Probably Not Your Grandmother’s Advice on Family

The brunette is my grandmother, Opal Jeanette but she always wished it was just Jeanette.  My grandfather called her “OJ”, my mom called her “Ma”, I called her “Mamaw” and my kids called her “Big Mamaw.”  

Here she is with her lifelong friend in this picture, who still misses her and all the fun they had, terribly.  

This is Opal Jeanette back when she could be called whatever she wanted.

Honey, don’t get married.  You will regret it, I know, I did twice.  All it takes is one woman with hot panties and any husband will fail that test.  You will be raising that man for the rest of your life.  And whatever you do, don’t have kids.  I loved my kids more than the world.  It just ends in worry and heartbreak.  I am grateful for my children and grand babies but you will never feel a moments rest.  The worry.”

These are the words I heard for thirty-eight years from my southern grandmother.  There were several variations.  After I married she would change it to, “Now honey, I told you not to get married…”

Then once I had kids she changed it to, “I told you not to have kids but now that you do all you have to do is love them with all of you, but don’t spoil them like I did.  If you do they will just be tore up with jealousy and not get along and then they will break your heart.”

If she knew my husband and I were having a disagreement she would say, “You didn’t listen to me when I told you not to get married and you got married anyway.   Now sister, the key to marriage is EN-DUR-ANCE, endurance.  We women just have to endure these husbands and families.”

I am sure when reading these words, one would be drawn to the conclusion that she might not have been the best grandmother.  She wasn’t.  She could pick and choose who in the family she liked and it could change in the wind.  Probably the only time she consistently loved someone was when she loved me.  It seems to be easier to love a grandchild.  Perhaps one realizes you do the best that you can by the time grandchildren come along.  She was the best grandmother, to me.

She gave me the advice long before I knew what she meant about “hot panties” and she usually gave me the advice while we drank a bourbon and Coke, long before I should have ever been given bourbon and coke.

She was a pistol.   When I was eight she even gave me a pearl handled pistol to carry when I rode my horse bareback.  Years later, and after I had children of my own, I asked her what she was thinking giving kids real guns to play with.  She replied with, “It’s not like I gave you the bullets!”

She had two marriages, four daughters and six granddaughters, just one grandson and sixteen great-grandchildren.   Two of her children died before she did.  Her youngest was stillborn and full term and she lost my mom when my mom was 39.  She grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and moved to Michigan as a young woman.  She died last year during Mother’s Day week at her farm.  I promised her she would stay in her home until the end.

She missed my grandfather that had died a few years before.  The same man she complained about for their entire marriage.  The same man she asked me to find the medication you give a drunk to make them sick if they do have a drink.  She wanted to sneak it in his food.  She also asked me, when Viagra came out, if I could get my grandfather some of the little blue pills.  When I began laughing uncontrollably while covering my ears she began laughing uncontrollably too.  She told me that one day other people might think of me as an old lady, but I won’t feel like one.  Through her laughter she told me that old ladies, “Still have needs.”

She taught me many things, like insight to the various stages in life and the reality that no relationship is perfect and how to make a roux to get a good gravy.

Here we are together.  I lived with her until I started kindergarten and then about any time when I wasn’t in school.  She watched over me for the rest of her life.

She always had a home cooked meal waiting on the table for my grandfather when he walked in from work.  One day she sang and whistled and nearly floated around the kitchen while preparing his supper.  When we all sat down and began passing the dishes she announced with a grin, “I read in the paper today where your girlfriend died.”

He sat silent and eating.  I stayed silent too.

She often liked to talk about ways to poison someone so it wouldn’t be detected during supper. At the end of my childhood I had deduced that the best way to kill someone was ground glass.

The truth, she loved him and he loved her more for over 50 years.  She loved her family the best she could.  I have learned to accept people based on the relationship I have with them and how they treat my little family, me, my husband and my children.  No one has ever treated us better that she and my grandfather did.

When I had our twins and they were premature and sick and I had a husband in medical school.  They came three times a week to rock and hold the twins so I could shower.  They would walk in my home with diapers and groceries and just put them away in our little kitchen.

This is Mamaw with Avery when he was a baby.

When I didn’t go back to work because of our babies surgeries and specialists appointments the first year and we couldn’t afford a second car, they just dropped one off one day.  One time I was rocking two crying babies in the afternoon.  I hadn’t showered because the boys were grumpy and she told me to just put the babies in their swings and to go take care of myself.  When I told her that babies should be held and not put into machines and that we don’t even have swings she said, “Oh, bull$hit.” and she and my grandfather drove off and bought us two.  They they came right back and he put them together for us.  She was a genius.

She may not have wanted the burden of a family once she had it but she took care of us all.  The family she ended up with was her cross to bear, she liked to say.  There is a restlessness in some of us, like my mom, that my grandmother recognized.  She never could figure out how to “mother” that.  She never could figure out how to manage her own restlessness.  I think that is how she was able to accept my grandfather and their children.  She saw herself in them.   It didn’t mean she didn’t love us.  She just loved us all differently.

I flew up to be with her and stay beside her as she was dying.  I laid next to her at night and listed as I thought every breath would be her last.  I washed her and carried her and massaged her swollen body and did thing for her that made her cry that I had to.  We all have some dignity that gets in the way of help.  I told her that it was my pleasure and that I wish I could do more to stop the pain.  We talked like we always had, when she was alert and between the moments of confusion.

I had the blessing of being able to ask her if there was anything she needed to say, anyone she needed to talk to or anything she still needed to do.  She said no.  She said she wanted to be with my Papaw and see my Mom and all the people she had missed.  She said she knew she had made mistakes but that she loved her family and she knew God knew that.  She told me she was thankful for her life, but it had been a hard one and she didn’t want to suffer anymore.  She told me she had talked to God and asked for forgiveness.  She told me she was ready.

I told her that when I was a small child, I prayed every night she wouldn’t die, (like little children do) because I was selfish and didn’t know who would take care of me if I didn’t have her.  When I was older I prayed she would live long enough to see me “be ok” and make something of myself.  I wanted to feel I had made her effort worth something.  Then I was selfish for praying she would live long enough to see me married to a “good” man and then I prayed she would be around to see me have babies and talk to me about how to take care of them.  Then I prayed she would live enough for my kids to have a memory of her.  

I told her I would stop being selfish and that she could go.  

I told her how much love I had for her.  It was a blessing to be able to tell her how thankful I was that she had indeed gotten married and had children and stepped in to care for me.

I told her that she taught me to give and how to give.  To give even when someone isn’t asking and to talk to my kids honestly about life, those are the gifts she gave me and that are part of all that makes me.

Abbie, All that makes you…

What kind of grandmother did you have?  Was she the picture perfect grandmother with an apron on?  Did she “tell it like it is” like mine?

Happy Mothers Day Ya-Ya’s!

Happy Mothers Day!
Happy Mother’s Day Ya-Yas!!!!!

May your day be filled with hugs and dishes making their way through the dishwasher without your assistance. May not one tattle happen for 24 hours and may you eat whatever you desire, without having to prepare it!

Love y’all and Ya-Ya mammas rock, (or at least shows our kids that the fun doesn’t end when a baby pops out and they have a whole bunch of misadventure to look forward to when they are parents!) 😉

And here is what they prepared for me. The drink is solid because the made “homemade juice” and this is just my first course I’m told.

Then they ask for me to go make them the Texas French toast that I promised them last night (I was trying to thwart such displays of love through food and dirty pet turtle hands.  I’m going to start a round of antibiotics probably.

I just finished my post for tomorrow morning.  I just love this one.   Can’t wait to share it.  It had me finding 60 year old photos of my Grandmother, before she had a family of her own.  The pictures are like a window into who she was before she she assumed the role of everyone caregiver.  She was a hell raiser and my best friend.

Abbie, All that makes you…


My post last night ended with me on the phone until after 1:00am with my sister.  I love my sister.  I left a little party because my sis texted me that my post about our mom, “blew up on FaceBook.”

I walked home and called her.  Thank you Gray Goose for making it so very easy to talk.  No thanking FaceBook for making people call my sister crying. All she knew about my story was I told her I wrote a Mother’s Day post about Mom and it was well received.  We talk.  We talk a lot.  She doesn’t read what I write because…we talk.  She was younger and doesn’t remember as much and everyone is something different to each person.  We talked about that in great detail.  Anyway, I woke up feeling the effects of vodka and brain overload.

Guess what our twin twelve year old boys wanted to demonstrate first thing this morning?  Can you believe they have figured out how to play “We Will Rock You” on their trumpet and trombone…with their feet!  Yes, they blow with their mouths but they are using their feet too.  Amazing right?  Get me some ________ Motrin.


I just attached this because doesn’t everyone need a weekend funny?  Old picture and why does he have on a diaper?  I think he was having trouble at night and when he woke up he ran right out to help dad cut up a branch that had fallen from a storm.  Could just eat him up!


She Didn’t Mother, But She Taught Me How

I had a mother once, but not a real mother. She gave birth to me, but almost anyone can do that. I know deep, deep down, under and inside and probably wrapped up inside of something else and hidden in a corner of her, there was love for me.

I believe in childbirth we give up the body of the child, but left behind is this powerful seed. Some people tend to it and embrace it as a gift. Not everyone does. Not everyone has a mom who paid attention to that burning in their chests and aching in their stomachs and inability to get your mind to rest at night. Not every new mother understands that this tiny baby is theirs and you are going to give up anything you have to just to keep it safe and to let it know it is loved.  Perhaps they are too young. Perhaps they are so distracted with their own problems, they wrap it up to silence it and hide it deep inside.

I know it is planted in my flesh because from the moment I laid eyes on my children, it hurt. Something is in you that wasn’t in you before. It burns as it germinates and tickles as it spreads roots throughout your being and every cell in your body knows your entire purpose has changed. You don’t sleep because you worry about your child. You are to protect this person you made and brought into the world. You are responsible for them and you have to teach responsibility to them. You already love them and you have to teach them to love. That is… unless you were my mother.

I was already mad at my mom before I had my own children. It isn’t fair because she is dead. She died when I was 19, unexpectedly, but I always expected it. When a mom dies at the end of a girl’s teenage years, you don’t get to “make up” and be best friends. You don’t get to shop for wedding dresses and have lunch together when you are in your twenties and thirties. You don’t get to laugh about the hard times you gave your parents and tell them you’re sorry you were such a rotten teenager, because you are a parent of teenagers yourself now… and you see the error of your ways.

Those things would have never happened anyway. She had forgotten she had that seed wrapped up and tucked away inside of her.

I loved her with all of me the way little girls love. The way little girls love with an open heart but with an extra helping of, “Please don’t kill yourself tonight mom. Please stop saying goodbye I promise I will be good. Dad does love you.” It was our normal. On the really bad nights, dad would take us to the drive-in movie for a double feature. We brought pillows and blankets and slept in the quiet.

As an older girl, I loved her by keeping her out of jail. I hid the knives in the wood burner when my dad went to work. Sometimes he would forget and call me from the office and tell me just to wrap them up in a towel and he will get them out when he gets home. We weren’t worried about her hurting herself anymore. She wanted to hurt us. I loved her with a protective heart while trying to keep myself and my little sister safe.

The teenage daughter was tired. Tired of trying to keep it all a secret, trying to pretend we had a normal family at school. Tired from sitting up all night while my dad was gone. I started sleeping up against the inside of my bedroom door after I woke up and found her pushing lit cigarettes into my mattress. She stood behind a door to pour hair dye on me on my high school graduation day. I was wearing a short white summer dress and I had black dye all over me. There are some things you cannot tell people until years later, because when they ask, “why?” you cannot answer. I don’t know why.

I was leaving for college and I was never coming back.

Then she died.

Sometimes, when women have children they don’t know they have to tend to that seed. Their souls and minds and flesh are hostile environments to grow anything but their own seeds of destruction. I know somewhere deep inside of my mother she had my mothering seed wrapped up and tucked away like she did with things in life. You would find pills wrapped up in tissues and tucked in the toes of her dress shoes. This was before Prozac or Paxil — before people talked about “baby blues” or “postpartum depression.” That wasn’t what was wrong with her though; there was a lot wrong.

She was probably bi-polar and it was probably because of some trauma she had inflicted upon her as a child. She didn’t get help and when she was grown she didn’t want any.

I went to a therapist for a year once. I thought that was the right thing to do before I started a family of my own. After a year of telling stories to my therapist, I asked him what he thought and how much “more” I needed. He replied that I never really needed a therapist. He told me he was waiting for me to ask how much longer. He told me I was “well-adjusted” and I had a “tremendous understanding” of how wrong and ridiculous my childhood had been. He said that the fact I can laugh about it speaks volumes that I am NORMAL. I am normal. That is why I did, indeed, need to go. As a child of a parent that was fatally flawed, you have so much worry that you are as well.

I turned 39 this year. I am now older than my Mother was when she died. I have always had a firm grasp on who I am, even thankful for all of my experiences. If you have had a challenging childhood you understand. There are a lot of us out there. I don’t mean the kind of childhood where you’re mad at your parents because they loved your sister more than you because she got to go to horse camp and you didn’t. I mean the kind of childhood that you’re happy you aren’t a crack-head or a topic for Dateline.

Turning 39 churned something up in me. I felt so much pity for my mom. She never had a chance to change. She didn’t live long enough to see the sympathy people now have for mental illness. I certainly don’t feel like I have anything figured out and am still continually finding out who I am. She didn’t get to try the medications that may have lessened her mood swings or calmed her anxieties. Some people talk about the moment they turned their lives around. Lying on the bathroom floor and the moment the drunk swears off the bottle forever or the wealthy man realizes that it is just money in the bank, but if given to others it could mean a warm blanket or an education for a fresh start.

My mom started her family at nineteen. She died as she turned 39. She never had a chance to go and find that seed and unwrap it. It wasn’t too late. Children love their parents — and they even love them when their parents hurt them. Perhaps one day she would have apologized for being rotten Mother and seen the error of her ways. Perhaps.

This Mother’s Day, I will spend the day with my beautiful boys, thinking a little about this one extra Mother’s Day that I have lived that my own Mother didn’t get. I will wonder if this would have been the year in her life that just the two of us went to lunch — for the first time. That extra year may have been the one that she noticed me instead of hurt me. Would this have been the year in her life I would have forgiven her?

I don’t know if I will ever forgive her. I know that isn’t how I am supposed to feel. But it is how I feel. I have that mothering seed growing inside of me and I pity her for not. Some days mine grows like kudzu and others it’s a little wilted from neglect. I am far from being a perfect Mother. I am far from being my own Mother and for that contrast, I am thankful. I don’t have those days where I am doubting all of my abilities to parent. I don’t have the mornings where I am crying to a girlfriend that I failed my kids the day before when I lost my temper. I know they will be okay. My mom taught me to love my kids with every cell of my body and to let them know — and mine do. I may not forgive her but I am thankful for her teaching me this lesson about mothering.

– Abbie

Not everyone has a Hallmark commercial memory playing above their heads when they think of Mother’s Day.  That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate my Mother and being a mother.    Is Mother’s Day a day you focus on your own mom or do you relish in being a mom or both?

Advice from Anyone Reading this Regularly or Accidentally

I have been cheating.  I have been cheating on my friends at WordPress.  I had a story I wanted to write but it was such a heavy story I didn’t think I should “drag down” my handful of readers at WordPress.  I am “Funny Abbie” on WordPress.  Right?!

I have been copying my posts onto BlogHer and I recently saw they were looking for Mother’s Day posts to feature and well, since you know we all already know WHY I WILL NEVER BE FRESHLY PRESSED…

if you don’t click here…

I decided I to write a Mother’s Day post about my mom.  That is when things took a turn towards “Downesrville.”

Guess what?  BlogHer loved “Depressing Abbie!”  Well, I am just putting it that way to try and be funny.

Here is my predicament…

Do I share this story on WordPress and run away 3 of my 12 readers because I haven’t been true to what content I have been keeping or do I start another blog with “heavier content?”

Next question…

I wrote a very funny story recently with some raging exaggerations, (for the sake of humor) about my in-laws.  Funny, funny, funny stuff.  While I really haven’t shared this blog with more than three people I know and one of those people continues to remind me she does NOT read blogs and NEVER will, (she’s pissed I am not playing tennis this spring with her.) If you’re here reading this, (you know who you are) then well bahahahaha!  Do I need a third blog where I’m anonymous because while this in-law story is mostly (NOT) fake my in-laws may one day have someone print up my story and mail it to them via the post office.  Nothing good would come from my in-laws reading what is going on between my ears.


Do I stay true to “All that makes you…” and delete that “cry” tab and post tomorrow about going to the Van Halen concert last Saturday and why I had to ask a stranger to “Promise you wont steal a kidney, OK?” and get back to “Funny Abbie”

Or do I post the “Mother’s Day” story that was “featured” and let me all hang out?

Can I tell a story about my in-laws with some exaggerations for the sake of making the world a little happier?  Do I need a third blog that is just my imagination based off of real events that I have to make up in my head to keep from killing people?  This was never an issue before as I never said the narrative that plays in my head, out loud.  It may even be relief for my in-laws as they would then have an explanation as to why I chuckle to myself the entire time they are around.

Ohhhh but I am sure no one has done a post about proposing a bill to be able to drop off your in-laws at a “safe haven” no questions asked.  I’m like the kid with the latest sneakers and I can’t walk down my street.

What do you want to read when you stop by “All that makes you..?”

Do I just continue my quest to be Freshly Pressed and post the pictures I take around my yard like this one I took a couple of days ago?  No editing on this required, not one adjustment, nature is beautiful…

Is it ok to mix things up?

-Abbie (the mostly funny, crazy mamma, gardening to watch beauty grow, introspective and sometime tells a sad story Abbie)