Happy Birthday, Grandma!
Today is my deceased maternal grandmother’s birthday. Her name is Anna Robinson Chandler. Everyone called her “Muh” short for Madea. The only grandparent I met and actually knows the name of. Muh was a hoot. She said the most darndest thing when she had her hooch that my eldest brother and first cousins use to sneak her against momma’s better judgment. I think they saw it as entertainment because she had no filter whatsoever. Once Muh told a cousin’s friend that her baby was ugly.
Muh was fluent in cursing.
“Mf if you don’t get your f#$&!*@ ass out of my gd house.” The words rolled off her tongue so eloquently.
I desired her wordplay with profanity. Honestly, I got really good at it.
I may have gotten my no-nonsense from her. Daniel says the things I say to people he would never say. My brutal honesty has come down a few notches living with him. Some things deserved to be said.
It may sound like she was a terrible woman but she was the sweetest, caring woman. When she wasn’t in her hooch, she had the calmest demeanor.
“Landa, bring Grandma her snuff baby,” she said softly. This brown powder she placed in the front of her bottom gum.
“Landa, bring Grandma some water,” she said “Thank you, baby.”
At any given moment, I could be a “black bitch” though.
Muh had a wooden stick, a half-sized broomstick, next to her chair that she would try to hit us with. Us is my catholic twin brother Tony and my second cousins who were close to our age. Two of Momma’s nieces had children not too long after Tony and I were born. We could be naughty children, especially without proper adult supervision. During the summer, we normally stayed with Muh when the parents went to work.
All in all, you could tell she was a good woman. People would visit her. You would hear how she helped them during a difficult time. Adults she helped when they were children came to visit her and they talked about her feeding them and doing acts of kindness for them when they were young. But if she was in her hooch that did not exempt them from her wrath.
Come to think of it, I don’t have any memories of her standing. Sadly, hit by a car while walking to the neighborhood store. To make matters worst, this tragic event happened during her retirement. She refused to go to the hospital. With time her hip worsened. Eventually, the hip was replaced. Unfortunately, when she went to therapy, she fell and feared walking again.
She had the softest skin and I loved to rub it when I had to help momma put her to bed. It was really wrinkly and saggy. She had very thin and soft white hair. According to momma, someone in the family had some Indian running through their blood specifically Cherokee. Almost everyone black in our neck of the woods claimed to have some Cherokee Indian blood running through their veins especially if they had fair skin or soft hair.
Muh days as far as I can remember consisted of a petite nurse assistant named Angie coming every morning to bathe her and put on her clothes. She always sat in a sofa chair in the living room with the front door open and the dial television set on soap operas like Guiding Light, As The World Turns, The Young & the Restless, The Bold & the Beautiful just to name a few from morning to afternoon then game shows such as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and the local news from evening to night. She ate three square meals in that chair each day. A multitude of snacks an arm reach away. Someone was with her 24/7 even if they were children.
I sometimes wonder if she had not broken her hip what type of life would she had led. Would she be like momma and go to church all the time? Or would she still be working for respectable white folk part-time during the day and operate a bootleg by night? Momma met daddy at that bootleg. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to see what that looked like. As far as I can remember, Momma has always been this holier than though, church-going lady.
Was Muh depressed? Once an active adult operating an illegal business, from helping people to being helpless. Independent to dependent, all her daily activities carried out by another human being; even using the toilet. Even reverting to wearing diapers because she could no longer control her urine or bowels.
As time passed, Muh grew senile and talked less. I wish I was more inquisitive about her life and asked more questions and demanded answers. In those days, you weren’t allowed to question adults. No matter what. I wish she could have told me about her momma and daddy, my granddaddy, her life as an only child of parents that were sharecroppers. Or what it was like for her to move her parents from Aliceville, Alabama to the “big city” in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? I just wished I would have talked to her more and tried to understand her struggles and celebrated her triumphs.
Muh passed when I was in middle school. I never experienced death before. Daddy passed away when momma was three months pregnant with me so I couldn’t grieve him because I didn’t know him. I still don’t know him. Honestly, I don’t remember anyone crying. It’s just one of those things you know were going to happen, just not when. It’s possibly because I didn’t know her either. Muh was this figure in the house whose skin I loved to touch when she was or wasn’t in her hooch.
I’m sorry Muh I didn’t get to know you better. If I did, maybe I would know myself better. Happy Birthday, Grandma!
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