The old Ironman was still standing strong as I drove past the corner gas station. I pulled into the driveway and shut off the engine. I never bother to take the keys out of the ignition. Other than some dirt covered shoes and a few moldy water bottles, there isn’t much value within its old, beat up green frame.
From the corner of my eye I catch a faint glimpse of Papaw sitting on the porch, spitting Red Man chew into an empty bottle and watching the cars drive towards the IronMan. With a little bit of chew dribbling down his chin, he again spits into his empty Gatorade bottle and murmurs something about groundhogs under his breath.
“Ima get them lil dudes if it’s the last thing I do. Tearing up my yard.”
I skip over the small step up to the porch and slowly pull open the flimsy glass front door.
“Well hey! Haven’t seen you in you in a while!”
I smile as I pull Mamaw Tiny’s fragile frame close and squeeze her tight.
“Yea I know… life’s been busy and a bit rough lately, but I need to get up here more often.”
Mamaw walks over to the cabinet and pulls out a 2nd coffee cup.
“Just made a fresh pot. You want a cup?”
She knows I won’t turn down a cup of coffee in the same way I know she won’t let me leave this house without some food in my belly.
Before I can even ask how she’s been feeling, there’s a full plate of bacon and toast in front of me. Mamaw worked as a waitress in my little hometown up until she was 84yrs old. Folks ain’t built that tough nowadays.
She tidies up the kitchen as I crunch away at the bacon. I run my finger between the green tiles of the kitchen table, rolling around crumbs left over from the loving homemade meals she’s made the days prior. Before long, she pulls up a chair, pours her own cup and asks how Kati’s been doing.
“She’s been good! Funny enough, she finally got to meet Papaw. He popped in for a visit late last night.”
Mamaw smiled. “Haven’t got a chance to see him yet, but I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.”
I get up to pour myself another cup of coffee. Ceramic roosters adjourn the top of old, white wooden cabinets. They’ve been carefully listening and harboring all the generational gossip and secrets exchanged within the canary walls. For the sake of the Andrews bloodline, I’m glad walls and roosters don’t talk.
“Here… here’s a little graduation card for you.”
“Mamaw, I haven’t graduated yet. I’ve still got a few more months.”
Mamaw laughs and throws up her hands, “Well I know, I know but I may not be around in a few months.”
I tried to brush it off, but like J. Cole said, “All good jokes contain true shit.”
I roll my eyes and open the card. It contains a crisp $100 bill and a simple gold necklace.
I choke back the swelling in my eyes. Years ago I had mentioned in passing that I wanted a piece of jewelry of hers. It didn’t really matter what it was, I just wanted something.
“Mamaw, for goodness sake, you know I don’t need any money.”
“I know, I know. You can take Kati out for a nice burger with an egg on it or something.”
She was always worried about me not getting enough food.
I smile and pull her close again. “I love the necklace Mamaw. Thank you.”
I walk over to refill my coffee cup, open the decorated glass jar on the counter and pop an orange slice candy in my mouth. Alongside a basket of hard candy, she has always kept a full jar of them on the counter. Every Sunday, Mamaw would always stuff her pockets full of hard candy so she could distribute them as needed to help get us through the church service.
Mamaw bends over, picks Lady up and sits the pupper beside her.
I sit back down at the table and notice Papaw sitting on the back porch piddling around with something.
The sparking of a lighter draws my attention back to Mamaw and when I look back outside… he’s gone.
Mamaw taps her cigarette onto the ashtray, “Yea son, I miss him too. He used to love watching you pitch that baseball.”
My mind flashes back to the 2006 D2 World Series…
Mamaw sets Lady down on the ground and stands up. “I think I want to sit in my chair for a bit.”
We follow the hardwood flooring into the living room and Mamaw carefully sits down in her recliner. She would never say or admit it, but I can tell she’s tired. She’s always been the one to worry for everyone else. Always the one to bring cohesion to the family when it’s a total shit show. Always the one giving relentless, warm positive regard to every soul she meets. A lifetime of that has to be exhausting. I kneel down beside her and hold her hand.
How the hell do I even begin to express how thankful I am to have this soul in my circle? How does one effectively communicate feelings to someone who has given such insight on how to meaningfully and lovingly move through this realm? You can’t. You know why? Because they already know. That’s the beauty of old souls.
Mamaw squeezes my hand. I squeeze back. Everything that could have ever been said between us was expressed in that simple gesture.
“Come see me when you can son.”
“I”ll see you soon. I love you Mamaw.”
Mamaw peacefully drifts into rest as I start making my way off the floor. I step out onto the porch and I let go of the glass door….
*** BAM!!!! ***
I’m jarred awake. Vinmo is curled up on the black ottoman in the sun. Wobbles is stretched out alongside the top of the loveseat sound asleep. The house is quiet. I slip outside into the warm sun, run my fingers along the gold necklace and give a Tiny smile to the world.
May we all love in the same way Mamaw Tiny loved.