Granny was always the strong one. The one that seemed unstoppable and at times even immortal.
She always had a solution to any problem and if she didn’t know what to do, she knew who would, and how to get in touch with them.
It wasn’t just for family, either; she was the one her friends often came to for support and advice.
Now, don’t think she wouldn’t complain about it. She would.
We heard how worthless we were on a weekly basis and how we wouldn’t be able to find our own nose to scratch if she wasn’t around.
But, she lived for that stuff.
She had survived the Depression, eloped to marry my Pop and finally joined him in New York several months later after he had gotten settled and had the money for bus fare. She was an Army wife and went where they were told, working in restaurants to help pay the bills.
She had a son who passed away at just a week old, and also lost a baby, mentioning often she wondered how their lives would be had they lived.
Years later, when she was supposed to be spending her retirement sewing and baking cakes for all of us heathens, she found herself taking care of her husband as he battled Alzheimer’s for several years.
She carried it all with a stoicism that seemed to transcend her very being. This was her lot in life, her cross to bear and she would do it.
Until one day, I caught her crying. It was a foreign thing to see. Granny had two emotions, mad and madder; to see her cry was a bit unnerving. I am not sure why she was crying.
No one had passed away, and even when people she loved died, she didn’t cry. With one sister, I think she danced.
But she was crying.
I didn’t know if I should say anything or not, kind of like the way you have to approach a wounded animal carefully, in case they attack.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, keeping a safe distance.
She sniffled, squaring her shoulders.
“Not a thing,” she said.
“Why are you crying?”
Granny frowned. “Because I felt like it.”
“Did someone die?”
“No,” she said simply. “I just needed a good cry.”
She sighed, irritated by my questions.
“Because. Sometimes, I need to cry. You know, no one ever asks me how I’m doing and if I need any help. Have you ever noticed that? It’s just, ‘Helen will take care of it,’ or ‘Let’s ask Helen.’ Guess what? Helen’s tired.”
She had never expressed this before, so I was shocked and not sure what prompted it.
“What do you need help with?”
Her asking for help was an unheard of concept. Usually, she’d drop a few hints about how she wished the dishes were washed or the floors swept but none of us grasped subtle real well.
She didn’t know how to respond. She was so used to no one offering help, that when help was a possible option, she didn’t know what to say.
Plus, if she was being honest, she didn’t want help.
She wanted us to ask if we could help. But If we had, she would have just had to redo whatever it was because we just did it wrong or not the way she would have done it.
“Your grandmother is the backbone of your family,” someone commented to me one day.
I wasn’t sure what that meant. The backbone? Why would anyone call someone the backbone?
But the backbone is kind of what keeps everything together in our bodies, and protects all the stuff that connects with the central nervous system. Something along those lines anyway — anatomy and physiology is not my strongest subject.
So this person was basically saying Granny was the one that held us all together and kept us going. She was our strength, our foundation.
Sure, she fussed and called us a bunch of worthless heathens several times a day. And yes, she complained about breathing sometimes, but I think it may have been because none of us ever stopped to say “thank you” for what she did.
The thing about backbones is that even though they are strong and resilient, they can be fragile and if something happens to them, it can affect the rest of our system. And they can break, too, if they don’t bend.
Granny was crying because she had been strong for too long.
Now, people say you need to check on your strong friends, the ones who are always holding it together for everyone else, because they may be struggling more than you know and more than they will ever, ever admit.
It’s not that she wanted us to help. She didn’t want us to do anything for her. She could and would do it all on her own.
She just wanted us to ask, and most importantly, to act like we cared.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.