By Darcy Fornier
For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.
When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.
I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.
I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.
In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.
Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.
I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.
In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.
Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.
I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.
In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.
A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.
But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.
Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.
I still miss her. So much.
Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.
Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.
Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.
When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.
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