For the second time in three weeks, I’ve dreamed about my grandmother. Though she’s been gone for thirty-two years, I still think about her and miss her.
On March 26, I woke up crying because I dreamed my grandma died. Someone called and told me to go to the hospital right away because my mother and my grandmother were waiting for me. When I got there my mother told me my grandmother had died. Last week I dreamed my grandmother and I were sitting facing each other in a garden. I leaned forward and said to her, “Every time I see roses I think of you, because I know how much you love flowers, especially roses.” She looked around the garden at all of the roses and said, “Yes, I do love roses.” I reached over to hug her and we held each other and cried.
My grandmother did love roses, in fact in today’s world, due to her green thumb she would be considered a master gardener. I can still see her kneeling on the ground in her neatly ironed dark cotton pants and her colorful button down the front shirt. She’d usually cover her dark brown hair with a scarf to help stave off the drying effects of the hot Louisiana sun. She’d bend over her flower beds, planting, weeding, trimming, and coaxing to life hot pink and white azalea bushes, light pink and white camellias, green and blue hydrangea, pink, white, and yellow gladioli, and all manner of ferns, roses and daisies. She dug flower beds along the driveway, the front sidewalk, both sides of the house, and along the front and back of the house. There was always something blooming, and our yard, awash with bright colors and dark green grass that looked like a velvet carpet, was the prettiest in the neighborhood. Sometimes I’d kneel beside her and she’d show me the difference between the flowers and the weeds. I enjoyed digging in the dirt and thanks to my grandmother I grew up with a love for gardening and being outdoors.
My grandmother loved to drink a cup of tea in the morning and a martini in the afternoon. When I’d visit her, she and I would go into the living room every morning, where she’d sit in her rocker sipping her tea and eating her toast, while telling me stories about her childhood, her family, and about life in the early 1900’s. I loved those stories and she and I spent many hours laughing and crying together. Even as a youngster, I could hear the sadness and the pain in her voice as she told of how mean her daddy was and how hard life was for her, when at the age of ten she lost her mother. Her daddy made her quit school and it seems the burden of taking care of him was laid on my grandma’s young shoulders. My grandmother was a wonderful story-teller and I wish I’d thought to tape her stories so I could remember all the details.
I don’t know for a certainty, but I think that even as a child I had an inkling of how powerful my grandmother was. Housed within her medium framed, 5 foot 7 inch body, was an “I’ll make the rules I live by” woman. Dang, (this is what my brother and I called her) was born in 1900, one of 10 children, to a Cajun French daddy, Grecien Guidry, and a Spanish mother, Octavia Barrios. The majority of Dang’s brothers and sisters were stricken with TB and died. My grandmother had TB also, but my grandpa was able to get her to the dry climate of Kerrville, Texas, where she lived in a sanitorium, had a lung removed, and got better. She was sick and infirmed in her body for most of her life, but her spirit was strong. Because of her illness, my grandfather spoiled her and she was used to having her way. Most of our family considered her our matriarch, and when she said jump, we usually asked, “how high?”
She was a no-nonsense woman who loved her family and loved to have fun. If one of the kids pulled out a jump rope, she’d be the first one in line to have a turn at jumping. Even as her body aged, she maintained her love for having fun. Because of her physical illness and her strong spirit, our family and our world revolved around her, and she knew it. Every one was afraid to go against her or make her angry, but I had a penchant for pushing the envelope. As I look back I think that’s one of the things that bonded us to each other. She was my ally in spirit, even though at the time I didn’t consciously know it. I believe that she felt the fear and anxiety that consumed my life as I struggled with my need to fit in, while always feeling like an outsider. Dang was born with a caul on her face, which according to some belief systems meant she had psychic abilities. She used to tell me she had a gift of seeing and I think now that she sensed that I had a different path to walk.
I remember the fear and trembling I felt when I confronted her with the news that I was leaving the catholic church. My grandmother was a strict catholic and I knew how she loved her religion and her church. It was almost unthinkable that anyone in our family would consider leaving the church, and so I tried for years to put to rest my growing belief that what I was here to experience was not to be found in a religion. As I explained to her my hunger for truth and my belief that what I was looking for was something that eclipsed religion and the church, she made the decision to listen and not judge me. I remember sitting on the twin bed across from her, explaining to her that I was not born a catholic, my family made me one, and as an adult I had the right to make my own choice. As I continued to speak to her, I could see the disappointment she was trying to hide while she maintained her quietness and her poise. I kept expecting her to get angry, but she never did. She just listened and she let me know that she loved me no matter what choices I made. I’ll never know what path I might have taken had she fought me over my decision. I’ll always be grateful for her quiet acceptance, which opened the door for me to confidently walk the spiritual path I was born to take.
I’ve inherited many of my grandmothers’ traits. Like her, I enjoy quiet mornings filled with my personal rituals, martinis in the afternoon, and a love for gardening . I’m strong and decisive, passionate about life, a good storyteller, and a mother and grandmother who is fiercely in love with her family. My grandmother was very dependent on my grandfather, as I am dependent on my beloved Paul, yet, like her I am fiercely independent. My grandfather was her partner for over fifty years and they walked through life together, but she lived on her terms.
I don’t know if I’ll ever stop missing and thinking about my grandmother. I especially think about her every March 26, the day we buried her, which happened to be her birthday. She was special and she’s the person who taught me about life and being true to myself.