Mrs. Janie

My maternal grandmother was one-of-a-kind. Born in 1916, she got married at 14 and had a daughter, my Momma. After working as a maid, and my grandfather on the railroad, they left rural South Carolina to head ‘up North’ to New York in the 40s, seeking the promises of a good living. They left my Mom behind with my great grandmother. They sent money for her care and boxes full of clothes and trinkets. Two RevisedShe continued her domestic work when they settled in Brooklyn, my grandfather working as a chauffeur. Family and friends that visited New York always had a place to stay. Their doors were always open. They visited my Mom, and us once we came along, always bearing gifts, laughter and smelling like far away dreams. They traveled and enjoyed their lives to the fullest.

My grandfather passed away when I was 5 and we began to see a lot less of my grandmother. Granddaddy’s illness had taken a bit out of her. She was comfortable in her element, which was Bedford Stuyvesant. She visited us a lot less, probably once a year, when it used to be several times…on a whim. Eventually, as my grandmother’s health slid downward, my Mom, her only child, could not sustain the frequent trips to New York to check on her. So reluctantly, she moved back to South Carolina.

This was my first time with the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Grama. The woman that would blow into town like a hurricane, full of nervous energy and laughte was now well into her 70s and not open to change of any kind. Through my teens, twenties and thirties, she lived in the same apartment. She bought no new furniture. Once she picked a product, she never strayed and tried another. Her hair was the same, she got up and went to bed the same time every day. Her diet never strayed from a list of just over a dozen items. She lived alone well into her 90s and everyone knew that she was fiercely, almost dangerously independent.

When she went into kidney failure we needed to move her into a nursing home temporarily, 70 miles away from her home. I cannot explain to you the difficulty that entailed. It was easily in the top three most stressful times of my life. She never relented with making her desire to return home known. She spoke of it daily and worked hard to make herself independent once again.

We thought we could make her well enough to get back to her apartment and regain the sense of independence that was so important to her. And she did eventually leave the nursing home to stay with my Momma. But sadly, she never made it back to her beloved apartment and her routine. She passed away in a hospital room, two weeks after she left the nursing home. She was 96 years young. 123

My life in no way parallel’s my grandmother, but I like to think I inherited some of her best traits. My passion for life when I was younger mimicked hers. But her exuberance was a zest for life, mine was pure naiveté. Boy was a dumb when I was younger. Lol! I’m not even kidding. But I lived. I survived. I learned.

Today, I feel I’m just as fiercely independent as she was. I find that change annoys me. After upsetting my apple cart for reasons that proved to be less than sound, I am extremely reluctant to make any new changes to my routine.

But here’s the rub. I feel, in my soul, that I’m at a crossroad in life. I feel very strongly that the words that are going to fall out of my mouth in the next few months will determine the course of my life. I don’t know why I feel this way. I don’t know what is going on. But I will be pushed to a place of discomfort in the very near future, and it will be important to my purpose. I feel as if I’m at a precipice, staring over the side and I need to step forward. On sheer faith.

I don’t want to continue to be stuck in a rut but Lordy it’s comfortable down here. I have to constantly tell myself that I’m not old yet. I’m still young and have so much life ahead. I need to be open to the change that’s coming. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. The fear is just my flesh but the knowledge that change is coming is in my spirit.

I had a vivid dream about my Grama, Mrs. Janie, last night. I felt her presence more than I ever have, perhaps even more than when she was alive. It was eerie. I awoke with tears, missing her so much. She’s been gone almost a year and this was my first dream about her. Interesting that she would come to me now, when I’m facing this unknown crossroad. My Grama had an abundance of The Spirit residing within her flesh. It sustained her through her remarkable life. I’ll inherit that lesson and rest in knowing that It will sustain me, too.


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