...it was my Grandmother's birthday, slightly more than three years ago.
But yesterday, while undergoing the last mind-numbing day of district-mandated training for CLAD, I received a phone call from my mother letting me know that my grandmother, Leno Ellington, had died.
Leno was a willful woman who had the habit of saying that she 'didn't care for such as that' and as she grew older she seemed to say that more and more. She was straight-laced, stiff-necked and was not always easy for her children to deal with---a fact that I only came to appreciate when I was an adult. As a child, I remember my grandmother having a seemingly endless supply of energy in the kitchen and treating I and the other grandkids very sweetly. Other than a modest habit of Coca-Cola and an entirely understandable hatred of the Washington Redskins (she was a fierce fan of America's Team), she had no vices as such. She might've enjoyed an even longer life if she had been able to force herself to exercise, a constant sore spot with my mother, who took up an active role monitoring Grandmother's health and other affairs following a car accident nearly twenty years ago.
As Leno deteriorated, it became evident she could no longer live alone. She was moved into a retirement facility a few years ago and in March 2005 celebrated her 90th birthday, an occasion that saw the immediate family all fly in for a celebration:
It was a bit of a strained affair, held in a parlor at her old church in Cleburne, with what remained of her peers from the pews popping in and saying 'hello'. We eventually repaired to a local eatery which didn't exactly have the right ambience, with the Rolling Stones coming out of a overdriven jukebox and one of my guilty cousins doing what she could to hide the fact that she was drinking an adult beverage at the same table as 'Mrs. E' (as my Dad has called her for years).
In the back of our minds, some of us probably felt a bit guilty whooping it up, as we knew how easily her arthritic bones would tire at that point.
My mother (sitting next to Leno, and mercifully blocking my belly in the birthday picture) has worn herself out the last two months trying to provide care for her mom, and I am frankly grateful that her caregiving has come to an end. Now, I will be making the trek back to Cleburne, probably my last such trip to Johnson County, Texas, where I spent so many holidays, to help pay respects to the last of my grandparents. I guess I really am getting old after all.