Bobba and Grandy: Memories of My Grandparents . . . by Dianne Mason

My parents were not the most reliable people. Mama suffered from severe depression and Daddy’s mood swings kept us all walking on eggshells. Fortunately, my brother, sister, and I had our maternal grandparents, Bobba and Grandy. We lived with them until I was five and then again for three years after my parents divorced.  In between, we lived next door or nearby.

Every child should have a grandmother like Bobba, someone to tell them they’re special and loved. When she hugged me against her soft breasts and told me everything was going to be okay, I believed her. She cooked for us, kissed our cuts and scrapes, comforted us when we were afraid, and made sure we said our prayers. From her I learned about unconditional love, generosity, and consideration for others. While I loved her with all my heart, I was my grandfather’s girl. 

Grandy was a short, wiry man with bandy legs and dark, leathery skin from working outdoors much of his life. The years of hammering and sawing as a carpenter caused his arms to look a bit like Popeye’s. He cursed like a sailor, loved to fish and drink whiskey, and Bobba said that in his youth he “would fight a circle saw” he was so feisty. His nickname was Snake. Snake Jones. And I loved him desperately. 

There are many stories I can tell about Grandy and the influence he had on my life – how he taught me to be self-reliant, to stand up for myself and others, and to be honest above all else. He was not perfect, for sure, but his love for me and my siblings was steadfast and abundant. Here’s something I wrote about him in a memoir class a few years ago.

It’s Time to Tell You About My Grandfather

I will tell you about the boat he made for me out of a galvanized steel washtub and an old tractor inner tube. 

I will tell you how he taught me to fish – to gently lay a fly on the water and wait.

I will not tell you that he quit drinking Folger’s coffee because he hated Mrs. Olsen in the TV commercial.

I will tell you how he trudged two miles through a rare Mississippi snowstorm for milk so my brother, sister, and I could have hot chocolate.

I will tell you how he wrapped his arms around my grandmother in the kitchen as she cooked dinner and made her giggle.

I will not tell you that he refused to watch NBC, the entire network, because a black man starred in I Spy.

I will tell you how he ate raw oysters – icy cold, on a saltine, with a dash of Tabasco.

I will tell you that he raised chicks under a grow light and held their whispery softness next to my cheek.

I will not tell you of the sorrow in his eyes when the ambulance drove away with my mother. 

Grandy died when I was a sophomore in high school. All winter I wore his red and black flannel shirt. Its soft comfort smelled like him – Old Spice aftershave, cigarette smoke, and his own special scent, a mixture of loamy earth and fresh air. I wore it to school every day, sleeves rolled up and hem down to my knees, as if it were my coat of armor. As the season turned and it became too hot to wear flannel, I wrapped the shirt around my pillow and slept on it. 

When my children were little, each night after reading to them, I’d tell them a story about my grandparents, whom they’d never met. It became a ritual they loved. Thus, I kept the memory of those two wonderful people alive. I have grandchildren now, and I’m doing my best to be the kind of grandparent to them that I was fortunate enough to have in my life.

_____

Dianne Mason grew up in rural Mississippi. She has taught writing at Richland College in Dallas, Texas, and at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. A published poet, she has also written five screenplays, two of which have been optioned. Visit Dianne’s blog:  An English Teacher’s Garden.

Some other links Dianne would like you to explore:

https://www.pinterest.com/diannehmason/

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Dianne-Mason

https://www.facebook.com/anenglishteachersgarden/

_____

Read another family story about a loving grandmother — Pam Pellegrino’s “Nana Takes Pam to College.”

Nana Takes Pam to College . . . by Pam Pellegrino

Nana Takes Pam to College; Nana and Her Valiant

 

I spent the summer of ’68 with her in Wheeling, WVA, working as a day camp counselor and getting to know the area around Bethany College, where I would be starting school in September.  That summer I discovered I wasn’t as afraid of boys as I thought I was.  My crushes included a fellow counselor, two lifeguards, James Taylor, and my cousin Norm.  It was a summer of daydreams and sighs.

When camp was over, I flew home to Michigan to pack for college, but within two days I was weak and couldn’t swallow.  Somehow, without even kissing a single boy, I had a severe case of mono. I was not so much disappointed that I would miss the start of my college career as I was by not having a true story to tell my friends about a summer romance. 

I was well enough to fly back to Wheeling by the end of September, where I was to stay overnight with my Nana, who, the next morning, would drive the serpentine roads of the West Virginia hills to deliver me in decent health to my first semester of college.  Bethany was where my parents met, sitting alphabetically in religion class.  My beautiful mother Joan Boyd next to the dashing young soldier Robert Boyd.  Mom loved her name:  Joan Boyd Boyd. Maybe I would meet my dream man the same way.  This is how carefully I chose my college career.

Nana was very serious about getting me to Bethany as early as possible so I wouldn’t miss another moment of my education.  That morning as I sat at the breakfast table, enjoying her town-famous cinnamon, brown sugar and butter coffee cake, she sat down across from me, her black handbag on her arm and keys jangling in her hand.  She stared at my unfinished breakfast and sighed.  “Well,” she said, “I’ll just go warm up the car.”  In a matter of seconds the engine of her ’64 navy blue Valiant roared; she revved it a few times to make sure I got the message, and a few seconds later there was the horn, that ear-shattering sound I’d come to dread throughout the summer.  

Nana was plump, and at most 4’ 10” tall.  Her head could barely be seen above the steering wheel.  Her driving was already part of family lore, how she smoked her cigarette and set it in the car ashtray, picking it up every now and then for a quick puff; how she used her horn to communicate with the mechanics checking her oil, while they were checking the oil; how she passed 18 wheelers on the highway with her foot full throttle on the accelerator and her hand on the horn the entire way. 

“Good Lord,” I prayed, wiping the crumbs from my face. I grabbed my belongings, scrambled to her car, threw open the back door, stashed the suitcase, slammed it shut. Without so much as a glance behind her, Nana gave the car some gas, and with a squeal of tires and blind determination, she and her Valiant took off without me. 

A few minutes later I saw her car heading back to where I was pretending to hitchhike. As she got closer I could see she was laughing, tears running down her rosy cheeks. Forty-five years later I still smile when I think of her lovable, somewhat high-strung personality, and how I wish I could have seen her face when she looked in the back seat to ask me why I was so quiet.

Well, I did kiss a boy or two that first semester of college, which might have caused the relapse of mono forcing me to leave Bethany before finals. Somehow that valiant car and its driver made it up the steep West Virginia hills, and there was my Nana, revving its engine, making absolute sure I wouldn’t miss my plane home.

_____

When Pam’s husband Jimmy passed away six years ago, she found comfort in writing about her grief. She took classes in memoir writing, found her voice, and writes memoir and poetry in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She is also a Spiritual Director, trained through The Haden Institute in Hendersonville, NC. 

Read Pam’s moving story about her mother here.

Read a family story honoring loving grandparents — Dianne Mason’s “Bobba and Grandy: Memories of My Grandparents.”