On March 13, Grandma celebrated her birthday in heaven for the sixteenth year. In the short eight years I had with her, Grandma had solidified herself as my favorite person to walk this earth – which is saying a lot because we’ve had some pretty illustrious and important people walk among us.
But Grandma was mine.
Growing up a stone’s throw away from my grandparents’ single-story wood paneled home in humid Charleston meant I got to see Grandma nearly every day.
That is, until Daddy got a job in Georgia.
At four years old I had to say goodbye to seeing Grandma every day. And boy, did I cry.
Like a cartoon cat with its claws digging into the bathroom doorway refusing its bath, I clung with all my might to her entry door as my parents tugged me away until I lost my grip. For a tiny human I sure did have some strength that day.
Being a clever only child, I spent my free time engineering ways to see Grandma. One thing I knew from the move was that it would take a lot of walking to get back to South Carolina, and I couldn’t cross the street.
So, I needed a car. And a willing chauffeur.
“What are you doing with that suitcase?” Mom asked.
With my little red, blue and yellow suitcase in hand, my shoes laced tight and a determined disposition, I knew exactly where I was going.
“I’m going to Grandma’s house,” I stated.
After a phone conversation with Daddy, Mom sighed and realized she had better take me to see Grandma.
“How do you say ‘no’ when your child has her bags packed and is ready to go?” she later said to me.
My plan had worked and off we were in our five hour trek to see my favorite person.
There was nothing in this world that would stop me from seeing Grandma, not even the darn cat.
It had been a year since my now famous suitcase trick and Daddy, Mom and I had our bags packed and were eager to get on the road.
But Kersey, our black and white cat, had other plans.
The ever spiteful kitty with a sour grudge against us leaving him home, decided to break loose to teach us a lesson.
Looking high and low, all that could be found were trails of shed fur. Not an angry grimacing face in sight.
I was never the best at math, but I knew the more hours we spent searching for Kersey would mean less hours spent with Grandma.
Finally, the pesky feline was located in the neighborhood and Mom secured him in the house.
After a lengthy delay, we piled into our old blue Chevy ready to hit the open road.
Daddy, with his fancy Nokia cell phone, called Grandma to let her know we were fixing to be on the road and explained the delay.
And then out it came.
From the back of the truck, I said my first bad word.
“All because of that damn cat!”
My parents were stunned. I was stunned. The truck was stunned.
They whipped their heads around so fast they probably got acute whiplash.
“Where did you hear that word?” Daddy raised his voice.
And in that moment, I knew I had messed up. I thought long and hard about my answer, knowing in my heart that getting in trouble would keep me from seeing Grandma.
I thought back to where I heard that exact phrase before.
During a recent visit to our house, Grandma had slipped in the mud chasing after the cat. When she came inside, covered in mud, Granddaddy asked her how that happened.
“I was chasing after the damn cat!” she said in frustration.
Now there I sat, contemplating my life in the backseat of the Chevy.
Grandma had used that exact phrase. I heard her use it. Did she know it was a bad word? Did Daddy know Grandma said a bad word?
What was I supposed to do? If I told the truth would Grandma be in trouble? Would I not get to see her? How would Daddy feel if he knew Grandma used that word? Would she get her mouth washed out with soap? Would she get a spanking?
My parents continued looking at me, awaiting my answer.
Then I remembered. I knew what I could say.
“I heard it in a movie.” I cried.
And there it was. My gigantic lie.
I knew by telling that lie I was risking my tiny little soul to the fires of heck, but I had to protect Grandma.
After a light scolding in the longest car ride of my life, we made it to Grandma’s house.
And for 20 years I kept that secret to myself.
No one needed to know that my favorite angel to walk with earth was really just a human like the rest of us.
Jessica Brown is the education and features reporter for the Dawson County News. Her columns will appear periodically.