I was in the third grade when my parents split up and we moved from a small town in Texas to a Texas town not quite as small.
Our departure was swift and unexpected for everyone, except my mother who executed her escape plan one afternoon while my father was at work, and got us out of there as smoothly and safely as if she were a member of the S.W.A.T team rescuing me and my brother from a hostage situation.
The three of us moved into a two-bedroom duplex that my grandparent’s owned and where my great-grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert See, lived in the adjoining house.
The See’s (sadly not the ones of the See’s Candy fortune) were Quaker tenant farmers from Illinois who had come to live with my grandma and grandpa when they got too old to work the farm.
Robert, my great-grandfather, was in his 90’s. Tall, gangly, always wore a cardigan, work boots, and pants slightly too big which were held up by a belt and suspenders. Every afternoon he’d get his cane, don a fedora, and slowly take a walk around the block.
My great-grandmother was eleven years his junior although you could not tell. I really loved her even though she wasn’t very nice or warm or at all grandma-y. She also was not a big fan of my brother but did have a soft spot for me. So at least she was smart.
To be fair, there were always windmill shaped ginger snaps in her cookie jar, which was bright yellow and looked like a beehive. I realize cookies are a grandma thing, but they were ginger snaps so I do believe the latter may cancel out the former.
She always prepared three meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and then usually breakfast again for supper.
Thornton was my great-grandma’s maiden name. Her great uncle (not really sure how many greats before uncle) was Matthew Thornton, the dude who signed the Declaration of Independence. Which, I guess in a way that makes up for the lack of a candy empire that I should be running at this very moment. Because it’s my birthright. Even though it isn’t.
Matthew was the last of 56 people to sign this document. Better late than never. Which happens to be a motto I have also adopted in my life and is a trait that obviously runs in our family.
She went by Lula but her full name was Lula Lavina, which she hated, so I enjoyed trying to make her say it.
“Grandma, what’s your name again?”
“You know my name.” she’d say sternly with a half-smile.
My mother was an emergency room nurse and since those were simpler times when it was perfectly acceptable for a father to not help feed or clothe his children, she also had several side hustles to support us including working the medevac air ambulance, despite being deathly afraid of flying (something else that runs in our family). Since she was usually working I spent a lot of time on my great-grandparent’s side of the duplex.
They didn’t talk much but would sit beside each other on the love seat holding hands, doing crosswords, and resting their eyes. I would sit in a chair across the room with my nose buried in a Harlequin romance novel and dreaming of escape.
The days were quiet and seemed endless.
After my grandpa See passed our routine didn’t change at all. Except now it was just me and my grandma and the quietness.
I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately and that time in my life as I sit here and the days seem endless. Maybe it’s silly but that’s okay. It’s what you’re supposed to do when the universe gives you time to reflect and get your shit together.
Do what you have to do and feel what you need to feel until things return to some semblance of your normal.
Until then I’ll read, rest my eyes, miss my grandparents, and occasionally, I will have breakfast for supper.