My grandmother Lucy died last week. She was 89 years old. It wasn't sudden; it was one of those experiences where you sit around waiting for the call, wanting it to come because you're so anxious, jumping every time the phone rings, but not wanting it to come, because you don't really want to face that reality.
Lucy was an incredible person. She was born in 1918 in Georgia, met and married my grandfather, Vee, in her early 20s and went on to raise five children, 15 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Vee died in 1989, and though I know she missed him, Lucy just kept on going strong for the next 20 years. She was the kind of grandmother that everyone wishes they had--she always had time for us grand kids, and it seemed like her life pretty much revolved around us. She was attentive and loving, but she was also a firm disciplinarian--I don't think there's a one of us that won't remember how it felt when she fixed her gaze on you and told you to "hush up." You did just that, because you knew that Lucy didn't suffer any fools.
It was interesting, at the funeral, listening to everyone's memories of Lucy. Every single one of us grand kids (as well as quite a few great nieces and nephews) reminisced about how she was the one who had taught us to swim. There were plenty of common stories, about taking face-plants while trying to learn how to water ski and Lucy making you just get right back up there, and about swimming in the lake with her and being terrified because you just saw an alligator on the shore. Her response to both situations? "Hush up." There were lots of wonderful memories shared of her garden, sleepovers at her house, and her to-die-for homemade peach ice cream, and lots of laughs, thinking about all of the quirky traits she had. As my uncle Roger said, she really was a steel magnolia--loving and always there for you, but with a no-nonsense attitude.
I think the memory that most of us in the Hutto clan will always cherish, and which we'll really miss come future holidays, was Lucy's trademark gift wrapping. Every Christmas, when you opened your gifts from Lucy, you would discover, after ripping off the brightly colored wrapping paper, an oatmeal box, a grits box, a cereal box, etc. There were real presents inside those boxes, but she saw no need to waste perfectly good boxes when wrapping presents. I've caught myself a few times over the years, when running out of suitable boxes for wrapping, rummaging through the pantry, looking for something that would work. You can imagine the confusion on most people's faces when they unwrap your gift and think you bought them a box of grits.
Lucy, I love you and will miss you. We all will.