As we began a road trip today we passed the Country Music Hall of Fame, and as always it made me think of my grandmother. I called her Nanny, and that woman loved country music more than anyone I know. I still remember the lyrics to every single George Jones song ever written as she used to listen to him on her cassette player before bed. I even let her drag me to one of his concerts once upon a time, and though I’m no country music fan, I developed a definite appreciation for some of the greats thanks to her influence.
Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, and Loretta Lynn. Her eyes would cloud over as she swayed to the beat, and she could cut a rug like no 79 year old I had ever seen. But it was more than her amusing affection for country music that made me smile at memories of her.
When I was a teenager she lived with us, and her presence was like having a second mom. She had been raised in a boarding house, and every day she began cooking our supper right after breakfast, making a homemade spread big enough to feed an army. In between making sun tea on the porch and cooking down fresh turnip greens she would clean an already clean house, going so far as to take clean clothes out of my drawer to make a full load of laundry. The second my mom got home from work my nanny would be trying to make her strip down so she could put her scrubs in the laundry. The thing I remember most is how she would whistle while she worked, a throaty whispered rasp of a whistle really. I can still hear it now.
In my early twenties I left the comfort of my small, Southern town determined to see the world, and boy did I ever. I joined the Navy, but in my absence my strong granny got sick, deployments kept me from coming home, time passed, and then she was gone. Like that, she was gone. Looking back I know it seemed quick to me, but in reality it was a long, drawn out illness following strokes and combatting COPD. It probably wasn’t pretty, which is probably why I didn’t fight to come home to see her, and accepted the excuse that I was too far away.
Today as we drove past the Country Music Hall of Fame I felt a melancholy sadness tug at my heartstrings, but it was also accompanied by regret. I wasn’t there during her last days, and I wish so much that I had made different choices. Although it would have been hard, I wish I had been there to say goodbye. And to say thank you, I love you, even you make the best port chops I ever tasted.
The thing is you can’t get back that time once it’s gone, and no amount of regret will turn back the clocks. I can only rest in the fact I will see her again one day. Perhaps she’ll whistle me a tune or sing He Stopped Loving Her Today; that would be nice. I’ve decided to tell my daughter’s the stories of this woman they never met, and perhaps along the way teach them the importance of spending time with those you love. It’s fleeting, I’ve discovered, and you have to savor each moment while you can. After all, great memories are better than regret any day.