Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Betty

Have you ever heard a south Jersey accent?  It's the accent of a clammer, of someone who's spent most of his days on the bay digging in the sand.  It's the accent of salt water and sail boats, of callused hands and skin leathered by a life spent in the sun.  You say wuder in place of water.  Philly is your city.  Blueberries, corn and tomatoes can be bought no place else.  Vinyl siding now dots the landscape, but so do the massive and lonesome Pine Barrens, and the shore.  Oh the shore.  Tacky, rustic, Beautiful.

My grandmother died a week ago yesterday. The phone rang and it was my mom's youngest sister saying she had sad news.  Then she blurted it out.  "Grandmom died this morning."  There wasn't a long enough pause for me to rifle through my mind and guess what that news might have been.  If I had had the extra second, I wouldn't have guessed that.  And anyway, she was Gramma West to me.  It was just recently that I learned it was always her intention to be called Grandmom.  She told me that the last time I saw her.  All these years, all my life I've been calling her by the wrong name?  The younger tribe of cousins got it right, but aren't they supposed to follow the lead that we the older grandchildren set?  They were told otherwise in a whisper tone, I wager.  Isn't that odd?  Maybe, but its telling of the complexity that surrounds my mom's family.  Her family, that is the family I love.


My grandfather told me to weep, but not to mourn for her.  The Herringtown Poet he is.  A Texan who married a Jersey girl.  He was in the Coast Guard and she was in nursing school.  They met on a blind date in Atlantic City, back when that was scandalous and back when that city was exciting.  She was a Mayflower descendant.  Her father owned a marina.  She was very close with her own grandmother; we always heard stories and sayings from Granny.  We also have the stories she told us on repeat of when we were children.  I will never forget her pantomiming me tell her as a child while I was chewing that I could now chew with my mouth closed.  I have all these little facts, these stories and I have her letters.  We spent our summers on the Jersey shore and on the off season we wrote letters.  Lots of them.  She saved all of mine and had begun to send them back to me.

We also have her house.  It was Granny's house before it was hers.  As a child she dreamed of living there and she got to.  A wonderful old farmhouse with a screened-in back porch, a musty smell and bad plumbing.  There is a swing out back and the remnants of an old playhouse my mom and aunts enjoyed as children.  There are chickens out there and there's a big pile of clamshells too.  My grandfather has told us all he wants them to cover his grave.  Maybe he told us that as kids so we'd keep out of them.  They were always worried about us getting bit by a tick.

That's where we head this week.  Back to that farmhouse.  Our bologna sandwiches are ready to go in the cooler.  When we get down there we will busy our hands with making a chicken pot pie.  That will help a small bit.  

Blessings to you.

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful. Hoping for meaningful moments. Love you friend.

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