When My Family Fell Apart: To Nana, With Love

Kenny and I caught ringworm on the butt from sitting and digging holes in the dirt in a patch of your garden. That itch was worse than even the spanking we got for it. We never did that again. Yea, Pop was scary, but nobody dared to cross you. Kind of funny to not want to mess with such a small statured woman who whistled while she worked in a garden. I did not inherit your green thumb but I hope to pack your power.

You were the matriarch of our family. At one point we had 4 generations living under one roof. What people didn’t understand is that my second cousins were like my first cousins or even siblings. My great uncle wasn’t a man who lived states away, whom we just heard of or saw every few years. He lived downstairs and would threaten to beat us because we were stomping over his head.

We bickered and fought, we hugged and made up. We were family.

From you, we learned the nature of fabulosity. High-fashion and beauty product hoarding passed down, through generations of women, from you. I love all parts of finer dining because you used to feed me tea biscuits. I felt so classy. (lol) Pop went soft for you because there was no way he didn’t know that you used to feed Kenny and me his Louisiana Crunch Cake. I swear he measured that cake to make sure nobody was eating any. To this day, I still carry an affinity for it.

We prayed together and you prayed for every single one of us. Whether across the room, state lines or countries, we were all recipients of the blessings beckoned by the wishes of your heart. I don’t care if nobody ever understands it, but your prayers kept us safe. Yes, bad things happened. Some of us were incarcerated, struggled with drinking or drugs, or had emotional and financial problems. There were break-ups, births, successes, failures, new beginnings – you name it, it happened. But nobody died.

When you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was a teenager. I saw you, and you were fine. For a long while after, you were fine. You and Pop showed up for the Twins’ very first birthday and it meant so much. The 1st generation, through the 5th generation, all in one place. I think that was the last time I really recalled you having a clear recognition.

Things happened in my life and I wasn’t seeing much of anyone. The next time I saw you, I was warned that you had been forgetting some of us. You hadn’t forgotten me, at least not then, but things were different. You were you, but you also weren’t. I was in denial and I withdrew. It was like saying goodbye sooner as a means to lessen the blow later.

2010 was a rocky year for me but, toward the end of it, I was full of hope that 2011 would be even better. The holidays were great and New Years was also. Things were finally coming together in the right places. I thanked God for all of my blessings.

Then, an Xacto blade took to the seams of the fabric of our familial unit.

I got the BBM message at work. You were dying – at any time. Momma was going to be by your side. I was sick. I went to the bathroom and cried until I heaved. This wasn’t right, this wasn’t my life. I was afraid, see? I was afraid because I knew, once you passed, things were going to go awry. It was one of the biggest fears I had since I was young.

I slept on a bed of fear, my Blackberry by my side. My stomach was weak and churning. One night, the call came in. In the middle of the night. Why does it seem like bad news always comes for you in the night? I crumbled. I bawled and then I cried silence. I was broken and I was afraid. Every feeling I thought I would have, had come to pass. I tried to be strong for my kids but I had cracked under the pressure.

And things fell apart.

People didn’t get it. We appreciated the condolences but only certain people knew what this meant for our family. They didn’t understand why we buckled, why we were so devastated. I never expected them to and I still don’t. We couldn’t keep it together and I had no idea when we would be able to again. I’m still trying to figure that part out.

I cursed funerals the day we had yours. It felt like torture having to sit all of those hours trying to make myself feel ok about your loss. I was angry. Pop’s eyes were distant. He lost something inside permanently and I didn’t feel secure that we were enough to fill a void of this magnitude. To me, this just felt like the beginning of a lifetime of future losses.

But I had to be grateful. Grateful for the years we had. Grateful for the parts of me that stemmed from you. Thankful to God that you’d lived to know your great-great-grandchildren; who knew you as Nany’s mom, with the white hair.

I’ll cling to the memories and to the others you were survived by, the descendants of your life.

We be, because you were.

Love you Nana.

Rest in peace Ellen McCottry 
10/21/1924-01/08/2011
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