always fifty-five

my Nana when she was only sixteen

To me she’ll always be fifty-five. Isn’t that odd? When I was a certain age, my Nana was fifty-five. And no matter how much older she got, she was somehow still fifty-five to me. Now she’s died and memories of her are swirling round my brain, but there’s still a part of me that thinks of her as being fifty-five.

It’s too easy to say trailblazer, but that’s what she was. She got a PhD in sociology (ABD, but still) when that just wasn’t done…being a woman and all. She quipped her whole life that she married my grandfather during the war, when the only young men available were cripples and preachers. I know I shouldn’t say cripples, but it was her word. Seems weird the very thought of editing her at this point. Like the least I can do is actually use her words faithfully.

So she married a preacher, and they pastored quite a few Methodist churches in West Texas back in postwar America (the one he started in Midland, St Luke’s, is one of the biggest in the region). They’d do a stint for several years in some tiny place and then when everything was relatively stable, they’d be sent on to the next community that needed a church. The funny thing I remember being told was that my Nana didn’t silently grin and bear it when things weren’t to her liking.

When she was displeased about some aspect of being a small town preacher’s wife, she was very vocal about it. I could say it was some sort of Texas thing, but from my perspective it was so much bigger than that.

She loved baseball. She was a fan of the Dodgers until they left Brooklyn. Then she had cable television early on, and we spent summer evening after summer evening watching the Cubs. I’d somehow forgotten how I became a Cubs fan. It was entirely a result of those nights at her place in Kerrville, where if I had the audacity to ask what was on, there was always only one answer. ‘Baseball.’

Full-stop.

Baseball.

You know, I could spend the rest of my time here talking about my grandmother and how she spoke her mind. How beautiful her life and even her death were. Yet here I was last night after spreading her ashes in the Guadalupe River, and my niece and I sat together watching baseball. She asked me questions that I asked my Nana. To be candid, questions about baseball weren’t much appreciated, but she’d tolerate them. Begrudgingly.

My niece might’ve had a bit easier time of it. I was likely too eager to make this odd, antiquated game appealing to this little girl of the twenty-first century. But she was genuinely interested. I explained the count, and then spent most of the rest of the game quizzing her, ‘What’s the count?‘ Her brain is always working and she likes having a task. She got the hang of it early on, and thrived on answering each question correctly.

Some Bavarians (not all of them) have a phrase that’s called a Schöne Leiche. Translated literally, it’s a ‘beautiful corpse’, but that’s not at all what it means. If someone had a great life and their family comes together to celebrate rather than mourn, the party afterwards is said to make a Schöne Leiche. That’s certainly what we had.

I’m carrying it with me out of here. I refuse to let it go.