Scurrying into the always familiar home of Mamaw and Papaw, I am met with the same pale yellows and olive greens hip from the 60s. My Papaw rests in his recliner, Mitzy, his ever faithful pup companion perches at his side, knowing she is his equal.
As my grandparents age, I realize, “How’s it going?” is a loaded question. One I better be ready to settle in for- for the long-haul, I welcome it.
He begins unveiling the list of ailments appropriate for that of a 78 year old. I pay attention. I encourage him, letting him know I’m sympathetic to his pains and fears about his pains. Today, he lifts up his shirt for me to examine his back.
“Do ya see anything back there, Stac?”
“Well, Papaw, I’m not sure what I’m looking for? I see a couple bumps.”
Papaw’s eyes grow large with concern, “Is there anything else around the bumps, Stac?”
“Um, I believe there’s a sunspot right between the bumps, Papaw.”
“I’ll tell ya what, they itch, they really itch—-you sure those ain’t moles?”
I pull his shirt down and give his back a firm scratch, “Honestly, Papaw, they just look like a couple small pimples.”
He carries on sharing that he hopes it isn’t shingles or melanoma. Smiling at him, I express that if he feels the least bit worried, he may want a doctor to have a quick browse. He changes the topic to his gall bladder and I listen intently.
My Papaw is a constant source of comfort to me and he always has been. The man is an amazing carpenter who worked and still works very hard. He told me once, that if he ever sits down long enough to get real still, he’d die, so his work must continue. I believe that if he needs to unveil his trials, I am fortunate to be the chosen listener.
Mamaw walks in nonchalantly, “Did you know it’s been ten years since my last colonoscopy?”
I act as if this is common knowledge and she fills us in on her trip to the doctor this afternoon. Mamaw is 76 today. I gift her our shared favorite candle, “Berrylicious,” and she literally jumps in giddiness!
“Oh, I just LOVE this scent, it is my absolute favorite.”
“Me tooooo, it’s THE BEST!” We hug and giggle- this particular scent, we thought had been discontinued. To our delight, they brought it back for a season!
Birthdays are special in our family and I can’t explain how grateful I am to hug her neck here in her home.
She pulls out a photo album faded by time, worn from eager hands anxious to be taken back. We scan each of the pages together. She’s proud. I take in the humanity of my grandmother. I watch with each passing page, how her glorious green eyes remain the same. As we progress, the eyes looking at me in person are the same as the girl, the young woman, the young wife, the sister, and mother. The sparkle is still there, the vibrancy still there. All that’s changed is the home around them.
As Mamaw recalls each photo’s happenings, I as usual, am tangled in a mess of nostalgia. Her clothes, her hair, her red-lips, their cars. A part of me longs to be in the picture, seeing it as it was in the moment. Feeling the time, the culture.
Although I know the story, I ask again, “So, how’d you guys meet?”
They each take turns reminiscing on the mutual friend’s party where their paths first crossed. They went for a walk and Mamaw was not intrigued. A year later, another party, another walk around the block, and this time-it was love. I teased Mamaw that she must’ve been dreaming of Papaw’s handsome self that whole year! And boy, he loved that!
They’ve lived in this home nearly fifty nine years, built it together the year they were married. This is a sacred space, and I feel praise arise in me, not to a higher power, but to the Story that lives in these walls.
I hug them tight as I leave, I take in the faces of my lineage. I think about the joy Mamaw spoke with as she said the names of her people, her people that she longs for. I wince at the reality that one day, they’ll be my people, they’ll be the ones I’ll speak of longingly. The time to cherish is now, not in retrospect…
I walk out the door, Papaw mutters one final comment about his sunspot and I remind him he’s gonna live to be 100. We laugh, but we both believe it…