So long, Margaret Jean

My grandmother died Oct. 10. She’d spent the last few arduous months in and out of the hospital and back to the nursing home, then back to the hospital, battling rounds of infections and pain that kept her from resting peacefully enough to heal. She had fallen and hurt her shoulder and spine a couple of months ago and it just snowballed from there. She’d been in declining health for a couple of years, her hearing and sight deteriorated to the point where she needed you to get up real close and yell in her face for her to know who you were and what you were saying.

It was a frustrating end for a woman so independent.

She was ready to go, though. That’s what she said when I visited her a month or so before she died. She had just been discharged from the hospital and moved into her new room at the nursing home. She hadn’t yet realized that she wasn’t going back to her house ever again. I think she suspected but she wasn’t ready to believe it. She missed her dog, Sal. My aunt brought him by sometimes to visit.

Grandmaw told me she was proud of her life, that she’d had a good, full life. And she was ready to meet Jesus. She seemed in decent spirits that day, enough to flirt with the cute young physical therapist wearing a pink shirt. But she seemed resigned, too. It was hard to hear, hard to see, hard to move. She had hurt her shoulder in her fall so badly that coughing — which she desperately needed to do to get over a sinus and chest infection — was excruciating.

I’ve been a terrible granddaughter the past few years. My own life’s twists and turns ate up all my time and energy and I didn’t make the effort to call or visit as much as I should have. But I think she knew I loved her. And that Holden loved her. She and he had something special. She cracked him up like no one else could.

A boy and his Grandmaw #latergram

My grandmother was an incredible woman. She was independent, strong-willed, adventurous, so funny, creative, community-minded. She was complex, and at times difficult. Like we all can be.

She touched so many lives in her years. She inspired me to think bigger, to explore, to laugh.

I have written a lot about her here, and I am so glad I have many of my own memories as well as a handful of her stories written down.

Her marriage to my grandfather. Her miscarriage. The demands of mother- and wifehood. The year she was grand marshal of the River Day parade and it literally rained on her parade. (Spoiler alert: She got a do-over several years later!)

I just went back through some posts and re-remembered some things she told me that I had forgotten.

And I reread this, about how the things in our lives that we love change so drastically with age: “Growing up is just this seemingly endless reel of the things you loved crumbling, sometimes slowly, and that is the part of adulthood that I am not handling very well.”

It’s been seven years since I wrote that, and things have changed even more since then. I’ve made my own family now, and watched my birth family go through painful changes and challenges. Grandmaw got to meet my husband, although by then she had a hard time remembering him very well. She was pleased that I had found someone who treated my son and me so well. She understood how hard it was to find a good man.

When I remember my grandmother, it’s a collection of memories and sounds and smells punctuated by random snippets of things that made her who she was:

• Her collection of turquoise and coral jewelry, which I found especially beautiful and interesting. She would bring it out of her jewelry boxes and let me see it and touch it sometimes as a child.
• The candy she kept on her nightstand: Skittles, candy orange slices, Smarties.
• Sunflowers, her favorite.
• Her homemade mac and cheese, slightly burnt on top.
• The clanging of her bangles and bracelets as she moved her hands.
• Her fingernails, thick as particle board from the calcium pills she took religiously.
• Nutter Butters, slightly stale and chewy.
• The way she said “shit.” Either a short spit — “shhht” — or a long E sound, quick in the middle — “sheeeit.” She Clay Davised before Clay Davis did.
• The dirty frog figurines she’d picked up on her travels somewhere; they looked unremarkable on the shelf but if you turned them over, one had a penis and one had a vagina.
• Trips to Goody’s in Jackson to buy school clothes.
• Eating at Long John Silver’s.
• The souvenirs she brought back from her travels for us kids: A letter opener from the UK, Australian money, a keychain from Ireland. My sister kept a bundle of postcards she’d sent from various locales over the years and put them in her casket to take with her to her next destination.
• The car stacked high with styrofoam plates of meals to be delivered to shut-ins.
• The 1990s U.S. Census kit she let me play with after the census was over. It was a plastic briefcase full of survey papers. I would conduct pretend census surveys in my room.
• The homemade spooky stories book she and one of her classes made, bound in an orange and black casing that my little hands always went for on the bookshelf.
• The oil paints and brushes she handed down to me years ago, and the landscapes she painted.

That’s not all. That’s not even close.

How do you even begin to catalogue what a person means to you? Who they are? How much they are a part of you in ways you’re only just learning? In ways you won’t see yet for years?

Rest well, Margaret Jean. You were one of a kind.

me and grandmaw

grandmaw and me

phil, me, grandmaw

crunk

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So it doesn’t get lost in the ether of the internet, here’s her obituary:

Margaret Jean Sanders Turner, 85, of Saltillo, TN, passed away Tuesday, October 10th, at Decatur Co. General Hospital.

Mrs. Turner was born in Friendship, TN, the youngest child of the late Bob and Lottie Hall Sanders. She graduated from Friendship High School and was in the last class of the UT Junior College at Martin in 1951. She also attended Lambuth and Memphis State. She met Bobby Turner, her late husband, in college and they married in 1953. They lived in the Five Forks Community just outside Saltillo. Mr. Turner passed away in 1993.

Margaret was very active in and around Saltillo. She had taught Elementary School at Saltillo, was Registrar-at-Large with the Hardin County Election Commission, worked at H.I.S., was secretary for the Town of Saltillo at one time. She had also worked with the Federal Census Bureau for over three decades. She had volunteered with the Hardin County Tourism Committee, as well as the Pictorial History of Hardin County Book committee, she was one of the organizers of the “River Day” Homecoming Parade, helped organize the area Meals on Wheels Program, She served 10 years as a local fire fighter and state certified First Responder. Mrs. Turner had served as secretary/treasurer for the Saltillo Family and Community Education Club, treasurer and member of Saltillo United Methodist Church, a certified AARP Driver Safety Instructor, Advisory Board member of SWHRA Foster Grandparents, and for years, she wrote the community news for the Savannah Courier. She had been a member of the Soggy Bottom Belles Red Hatters. Her greatest interests were the history of Saltillo, her family geneology, her flowers and dearest of all, her family.

Margaret is survived by a daughter, Cindy (Jacky) Chumney, of Parsons; a son, Steven S. (Frances) Turner, of Saltillo.

She is also survived by 5 Grandchildren – Krissie (Chuck) Tucker, Lindsey (Richard) Turner-Garrett, Keri (Randy) Inman, Evan Turner and Tyler Chumney; 6 Great-Grandchildren – Casey Collins, Patrick Collins, Holden Karpovage, Levi Turner, Kalanie Inman and Rylie Inman; 3 special friends – Roger Gant, Patsy Gant and Diego Porras.

She was predeceased by her parents, Bob Berry & Lottie Hall Sanders, her husband, Bobby Newman Turner, a daughter, Susan Belinda Turner and a brother, William Robert Sanders.

Her Funeral Service will be held at Saltillo United Methodist Church, Saltillo, TN, at 1 PM on Friday, October 13th, with burial to follow in White Lawn Cemetery near Saltillo.

Visitation will be Thursday 2 PM – 9 PM and Friday 10 AM until service. All visitation and funeral service will be at Saltillo United Methodist Church.

Pallbearers are: Darnell Lowery, Jim Brown, Patrick Collins, Casey Collins, Randy Inman and Richard Garrett. Honorary Pallbearers are: Roger Gant and Diego Porras.

Bad memory

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My sister once convinced me to eat a crabapple from this tree in my grandmother’s yard. She told me it would taste good and I believed everything my big sister said.

It did not taste good. It was remarkably terrible, actually.

That’s not the bad memory I’m referring to, though. That’s one of many stories of her pranking me throughout my youth. The crabapple, the red onion she told me was red cabbage, the hot sauce on my peanut butter sandwich. Those stories gets retold at least twice a year at family gatherings and we all laugh at how mean she was to her little sis.

No, the bad memory I am referring to is whether this is the actual crabapple tree at all. I can’t tell by looking at it and I distinctly remember it being located closer to the road. I don’t even know if this is a crabapple tree at all.

The bad memory is mine.

(Here’s the tree in color if that helps make it easier to identify.)

Getting RIPped

I heard a (hip young) undertaker on Fresh Air today talking about cremation and embalming and death rituals and all that fun stuff, and it occurred to me that I am in my thirties and I have procreated and yet I still have not put on paper my wishes in the event of my untimely death, which is getting more and more statistically probable with every new day I draw breath. What am I waiting for? (Someone to do it for me.)

I suppose I can put a couple of throwaway paragraphs on the internet and then ask the twelve of you who still read this blog to feel free to email a link to all my loved ones should I die, to make sure what they understand of what I want squares with the crap I have actually thought about and written down. Is that how we do death prep in the Web 2.0 era? Oh god, we aren’t in the Web 2.0 era anymore are we? I should be tweeting out my living will in 150 parts and ending it with “LOL.” Also, I am just kidding. I know there are not even twelve of you left who read blogs, especially this one.

In all seriousness, I don’t want to be embalmed. What a waste of time and money and horrible chemicals that are causing everyone cancer, probably. I want to say, “put me in a wooden box and stick me in the ground wherever there is already a convenient hole and let me get all wormy as quickly as possible so maybe some flowers will grow above me, but DON’T put any pea gravel anywhere near me,” but I know it is more complicated than that. I’m not particularly sentimental about what happens to me after my death, because who cares, but I accept that it is a practical concern that the living will be left to deal with so maybe I can do them a solid and take out some of the guesswork.

First, give away all my organs. Or the ones still working, I guess. I won’t need any of them unless you think there is a decent, scientifically sound chance of reanimation, in which case PRESERVE EVERYTHING, INCLUDING MY BROWN FITZWELL BOOTS. My eyes are terrible but one of them has a weird spot in it that bestows magical powers, so don’t let that shit get buried. Give it to someone!

In all honesty, I am kind of charmed by the idea of donating my body to science and maybe being empirically useful for once in my life/death. Maybe hanging out on The Body Farm and getting nice and ripe in the sun for the clipboard-wielding students to study, and then eventually becoming a part of their collection of skeletons. Yes! It might be the closest I get to being in a Head Museum. Let me bookmark that application process right now, actually.

If that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason (no one can find a free truck to get me there?), just cremate me. Except let’s consider water/lye instead of fire. I don’t need a fancy or beautiful or comfortable coffin and I have no interest in an eternal resting place that’s just taking up space in the ground. Just pulverize (politely and efficiently) what’s left of me and take the bone “ashes” and mix me up with potting soil and plant something interesting with part of me. I will try not to spoil the new growth with my acidic wit.

If you think that I am joking in any way about all that stuff ^^ or about putting any or all of the following phrases (or those found in my previous post) in places meant to memorialize my life, let me reassure you: I am completely serious and, should there prove to be some kind of afterlife where I am not sentenced to hard, hot labor for all the schemin’ and cussin’ I did while among the living, I am going to DIE (AGAIN) LAUGHING when I see one of these phrases printed in my obit or on my (exquisitely designed) funeral program or on the cardboard box where my cremains rest. (Which reminds me, which one of my designer friends wants to take charge of the funeral program project? Come get this ridiculous Victorian-era decoupage source book from my office so you can be sure to really make the whole thing sing.)

Some more epitaph suggestions, should anyone choose to keep part of me in some kind of urn or manila envelope:

• Former indoor kid

• Quick to light, slow to burn

• Still silently judging you

• Hopeless romantic who never once believed in love

• Follow me @eyedeadcreative

• Once had her photo taken with Todd Zeile

• Incompatible with life

• Greatest hyperbolist of all time

Cousins

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These boys have a big time when they get together. And when they get together and stand next to each other, my mom says the phrase “been farming long?” about a dozen times. Here’s why.

2.5

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Our sweet man,

How do we catch up?

You are two and a half years old now. You’ve dug in to the Terrible Twos lately in that you Just Cannot Handle It if your will is defied sometimes. You get really, really upset if we try to make you use the potty and you’re not in the mood or if we try to make you come inside or get in the car if you’re not ready. Cue meltdown. You really have taken to being a drama queen when the occasion arises.

And yet! You are such a sweet boy. You wake up happy every day and you want a cup of milk and a banana. Every morning. You want to sit on the couch with me and watch your Elmo potty DVD while I have my arm around you, holding your belly. If my hand is not on your belly, you will put it there. Grammy says you do this to her too. You love being held with a hand on your belly, and you a very good snuggler.

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You’re learning so much these days! We have so much fun talking about what the different animals say. Your favorite animal noise is “mooo” but you do adore a good bird tweet too. The kitties don’t live here anymore but you still ask about them and meow quite a bit. Your pig oink is hilarious. Some day I hope to sneak a video of it.

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You’re counting — you can make it to 10 on your own and even further if we count with you. You can identify some numbers on sight, which is CRAZY since we didn’t teach you how numbers look! (I have to credit this to Sesame Street, seriously.) Grammy had you out on the porch one day and she pointed to the house numbers and you told her what all four of them were! We were all so shocked and bewildered by that, but mostly impressed.

We’re working on our colors, too, and the alphabet. You love to sing the alphabet song followed by “Twinkle Twinkle,”which I catch you humming throughout the day.

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The past few months you’ve made big friends with your cousins Shannon and Levi. You see Levi every few weeks and you ask about him when you see his picture on the fridge. You guys get along like gangbusters, except when you have sharing issues.

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We’ve been trying to puzzle out this long-standing nighttime cough you’ve had for months. We think it’s probably allergies, and we’ve tried several remedies. Lately you’ve been better so maybe we have it figured out. Still, I hope you grow out of whatever is giving you trouble now. An allergy test showed you’re allergic to dogs, cats, mold, pollen, trees and grass. So … the world is going to be tough on you, kiddo.

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You are still very much into balls — footballs, tennis balls, basketballs, soccer balls. You like to talk about the moon (and when it might be up in the sky), and big trucks, big cars, and big planes flying overhead. Helium balloons make you BATSHIT CRAZY. You love being outside. You went through a shy spell but lately you’ve been delighting in other people. Just today you were swinging at the park and cracking up every time some other kid came to swing beside you. That is so fun to watch.

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You like to make us laugh and surprise us. You love to jump on the bed and turn flips. You love your Glowworm, which you call your “Woo woo.”

We found out recently that you were accepted to pre-school! That starts next month. We are so nervous and excited for you. You had to do a one-hour evaluation in a classroom and you were very reserved. I’m sure when you spend some time at school you’ll love it. There’s so much more to do there, and so much to learn. You’re going to make friends and really be a big boy, going to school every day. I almost can’t believe it.

Lunchtime selfie party Sad day. Taking the kitties to live with my parents. Holden's allergy test showed us they can't live with us anymore. Bummed. This guy is enjoying the V-Day balloon more than anything has ever been enjoyed before.

A little Saturday afternoon Egg huntin’

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We had our first proper egg hunt last weekend at Mom and Dad’s. Evan had a bunch of eggs — including some cruel camouflage ones! — and threw them out in the yard and Levi and Holden went for them. Levi had done an egg hunt before so he kind of had the idea but Holden wasn’t sure of the point until a few eggs in. He found an egg with a dollar in it and pitched it to the ground but pocketed the egg. My child, the hippie?

It was really fun and sweet to watch, but the best part is watching Holden and Levi play. There are times when they don’t share very well and they can get annoyed with each other, but for the most part they delight in each other and that is so great to watch.

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The Turner Chin

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Thirtysomething female in natural habitat, from unflattering angle

One of the ways in which you can pinpoint the source of my DNA is my weak chin/double chin. This thing torments me. It’s particularly annoying when I’m overweight (as I am now and, uh, have more or less always been) because I can feel fat snuggling my neck like a skin turtleneck. Ew, I just grossed myself out.

Anyway, this chin has ancient origins, I’m sure, that I could try to track down if I put some effort into it. My great-grandmother had it and hated it so much that in her later years, she would tape up her double chin with a Band-Aid, so that it would rest suspended in a little turkey-neck hammock. My grandfather (her son) always had a robust double chin situation, and his was covered in grey stubble throughout many of my brief memories of him. My dad (his son) hides his chin under a generous layer of beard, although in recent years his facial manscaping has allowed the chin to peek out more and more in favor of a more mutton-choppy look.

As for me, I’ve gone about my life trying to hide the chin with long layers of hair that have traditionally fallen in my face so much that my grandmother has probably repeated the phrase “Get your hair out of your face!” at least two hundred times to me. (See also: “Pull your sleeves up!” and “Black attracts everything but men and money!”) I hate this damn thing but it’s one of the very few and very obvious ways in which you can draw a straight line from me to my family, so I suppose it’s endearing in its own way.

That doesn’t mean I don’t entertain fantasies of neck lipo on a regular basis.