A Portrait of Regret
© 2008, Amy Mulvin
As I ponder over my life’s regrets, I pause to think about my great-grandmother. She was my grandpa’s mother; my dad’s grandma; and my Granny. Her stature was even to mine after seeing the charge that osteoporosis had taken over her bones. Her white skin had been darkened after its exposure to nearly a century of sunlight bearing down on it. Her mind was always as sharp as a tack, and no one ever got a thing past her, though she did choose her battles wisely. The deep lines that plagued her face looked so perfectly carved there… as if each one had been intentionally placed there by some great creator.
Her spirit was always light with the fond sense of humor she exhibited. I always thought that it was this quiet sarcasm and comic disposition that had carried her unscathed through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and various other world changing advances and events. She was quiet of demeanor, but she said what she needed to say. And when she said what she needed to say, she damn sure meant it. It was always supposed that for the years she had put in on this earth, she had, at the very least, earned her right to speak her peace. And that she did, always with a tone of humble farce, followed by “Lawrd willin’” in the southern accent and slow drawl of her words.
Her eyes were wide round, and of the brightest blue… and sad. The contradiction of her eyes still haunt me as I picture them. They were sad, and yet they danced at the same time. I imagine that the loss of her spouse, and a few years later, the loss of her youngest son (my grandfather) had placed the sadness in her eyes. But her jolly spirit wouldn’t allow the sadness to overtake the twinkle, and so they compromised to share the story in her eyes.
Her smile was mischievous, like that of a school child having just broken a rule. The teeth that barely showed, were of perfect shape, but stained the shade that years of chewing tobacco had left behind as its mark. It was normal to me that my Granny chewed tobacco. She had always chewed tobacco from as far back as anyone in my family could remember, and though it had long been declared “hick” and “hillbilly” for Granny to chew, she didn’t care about the “en vogue” of the time. I recall informing her once that “she was a lady, and ladies don’t chew tobacco.” Her response was simple: “Well I reckon, Amy Rene, that leddies sherr don’ chew tabacky, so thank the good Lawrd that I ain’t no leddy.” And with that, she leaned in… and spit.
I was still of an age that ended with “teen” when I moved and resided in states away from “home”. And while I remained to have a deep admiration and respect for my Granny, and still found amusement in the few words she chose to share with the world, I was selfish and had my own “more important” issues to contend with. I was young, on the edge of the world, and running free. I was still deciding who I was, and what I wanted to be.
When I visited home in Arkansas, I spent the entire week among former schoolmates and old friends. It occurred to me that I should visit with Granny, but I dismissed it, waving it off as not near as important as the issues I was sorting out. And so I left the safe comfort of home again, and returned to my current foreign state, without having gone to see my Granny.
Three weeks later, Granny passed away.