, she has been right there... a stable influence in my life. She taught unconditional love through example (although sometimes maybe we needed some tough love instead) and even at the end, I knew she loved me and she knew that I loved her... and that... is getting the best part!