Sunday, March 22, 2009

Memory Post

I'm a little behind here but my Memory Post today is for my paternal grandmother, Mary Lucille Jamerson Chidester but she went by "Lucille". She was born March 16, 1926 in Dillwyn, Virginia. I have delayed posting about her because I kept trying to come up with some happy memories but sadly there are very few of them. Looking back, I don't believe that my grandmother was a very happy person. There really is no one left alive to tell me anything regarding her childhood, her young life and essentially what made her do some of the things that she did. I guess there is no way to sugarcoat things but my grandmother was an alcoholic and she lived and died that way. Her life revolved around drinking and getting her next drink. Sadly she only lived to be 50 and she died a very horrible death of cirrhosis of the liver. The picture here was of her and my dad taken around 1945, she would have been about 19 years old.

I don't want to be entirely negative because even though I never remember her telling me she loved me, or holding me or any of those grandmotherly things I do know deep within my being that she loved me from some of the things that she would do for me. One of my first memories of her was when we lived with her and my grandfather while my parents were building their home. My mother was working at that time and I stayed with her during the day. I remember getting up in the morning and sitting at the kitchen table with her and my grandfather before he left for work.
The radio would be playing on WFLO, the local Farmville radio station. I distinctly remember one morning she grabbed my hand and we danced around the kitchen to "Proud Mary" by Ike and Tina Turner. That song came out in 1968 so that would have put me at 5 years old. Sometimes when it was raining, she would yell out "C'mon Sunshine" and I would always respond back with "C,mon Rain" just to stubborn, but she liked that because she was EXTREMELY stubborn herself. As my father quoted to me on Friday when I asked him if he ever remembered her being demonstrative "She always ran the show" and no, he never remembered her telling him she loved him or hugging him but he knew she loved him and that she loved my brother and I.

She had two best friends in her life, one was her younger sister, Isabelle and the other was her cousin, Florence. Florence only lived a few miles from us and I remember going over there at least several times a week. We would also spend time with her parents, my great-grandparents almost everyday. In the summers we would go fishing with them, sometimes canning fruits and vegetables, playing cards (that's how I learned to play poker and they would take my pennies, I finally got wise even at that age and could usually win more than I would lose)and of course I remember them sitting out at the picnic table drinking. In the winter it was usually quilting or in the afternoons, watching the "stories" as my grandmother would say. One of her favorites was "The Edge of Night" which would come on at 3:30PM and usually by the time it was over she was asleep. Really, she had passed out is what it was, but I was little and didn't realize it then. She would stretch out on the couch and I would sit on the floor at the end of the couch closest to the TV and watch with her. In fact, one time my mother took me to a babysitter, as she was afraid to keep leaving me with my grandmother due to her drinking, and when the babysitter tried to get me to take a nap, I refused and threw a fit so that would let me sit up with her and watch the soaps. The babysitter told my mother that I was fine as long as she let me do that so while the other children slept, I watched the stories.

My grandmother was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 1972 and yet she would not quit drinking. It was a horrible thing to watch the next four years. She lost weight and probably weighed about 100-110lbs and she was 5'6" so she was extremely emancipated but with a huge stomach as if she was pregnant. I have her last drivers license and in the picture she looked as if she was 80 instead of 50. It was really pitiful and even more so that she would not give up the alcohol. One of her last weekends at home was my 13th birthday. I had my BFF, Janet with me that weekend and she called the local hotel and had the owner fill up the swimming pool so that Janet and I could go swimming as that was my birthday wish. Yes, she could bully anybody into doing just about anything. Of course Dillwyn was, and is such a small town, everyone knew everyone else so having a pool filled up wasn't that big of a deal but still when I look back I am amazed that she would expect someone to do something like that. After that weekend she was hospitalized until her death in September of 1976 except for a few brief hours that my Grandfather Clyde had her brought home one day as she wanted to come home one last time. He loved her so much, yet not once can anyone remember her saying I love you back to him or her showing any kind of affection.

I don't want to portray her entirely negative. I do know that when she talked about my father (her only child) there was a light in her eyes that was there no other time. She would call him "Son" or "Baby Clyde" and just the way she said it one would just know that she thought the sun rose and set on my dad. I can hear her right now say "When son gets here" or see the way she looked when he would walk in the door, I know she loved him. In fact, she loved him so much she could never see anything wrong in anything that my father ever did. I know she loved me because of the things she did for me or if I wanted something she would try to see that I got it. She would always order pies, one lemon meringue and one chocolate meringue from an old black lady that baked pastries that lived near her. I remember riding with her there to pick them up. That was a good memory. I told my brother, Scott, how she called him Jamie as she didn't like his name "Jeriahme Scott" and when she would send him cards, they were addressed "Master Jamie Chidester" as she was kind of proper like that. One time she got on me for calling her "Grandma" instead of "Grandmother" as she said grandmother sounded so much more dignified and she was to young to be a grandma.

One of the funniest memories of her was when my brother was about a year old and we were in Rose's Department store on Main St. in Farmville and my brother wanted this pink, stuffed kitten with a soft furry face. I thought she was going to die on the spot because it was a pink kitten and not the black kitten. She kept trying to get him to want the black one, because pink was for girls. My mother finally stepped in and stood up to her and he got the pink kitten. I have that kitten now and need to give it back to Scott. Jessica loved on that kitten when she a baby too. Scott was quite sick with asthma as a child and I think that kitten went with him every time he was ever sick and in the hospital.

I also just recalled the emerald ring(my birthstone) that she gave me for my 12th birthday. It was probably one of my first pieces of real jewelry. The ring came from Martin's Jeweler's, again on Main St. in Farmville and she got it for me because I so admired her aquamarine birthstone ring that she always wore. It was a lovely princess cut and yes, I still have it though I haven't wore it in years. Also, a red Christmas dress that she had made for me the last Christmas that she was alive. My mother still has that dress hanging in her closet.

My grandmother was a very strong-willed, opinionated, stubborn person and I know that I have some of her qualities, that when in a small amount is not an entirely bad thing. I know that when an attitude comes out in me my mother will say "OK, Lucille" and I know that I need to back off or calm down. Of course, she will also say I have my "Clyde" moments (my dad) but again, that is the Lucille coming out. As with all of my grandparents, I wish I had one day back to see them again. I think with her, it would have to be the day that she grabbed my hand and danced with me in the sun dappled kitchen. That is the day that I remember the most.

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