Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Neenie

She was the biggest little woman I ever knew. Slight of stature but she could fill a room with her presence. Regal in her composure, yet composed with humility. Her hands were gnarled and knuckles huge…but oh! my!...the things she could do with those hands. She tatted and made lace, she played the piano and organ, she sewed, she wrote lovely letters, she baked and she cooked, she painted and she did every sort of craft you can imagine. She touched my face with her hands and she made an indelible mark in my heart. She loved us deeply and she taught us greatly. She loved her Lord with an unwavering faith. She followed His commands and she prayed. Oh, how she prayed for me.
My maternal grandmother. Known lovingly as Sister, Irene, Mother, Mrs. Younger, Neenie, Aunt Sister, and Mrs. Whitehead. Her name was as big as she was little: Ella Alice Irene Austin Younger Whitehead! But for a long, long time…they just called her Sister. Only daughter born to her parents, she was the first-born of 8 (6 survived). I imagine that everyone who ever knew her loved her. Everyone I knew did.
As I walk through my house, there is something in every room that reminds me of her. I have pieces of furniture that were hers. I have dishes, artwork, doo-dads, jewelry, books, bibles and clothes that were hers. Oh, and hankies. She loved hankies. But more than those things that she gave me, I have memories of her. And a relationship and love that endures beyond the bounds of time and space.
She once said to me, "Mollianne, there are things between us that don't have to be said out loud. Because they are in our hearts, and our hearts know." That is where I carry her now. Reverently, humorously, delightfully and with a bittersweet memory of that wonderful creature that God allowed to grace my life.
This day, the anniversary of her birth...102 years later, I hope that I live my life in such a way that she would be proud of me. She always encouraged me. The last conversation I had with her 6 years ago was about my upcoming college graduation. She was so proud that I finally finished my degree. She reminded me that we didn't have to say good-bye, because when she went to heaven, it was just a matter of time until I joined her there.
Six years later, I still miss her. I miss calling her when I find the first crocus in the spring. I miss calling her to tell her I made her chicken and dumplings. I miss her when I find a card that she sent tucked away in a book. I miss her when I read poems that she loved. I miss her when I put one of her hankies in my Bible on Sunday morning before I go to church.
Much of what I am and who I want to be has to do with her calm and gentle influence in my life. I am so blessed to have had such a grandmother. And the most wonderful thing she ever did for me was to raise my Mother. God must have just known that it would take the whole tribe to raise me, and he found a line of strong, elegant, capable women and put me in their care. I am so thankful for them. But I still miss her.
She used to tell me that she loved me 'more and more'. Well, Little Neenie, I love you...More and More! If they celebrate birthdays in heaven, I hope that a choir of angels and all the people who loved you on earth are singing to you tonight. And I hope that there is vanilla ice cream to go with the cake.


Teri Lynne said...

Yesterday morning the first thing I wrote in my journal is, "Today is Neenie's birthday ... and part of my heart is empty because I miss her." Then I immediately prayed for you and for Bigmama for I know how great the loss of her physical presence is for each of you. What a beautiful tribute to the most amazing woman I have ever known.

Beth said...

I just loved that little woman. And I love the her fingerprints that are left all over you and your Mother. Thank you for sharing about her, and showing me more of who she was. Although I really don't have to do more than just look at you and Big Mama. Love you!

Mollianne said...

Thank you for your comments, ladies. Today, I thought of something she did once. She had found out something very disturbing that had happened in my world and it shook hers, too. I was waiting until I could see her to tell her, but someone else told her. She didn't really want me to know that she knew, but she wanted to do something. So she wrote me a check and said that she thought I could us a 'little extra.' When I called her, because I could read between those lines and knew that she knew, we had the most amazing conversation. She said that she almost fainted at the news, but then thought to herself, "I'm almost 90 years old and I have never once in all my life fainted. I don't guess I should start now." THAT is my Neenie!