My MaMaw Miller died Nov. 7, 2010. I wanted to write about her — her life and her death — at that time, and I even looked through photo albums to find these photos to use. But I didn’t know what to say other than that I had loved her and she had died.
Sometimes it takes a while for death to catch up to you. I think it took this long for me to really start to miss her for who she was and thus for me to know what to say about her here.
Sometime before her death her only daughter, my aunt, notified the children and grandchildren that she needed to clean out a lot of my grandmother’s things. If there was anything in particular we wanted we should come get it. My grandmother was being moved from her two-bedroom, independent living apartment into the assisted living facility. There wouldn’t room for all of her things. I didn’t want to go through my grandmother’s things, like rummaging at a yard sale, while she sat in failing health in a room nearby. I felt “things” could wait until someone had actually died. But it wasn’t up to me and I’m sure my aunt felt she was doing the best thing in the circumstances given to her. Besides, I thought, I already have my grandmother’s china which is what she wanted me to have and what she had already given to me.
So I didn’t go. But my older sister went for us and collected a few pieces of MaMaw’s jewelry for us to have. I received a few broaches and pins, a cross necklace, a ring and a pair of earrings.
I kept the items in my jewelry box, in the same clear plastic bag in which they were given to me, until she died. To her funeral I wore her cross necklace.
She’s been gone more than a year now, and as happens when someone we love has died, I miss her. Also as happens, I realize that I didn’t visit her as much as I should’ve the last few years of her life, and I wish I had visited her more. Selfishly, I wished I’d spent more time with her so I could learn from her wisdom. Those who have lived long, full, hard lives have a lot of wisdom to impart to those of us who are just getting started or in the throws. She was married, raised children, widowed, went back to school as an adult and had a long, good career as a nurse. She lived — and by lived, I mean, she went and did and participated in life. She was always going on trips with my aunt or the senior center or various groups. She had photo albums full of her adventures. She made crafty things and taught us how to make crafty things too. She played dominoes and bingo at the senior center. She dressed up for Halloween as a California Raisin. She enjoyed living.
She didn’t put up with “crap.” There’s no better way of saying it than that. She didn’t tolerate disobedience or talking back or excuses. She’d put you in your place and keep you there, and that wasn’t a bad thing. It’s one of the things I now value most about her. She wasn’t afraid to tell you how she saw things. She sometimes said “well, sh*t” under her breath before telling you how she saw it. Most of the time she was right.
She made chicken fingers in the Fry Daddy and introduced me to frozen pizza with the square pepperoni. She took us to Dairy Queen and the occasional movie.
A few months ago I had the ring that was hers sized to fit me, and I wear it daily. Lately I’ve wondered, “What would MaMaw say about this?” After an under-her-breath “well, sh*t” I think I know, and it’s a comfort to me to imagine what she’d say. I can hear her voice. “Heather, you have got to …” and on she’d go. Her presence is ever with me in the memories I carry and the jewelry of hers that I am blessed to have received.