Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Polly Patterson





It hasn't even been 2 months since my beloved Grandmother passed away. In some ways it seems like it has been years. I am still grieving heavily. I think I will for a long time. This blog post is more for me. I want to record my feelings and thoughts while they are still fresh and raw. I want to write this down for my children to read one day. I know this is very long and very personal, but this one is for me.

Is it odd to call your Grandmother your best friend? I remember in college when I would introduce my 70 year old Grandmother as my best friend and my friends would give me strange looks. And then they would meet her and they would totally get it. What other Grandmother would hang out with the cast of West Side Story at a 24 hour diner late in the evening? And what other Grandmother would hold everyone there captive with her stories and her laugh? Whenever she would inevitably get on the airplane to head back home, my friends would ask, "Can she be my Grandmom too?"

I can't remember a time in my life when my Grandmother wasn't a huge part of it. Growing up, I don't think I ever had any other baby-sitters. I just had my Grandmom and Grandaddy. When I was sick at school and had to check out, I can remember that crimson cadillac parked out front and my Grandmother sitting in the office so worried about her angel baby.

That's what we all were. Angel Babies. There were four granddaughters and we were all angel babies. And butterflies.

I loved spending the night with my grandparents growing up. They only lived a few miles away, so I had that lucky honor quite often. I remember getting to eat all of the vanilla ice cream that I wanted. I remember my Grandmother slept every night with a pink satin pillow and sat on the edge of her bed every night to put on her cold cream. I always thought that she had the most beautiful skin in the world. I wanted to have skin just like her when I grew up. Some nights I would climb into bed with her. She would always say, "Oh, angel baby. I thought you would never come in here." And then she would rub my back until I fell asleep.

I don't think any of us Granddaughters can talk about our Grandmother without talking about her pool. That's what we did nearly every day in the summer. We played in our Grandmother's pool. I can still see her brown hair peeking out from the window as she watched to make sure that we were all safe. In the evenings she would put on her bathing suit and shower cap and come swim with us. She couldn't get her hair wet though. Her hair could only get wet once a week as she had it done at her salon just like any other true Southern lady.

She instilled in me a great love for Alabama football. She never missed a game and even now the words, "Roll Tide" made me think of her impish smile and infectious life. Holidays at her house were the best. I have such warm and happy memories of Easter Egg Hunts, Christmas afternoons, baked chicken legs, creamed corn, my uncle playing the piano, putting on recitals with my cousins, playing ping pong on the porch.... it was idyllic and I am so grateful for the memories.

When I was a child, my Grandmother was my everything. She was my world.

We moved to Northern Virginia when I was 12. My Grandfather had only passed away a week before our move. The hardest thing about moving was leaving my Grandmother. But it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I think I spent more quality time with her than ever due to our move. She would come up to visit us and she and I had a blast going all over Washington DC together. Since she passed away, I have rediscovered the best home movies of us touring all of the monuments, playing in the snow, and dancing together in our kitchen.

I have one very distinct memory that still makes me tear up to this day. When we first moved to Washington, I missed her terribly. Sometimes my longing for her was unbearable. She came to visit us when we had only lived there for a few months and my happiness to be with her again was so evident. I felt complete with her arms around me. Her familiar smell comforted me. I loved seeing her pink satin pillow in our guest room and her cold cream on my bathroom counter. When she left, I was devastated. I had lived so close to her all of my life and the distance was hard on me. I went to the guest room where she had been staying and just cried. Then I looked in the closet and noticed that she had left her beautiful fur coat behind. I smelled it and it smelled just like my beautiful Grandmother. I burst into tears and sank to the bottom of the closet. I just held on to her coat because it was some sort of physical reminder of her. I will never forget sitting at the bottom of that closet, holding her coat, and crying because I missed my Grandmother so much.

Another plus of us moving to DC was that I got to spend my summers in Alabama with my both of my Grandmothers. A few of the pictures in here are of my Grandmother Suttle. I was extremely close to her and many of the stories in here could apply to her as well. She passed away nearly 5 years ago and there aren't many days that go by when I don't wish I could pick up the phone and ask for her advice on a recipe or run to her house for a game of gin rummy. I started this blog after she passed away, but I will need to write a whole other one on how much she meant to me. It is so hard to believe now that they are both gone.

I do believe however that those summers are why I remained so close to Grandmom Patterson my whole life. We were best friends on those hot summer days. My cousin Erin would always come over and the three of us did everything together. We went walking at the mall, had breakfast at donut shops, swam in the pool, watched Days of our Lives, discussed the upcoming football season, and just enjoyed being together. We were the three musketeers and I am so grateful for those lazy summers together.

I loved going to church with her every Sunday. She loved showing me off to all of her friends. She introduced me as her butterfly who floated away for awhile, but had found its way back home. I went to so many watermelon socials at Woodley Baptist Church and I would get so jealous when all of the other little kids there would run up and call her their Grandmother. How dare they? She was my Grandmother. But I don't blame them. Who wouldn't want her? And I was lucky enough to have her. I held her hand with such pride. It didn't matter that I was 15 years old. I would hold her hand any day of the week.

Those summer days with her were magical. I learned the names of all the ladies in her beauty shop and they loved me in return. I went "visiting" with Grandmother nearly every day. That's when my eyes were really opened to what a beautiful and special lady she really was. We were always visiting someone in the hospital or holding the hand of an elderly shut in. She was full of love, compassion, and holiness. I watched Grandmom pray over so many people and she taught me by example what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ.

My absolute favorite days were the days when we would just run away. That was always our inside joke. Some days Grandmom would just say to me, "Do you want to run away today?" Those days were the best! We had no agenda. We would just go. Sometimes we would end up in Ozark, Alabama. She would take me to visit her relatives and oh, the stories I heard. Grandmom would tell me stories about her life growing up, her parents, her siblings, and her life. I soaked it up and she loved the fact that I would listen to her. She used to tell me how much it meant to her that I would drive hours with her to visit family members and listen to her stories. Little did she know that I would go anywhere with her and listen about anything. I just loved her that much. I still miss our run away days terribly.

I remember when I started becoming interested in Broadway musicals. Grandmom went to the movie store and rented every single one she could find. We spent a whole week watching a different musical every night. Oklahoma was our favorite. One summer I spent with her happened to be the 92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. She and I watched it every single night and decided that we knew more than the judges. We laughed so hard as we yelled out the scores for the divers!

I do remember several times when we would go out to clean off Grandaddy's grave. I told her that I didn't like going out there. When she asked me why not, I would tell her that I didn't like seeing her headstone with a birth date, but not a date for her death. I told her that I didn't like thinking about the day she would die and she would look at me and say, "Oh, honey. That won't be a sad day. That is going to be a celebration. You just know that will be a day of rejoicing. Don't you dare be sad on that day."

Who didn't love her? My high school friends wrote letters to her. They wanted her to be their Grandmother as well. They loved writing to their pretend Grandmother, Polly Patterson. I was so incredibly proud of her and honored to be her Granddaughter.

I loved driving down to Alabama to see her when I was on breaks from college. I caught up with the ladies at the beauty shop, resumed my duties of being her sidekick while visiting the elderly, and just felt her love. She would say, "Oh, my butterfly has flitted all over this country, but found her way home again."

I traveled a lot after college, but I got letters regularly from my Grandmother. In every letter she included a bible verse, a $20 bill, and a reminder to never forgot whose daughter I really was. It was a reminder constantly that I was a daughter of the King. I received letters in nearly every state and even in some European countries. She always wanted to know what I was seeing and doing. She was fascinated by my travels and wanted to pore over pictures of castles and countrysides. I have many of her letters in my Bible right now. They are constant reminders of her love for me and of her love for the Lord.

I brought some of my friends from New York City home to meet her. Just as my high school and college friends before them, they fell in love with her. They took my Grandmother to her favorite restaurant Picadilly and loved the fact that she would sing, "Who Let the Dogs Out." When we brought her home for lunch, she gathered all of my friends in her living room. And she witnessed to them. I distinctly remember her saying, "Now I know many of you don't know my Lord. But I can't have anybody come into my house without telling them that Jesus loves them. And I want all of you sweet children to know that Jesus loves you, he died for you, and he has a plan for you." I have never been more honored to call that beautiful lady my Grandmother in all of my life.

I settled back in Montgomery in my early 20's and had nearly a decade of being in the same town again as my Grandmother. Again, she was my best friend. We met for lunch every single week while I was working downtown. We ate at Martin's, Sahara, and Chick-fil-A. Those lunches were some of the best of my life. I told her everything from work troubles to issues in my dating life. She just listened. She never judged, she was slow to give advice.... she just listened. And she loved me. She took me out visiting shut-ins again and I got to know her circle of friends and I loved them like they were extra Grandmothers. That was such an incredibly special time in my life.

I loved living near her. She came to all of my plays at church, came over to my house to visit, and I would spend many evenings with her at her home. We would eat Chick-Fil-A and I would beg her for one of her famous back rubs. My 20's are filled with memories of my Grandmother. I think I called her nearly every single day. And all of my co-workers knew when I was rushing out the door at noon that I was running out to meet Grandmom for lunch.

After Grandmom had her stroke, I had the honor of spending many evenings with her in various hospital rooms. She would say, "Oh, has my butterfly landed at my bedside?" I would rub her hand, sing to her, and tell her that she was more than a Grandmother. She was my best friend. She would smile and say, "I know. And you're mine too."

Grandmother attended several of my wedding and baby showers and to this day people will comment on the bond she and I had. Since she has passed, I have had several friends tell me that they had met her at a shower or at a play and they could just see the love between us. I don't doubt that for one second. It was clear to anyone who spent 2 seconds with us that we had something special. I love her in a way that is different from how I have ever loved anyone else and I always felt that in return.

She was so excited when she found out that I was pregnant. By this time she had moved into an assisted living facility. I would visit her and she always wanted to feel the baby kick. She was at the hospital when my daughter was born and the first thing she did was hold the infant and sing, "Jesus Loves Me." Those were some of the earliest sounds my daughter ever heard. We moved to Kansas City just before Bennett turned 1, but that first year of her life was filled with days with my Grandmother- having lunch with her, talking to her, letting her watch Bennett crawl.... memories I will always cherish and be grateful for.

I remember telling my Grandmother that we were moving to Kansas. I put my head in her lap and began to cry. She just stroked my hair and said, "Well, angel baby, we are just going to have to leave that in God's hands. His ways are perfect and we are just going to have to trust in that." Beautiful words... but I saw that she was crying too.

My Grandmother was a saint. She really was. I can honestly say that I have never met anyone on this earth who had a closer relationship with the Lord. She truly walked with Him. She listened to Him. She was still and quiet in His presence. She was His hands and feet. She served. Always joyfully. Always. And she was content in ALL circumstances.

My precious Grandmother was content when she was healthy and she was content when she was sick. She never complained. I really don't think that in the 32 years I had with my Grandmother I ever heard her complain. It has been so interesting, but not really surprising, to hear stories from people who have told us how much she ministered to them even after she became ill. We have heard story after story from people who were touched by her refusal to complain and by her desire to give glory to God in all circumstances. My Grandmother was a testimony to her beloved Jesus right until the very end.

My lasting impression of her is that she was so incredibly loved. Everyone loved Polly Patterson. Everyone. And I think every member of my family could share in their own way about their unique and special relationship with her. I don't think you could find anyone who had an unkind word to say about her. How rare is that? She cared for the sick, prayed with those who needed prayer, loved those who needed to be loved, served those in their times of need, and obeyed God at every opportunity presented to her.

The peace I have now at her death is a true testament to her faith. She always longed for heaven and her death really is a celebration. I am so happy that she is home now. That she can dance pain free like she has longed to for so long. I know that when God said the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" to her, truer words were never spoken.







"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful." 2 Timothy 4:7






8 comments:

starnes family said...

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

I love how they used to write "School Days" on photos. I have some of these from my mom.

Laura Forman said...

Beautiful words, just beautiful. I read every word, wishing I had the chance to meet Polly Patterson. She was an amazing woman! Praying for you as you continue to grieve the lost of your best friend.

The Khans said...

So sweet Lauren. What treasured memories you have of your grandmother and your children will love to read this in the future. Still praying for you and your family.

Erin said...

Sweet cousin, your insights and personal reflections our our beloved grandmother were so healing to my soul this evening. Thank you for being so vulnerable. You have painted such a beautiful and accurate picture of who she really was. We all miss her terribly, but I think she has changed all of us - for the better.

Nate, Abbey, Noah and Blaire said...

Sweet post Lauren.

Carmen & Eddie said...

I am in tears. What a special relationship you had with an amazing woman!

Courtney said...

What an amazing post about an equally amazing woman. I am in tears sitting here reading it. What a wonderful treasure this will be for Bennett and Will in the years to come when they ask about their great grandmom. Hugs and love to you, friend.

kristinwithani said...

Lauren, I love that you took the time to put this in words. I am confident it was not without lots of laughter and lots of tears.

There is nothing like the love of a grandmother.

You have her beautiful smile!