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.

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

The spider outside the front window

photo (2)

There is a spider just outside the front window. She is suspended on a single thread, bisecting it between the points where it is attached to the pane. She’s halfway between her origin and her destination, dangling and swaying back and forth in the breeze. She’s dead. Kicked ye olde bucket while making a go at another web: her first, seventh, dozenth, hundreth — who really even knows but her. There is just the one thread she is suspended from, the beginnings of her new sticky hammock. So she had just gotten started.

She was setting up a new shop, spinning spinning spinning, driven by instinct. Something happened and she gave out, I guess. Seven of her little legs are curled up beneath her while one — the one she used to guide herself down the thread — sticks out behind her. A crooked little aerial ballet pose for the ages.

Noli timere

I love this:

His voice quavering, the son of Seamus Heaney has told mourners of his father’s final words, minutes before his death.

At a requiem mass in Dublin, crowded with mourners, Michael Heaney described how the poet and Nobel laureate, who died last week at the age of 74, had chosen Latin for the message to his wife, Marie. His last words were “in a text message he wrote to my mother just minutes before he passed away, in his beloved Latin and they read: ‘Noli timere’ – ‘don’t be afraid.'”

I love the message, I love that it sounds so beautiful in Latin, and I love that it came in a text message. RIP Mr. Heaney. I’ll do my best to heed your advice.

SHIT.

Bernie Mac’s passing is sad enough. But Isaac Hayes?

I was lucky enough to have Hayes as my commencement speaker when I graduated from college in 2004. Yes, he said “Hello, children” to us. The acoustics were shit so I had a hard time hearing a lot of the rest of his speech, even though I was in the front row. When it was time to do the deed, I walked across the stage, got my diploma, shook his hand, gazed up at him and heard him say “Best of luck” to me. Or something like that. I was starstruck and also in the thick of completing a major phase in my life so my memory of the exact moment is kind of … iffy. But still, its awesomeness sticks.

I’m going back to bed.