Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lucien's First Birthday

A year ago, in about 30 minutes, my son was born. He was born at 11:55 pm on April Fool's Day after three days in labor. In a way, I cannot believe it has already beeen a year. And in a way, it seems like he has just been here forever. In honor of his first birthday, I am going to post one of my "Dear Lucien" letters. ( I am building a series of these to give to him one day.)
April 1st, life changed forver. Today, I am so blessed.

My grandmother died before my son was born. She had cancer and she was allowed to come home to die. She died in her own bed, with her husband and all of her children there with her. It is exactly how she wanted it. She loved that house so much, she used to tell my grandfather that if he tried to take her out of it, she would be kicking and screaming while digging her heels into the gravel driveway in complete protest. She left the house for the last time in complete silence, as she was carried away to the funeral parlor.

Dear Lucien,
You never knew your great grandmother, Gammy. She was married to Pop for over fifty years. Like most marriages that last that long, they had their ups and downs. Like most people that live as long as she did, she had her own personal ups and downs. After Gammy died, Pop came to Charlotte to live with your Maman and Popere. I believe everything happens for a reason. Gammy passed on when she did so Pop could be closer to you, even though you were not even conceived when all the decisions were finalized.
This letter is to let you know a little something about the great grandmother you never met. You would have been an apple of her eye, just as you are with Pop. Gammy and I had a special connection as well, only we did not realize the strength of it until I had become an adult.
Gammy had a drinking problem. I did not remember this about her, although Maman tells me it spanned years that I was little. Your Maman remembers growing up in a house with an alcoholic mother, often embarrassing her at different times. When Pop finally threatened to leave her, Gammy got help for her addiction. After she quit the final time, she remained sober for over twenty years.
That is something that Gammy and I have in common. We both have conquered addictions. After I returned to North Carolina from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, my grandmother and I talked about it once. She did not have much to say on the topic. She did let me know, however, that she understood. And she was proud of me for taking the steps to change my life. Addiction is an inherited disease, and so often these words will go unsaid. I do not want any of your family history to go unsaid, dear son.
Gammy used to cook huge Southern meals whenever we would get together. When I was little, ham was my favorite. For years to come, ham was always an important part of the holiday spread. Even when I spent a short stint as a vegetarian, Gammy still made ham because it was my favorite. I remember eating it even then, just so I did not disappoint her.
She was an excellent Southern cook. She made her own bread. She called it sourdough, but we all called it Gammy Bread. It was not sour, but instead very sweet. It made the best toast, buttered and broiled. I remember Gammy making huge baking trays of that toast on holiday mornings when the whole family was there. Gammy Bread requires a starter that must be feed for weeks. It is not an easy process, but it is so delicious. I have the recipe, and I hope I can one day duplicate this wonderful bread so that you have the chance to try it. I fear it will never taste as good as when Gammy made it.
She used to make the perfect Southern dressing, with cornbread and onions and celery. Pop loved that stuff, and he missed it every holiday after she died. No one could make it quite like Gammy could. Your Grandpa Doug, on the other hand, did not like this Southern style dressing. He claims it was part of the reason that him and my mother, your Maman, split up. Now that I am an adult, I realize it was much more than that.
Gammy used to love to shop. Your Aunt Alex must have inherited that gene from her. I remember when I was little, Pop and Gammy always took me shopping. We would take the blue Cadillac to “town”, which was about thirty minutes away. Pop and Gammy lived in a small town called Ninety-Six, and they would drive to Greenwood to shop.
Gammy would spend all day shopping, and Pop loyally tagged along…carrying her bags. Gammy had hundreds of shoes, which is a trait I must have inherited from her. When she died, Maman was amazed at how many pairs of shoes were there. They gave away hundreds of pairs of shoes in the days following Gammy’s death.
Gammy was not a very solid sleeper. She only seemed to need a few hours of sleep to function, and she often would wander the halls of the house at night unable to sleep. This is another trait that has been passed down in our family. I definitely have this trait. Your Uncle Mason and Aunt Alex share this trait with me as well. We chalk it up to another inheritance from Gammy. Granted you are only a year old, but I think you, too, have inherited the trait of sleeplessness. You are one of the most restless sleepers I have ever known. At almost a year old, you still have not slept through the night. You have not even come close, as you get up to nurse all night at times.
One time Mason slept with Gammy. I cannot remember why he shared the bed with her that night, but the story goes something like this…Mason kept Gammy up a lot of that night, which was difficult because she never seemed to sleep anyway. Mason is a cuddler, and he was cuddled up close to Gammy all night. In the morning, Gammy reported she did not get any sleep because Mason t-boned her all night. To this day, your Uncle Mason makes no bones about wanting to be cuddled all night long.
Pop and Gammy used to spend summers at the lake house. Mason and I would often join them there. Those days at the lake were always some of the best times in my memory. I would sit in the hammock with Pop, pulling a string attached to a tree to swing. I would climb up in Gammy’s lap as I got tired at night. Her lap was always so inviting to me. It was soft and warm. She would wrap her arms all around me, where I felt protected from the world.
Gammy used to sew when I was little. She could make anything! Your Maman inherited this skill from Gammy. Gammy made me all kinds of dresses, and she made Mason cute little sailor suits. She made curtains, and bedspreads. The bed spread that you always love, cuddling up to it at the Mountain house, was made by Gammy. It made me so happy when you were drawn to that blanket when you were about six months old. You kept looking at it, and squealing in delight. You would cuddle right up to this blanket, and I swear you slept more soundly under that blanket. Gammy used to sew all the time, until her eyes got so bad that it became too difficult for her.
I can still hear Gammy’s voice in my head sometimes. Now that she is gone, I wish I could hear her voice just one more time. She had a beautiful southern accent, and she talked with almost a regal tone. Her voice did not sound red neck, but instead very southern and dignified. Today, I think your Great Aunt Becky sounds almost like Gammy…but not quite.
The night after Gammy died, I had a dream about her. It was so real that I do not believe it was really a dream. I think she was visiting me to say her final good-bye. I had not actually seen Gammy in years when she died, as my addictions had kept me away. That night, I dreamed she came into my room. She crawled into bed with me, and we cuddled. Then, she told me how proud she was of me for overcoming such powerful addictions. She knew first hand how difficult that could be. Then, she told me that she had just lost her best friend, and she did not know what to do about that. I knew she was talking about my beloved Pop. We lay there, cuddling up in a single bed. I did not want to let go because I knew when I did she would be gone. In the dream, I tried to stay awake in that tiny bed with my grandmother for the last time. Eventually, I drifted off to a dream inside a dream. When I awoke, I was alone. And that was the last time I saw Gammy. I knew when I woke; she had been there that night. Her spirit had made a special stop on the way to heaven to tell me good-bye. To let me know that she loved me, and I think now she was asking me to take care of her best friend, my Pop.
As you well know, my son, we have honored that last wish of hers. We visit Pop at least once a week. We make special trips over to Maman’s just to visit with Pop. I promise, Gammy, I will take care of Pop for you as long as I can. And Lucien just loves him. Gammy would be so tickled that your first word was “Pop.” I know she watches you from heaven my son, and she probably squeals in delight every time you get so excited at Pop’s image. I know she is giggling in heaven every time you say “Pop” in that raspy little voice.
Son, I am sorry you were not born soon enough to meet Gammy. I wish you could have tasted her cooking. (Another trait I inherited from her.) I wish you could have sat on her lap just like I used to when I was little. I hope that these stories you hear of Gammy will suffice, even though I know there is no substitute for the real thing.

Love, Your Mother

No comments:

Post a Comment