Happy 90th Birthday Grandma Claxton
Today is the 90th birthday of my grandmother, Retha Jackson Claxton. She was born this day in North Alabama in 1924.
There are so many wonderful things this woman has done for me in these past 48 and a half years, probably should add another nine months and kick it into 49 years, but anyways.
Grandma is on that lonely journey into darkness these days with Alzheimer’s. She barely knows who anyone is anymore. And from accounts from home, things are beginning to shut down and she likely won’t be around in a few weeks.
It’s A Mighty Fine Morning, This Morning, How You Doing This Morning, Morning Glory?
Once on Hee Haw or some TV show of the like, a skit grandma had watched held the premise that however many times you’d kissed someone the night before, you had to say the word “Morning,” the next morning. We were in town; passing through from somewhere to somewhere else on behalf of the USAF, and she was just howling about how one girl got up and said “Morning,” in a sad tone and another sister came walking in going, “It’s a mighty fine morning this morning. How you doing this morning? Morning glories, I just love morning glories this morning!” And then she would bend to laugh and raise a knee she thought it had been such a funny production.
Whenever we would get to the Claxton’s in Northern Indiana, grandma always had a pot of North Alabama-style chicken and dumplings ready for devouring. And cornbread.
If we were having breakfast, it was home made biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, and most of you will scratch your heads on this one, rice.
Grandma met my Grandpa Claxton early in life. They married when she was 16 and he was 21 or 22. They eloped from Athens, AL all the way to Decatur. (That’s about 10 miles to the south on Highway 31.) Together, they raised my dad and four girls. They remained married till Grandpa died in 2001. We laid him to rest on 9/10. As the preacher said the grave-side prayer, an amazing gush of air passed over the cemetery and blew through a pine tree nearby.
But as Grandpa died, Grandma said words I never shall forget, “Give Charlotte a hug, and I’ll see you both soon.” Charlotte was my aunt, killed at five years of age when she was hit by a semi in Athens. Years later, at my Grandpa’s death, that was top of her mind.
Cooking, Music and Life
My Grandma taught me how to cook. She taught me how to make Play-dough home made. She helped give me a love for music which many of you still see today. In my iTunes right now are 8,088 songs that would play non-stop for 22.6 days without repeating. Grandma also gave me constant encouragement, especially when the chips were down. On one trip to see us in Northern Michigan, she brought me a 45 of Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like A Rock.” I never really liked the song, per se, but that is how my Grandma Claxton loved me.
When The End Comes
Grandma Claxton is my last surviving grandparent. And while I had close relationships with my other grandmother and Grandpa Andy Sheptak, I probably was the closest to Grandma Claxton. When Grandma Sheptak died three months after the twins were born in 1999, it was a huge hit. When Grandma Claxton passes, it’s going to be even harder and in more ways.
The passing of family and friends always sets one’s mind to thinking about their own mortality. Life is fragile and it’s gone in a flash. And it’s too short to be wasted on mean and hateful people. There are a couple in my world right now who think I’m going to continue to accept their wicked, hateful ways. But they are mistaken.
I don’t like thinking about when the end comes with Grandma, though in many ways, it already has. Were I to see her today, she wouldn’t even know who I was. But it’s the closure. That finality that’s making the back of my throat right now feel like it’s trying to close in.
Today, I shall celebrate the birth of Retha Jackson Claxton. She’s been a positive influence on my life from Day One. When the end comes, I shall try to celebrate that, too. Even though it feels like a huge part of me is dying inside already because of it….