Granddaddy’s wake


You never saw Granny May smile, not since you were really little and even then in the eyes of your memory you see a sad kind of smile. May was a genteel lady, the kind who still wore stalkings and did needle point for recreation, the kind of lady who not only went to church, but was a woman of the church. A choir lady, a fund raiser, a guide leader, a women’s fellowship member.

Yes Miss May, your granny was the genteel lady with the sad smile and the gentle hands, she was the one with the kind words, the one who let you sneak dandy balls when you needed a pick me up. The one who sang in that church lady voice when you were sleepy, who never seemed to hurt you when she braided your hair. The one who didn’t drink because a half a beer would make her sleepy and she always wanted to see the news because “the world is moving and you don’t want to be left behind.”

But Miss May was also the one who made you take your cod liver oil and your Marmite syrup. She was the one who’s eyes shouted at you then you and little Cousin Tiny picked the young lime off the tree to pelt at each other, or when she caught you singing calypso, or whistling in the presence of big people. Miss May was the one who spoke military commands in her sweet granny voice, but you knew you better snap to it, because if you didn’t there would be no voice, just the crack of the packing across your bum, when it wasn’t done when it was to be done. And you still loved her, because you knew your granny was in it for you.

Your granny May was in it for you, with the black eye peas rice, heavily spiced, and stewed pork or chicken or goat and the vegetables that you must eat if you wanted to watch anything on the TV before daddy came to take you home from Miss May’s house.

Yes that is how you thought of Granny May, your genteel granny, always ladylike and firm, with the sad sad smile. The lady in the woods with you and Mommy and Daddy tonight, the night of Grand dad’s wake was not your Granny May. This woman who had been through a half bottle of the wake rum was not your May.This woman who was now dancing barefoot among the trees to calypso music under the light of the moon wasn’t your genteel Granny May. With the moon light glinting off her steel grey hair that reached almost to her knees. You never knew her hair was so long, and so pretty, why did she always hide it in that bun? Or under her church lady hat?

No this woman was not the woman you grew up with, this woman’s smile was free of that deep melancholy, this woman had a laugh that was infectious and pulled you from your seat on the ground among the leaves, this woman encouraged you to dance wild and with abandon to the kayso legends your Granny would have scowled at you for. This woman was finally free of a torment you in your childish veil didn’t know she had. This woman would teach you about strength and over coming, of love and loyalty, this woman would teach you the trials of a woman, and the triumph of a lady.


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