Yesterday, I made a big pot of Navy Bean with Ham soup. It was a recipe my mother shared with me that she learned from my Memaw and Grandy - my dad's parents. I hadn't made it in years, and I forgot how much I like it. It is really rich, and hearty, with navy beans, ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. The smell of it cooking in the house was wonderful.
While I was cooking, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my grandparents, and how much I miss them. They died four days apart, Memaw first, followed by Grandy in 1991 when I was pregnant with my first child. Their deaths so close together were very traumatic for our whole family. Grandy had battled lung cancer and emphysema for many years and was hospitalized for several weeks preceding his death. My Memaw's death was a little more unexpected, being up one night sick and rushed to the hospital. But what was significant about their lives was not their deaths, as eternally etched in my memory are the phone calls from my dad long distance breaking the news and the sight of a funeral home overflowing with people and flowers where two caskets sat at the far end of a long room. What is significant is the lives that they lived and how they impacted the people who loved them.
My Grandy owned a barber shop, perhaps a contributing factor the emphysema that he struggled with later in life from inhaling small hair particles all those years. His barber shop was the men's club of the small town Damascus, Maryland that they lived in. He knew everybody, young and old in that little town, and they all knew him.
My Memaw was the mother to two sons, born ten years apart, my dad being the younger of the two. She was a twin, and her mother died shortly after giving birth to her and her sister. The girls were raised by their father, who I understand remained single, and their oldest sister, my great Aunt Lib. Memaw went to work as a nanny at a young age, before meeting and marrying my grandfather. I think that she must have missed out on the gentle, loving touches a mother brings to a child's life, because she was never very affectionate - yet you always knew she loved you.
My grandparents were anchors for me in a very tumultuous childhood and adolescence. I wish I had spent more time with them when they were alive, but being young I knew very little of what a precious opportunity I was letting slip away. As I grew up I bounced back and forth between my divorced parents, but my grandparents never gave up on me, never stopped loving me, and even when they would get discouraged with some of my instability, I never felt diminished in their eyes. My one regret is that they never had a chance meet my children or to see the woman I have grown into.
So here is a little warning - one day you decide to make soup, and the next thing you know you are crying. As you watch your hands use the knife on the cutting board, in your minds' eye you see your grandfather at the kitchen counter chopping onions, and then your heart is aching for missing two people that were very precious to you. Don't buy ham, don't buy navy beans, and don't make soup! It'll make you way too sad.