Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Why I got married: The rest of the story...

After hearing all about Mr. Suave and how I reluctantly gave up my virginity, you've probably concluded that he was my first husband.

Thank you for playing our game, but you're wrong.

Believe it or not, apparently he didn't really mean it when he told me he wanted to marry me! He only told me that so that I would have sex with him. I'll bet you never saw that coming. Well, I didn't see it coming anyway. I was eighteen and no longer a virgin. I was certain I was damaged goods that no decent man would ever want and I didn't know what to do next.

At eighteen I was living with my single favorite person in the whole world. My Grandma Rosie. Maw-Maw, as I always called her, had been my favorite person since I was old enough to realize I had a favorite person. She made me feel like I was her favorite person, too. Every little girl should be so lucky as to have a Maw-Maw Rosie.

Maw-Maw was diagnosed with cancer when I was seventeen and in December, when I was eighteen years old and she and Paw-Paw were just days away from their 50th wedding anniversary, she went to be with Jesus.

She had been dying each day for the ten months since her diagnosis. The evil known as cancer had first been found in her breast and lymph nodes and then very quickly it crept into every part of her little 5'3" body. By December 10th 1982, the last day she was with us here in this life, it owned her physical body.

On December 9th, my Mother... Maw-Maw's daughter, had come home to North Carolina from Kentucky to say good-bye. That night, for the first time since Maw-Maw had been in the hospital, Paw-Paw and I had accepted some church member's offer to sit with her so we could go home for the night and visit with Mother. We figured we'd get some sleep and be right back at the hospital the next morning.

Paw-Paw woke up very early, as was always his custom, and went straight to Maw-Maw's bed side. I was awakened that morning by the phone ringing.

"Sherri, Grandma has told everybody that she is going home today." My Paw-Paw's voice sounded shaky, like he was going to cry at any moment.

"Coming home? Today?" I said.

"Not coming home. Going home. She says today she is going home to be with Jesus." Paw-Paw broke down.

I was in shock. I was angry. I was terrified.

"She is not!" I said. "It's the medicine. She's drugged out of her mind and she doesn't know what she is saying." Maw-Maw had not been conscious in several days. She just slept and moaned.

"Sherri, she woke up this morning and she was in her right mind. She told the preacher and all the ladies from the church that were there that today is the day she is going home to be with Jesus."

I hung up the phone, told my Mother and flew around the house to get ready for the hospital. I had no idea what I was going to find.

By the time I got there, a line of sorts had formed outside Maw-Maw's room. It seems she had asked to see certain people and one by one they would enter her room. She said to them whatever it was she needed to say and then told them good-bye.

By the time it was my turn, she was drifting away. Everyone always knew I was Maw-Maw's favorite, but there were no words of good-bye for me. There was no final wisdom she felt compelled to offer the young woman that had been more like a daughter than a granddaughter. She simply lay quietly and occasionally flicked the ashes of an imaginary cigarette.

I sat by her bedside for hours hoping she had said what she did about going to be with Jesus as a result of morpheine. I wondered what my life would be like without this woman. Who would love me in spite of me? Who would think I was the prettiest girl in the whole world? Who would laugh at all my jokes, bake my favorite pies and gently rub my forehead when I was sick? She was the one that lay teetering between this world and the next and all I could think about was how it would affect me.

Nurses and relatives shuffled in and out of her room that afternoon speaking in hushed tones and patting my back. "Bless her heart," they would whisper.
"I wish the Lord would just take her." I wished no such thing.

At roughly 8:00 p.m., the preacher and one of my aunts began trying to gently persuade me that I needed to say good-bye. "She is staying here because of you," they said. "Tell her it's ok for her to go so that she can leave this painful place."

I finally understood what I had not allowed myself to in the ten months since her diagnosis. She was going to die. The love of my life was going to leave me.

"Maw-Maw," I said softly into her ear. "I love you. I'll see you in Heaven. It's ok. You can go now."

Then we all held hands in a circle in her room and the preacher prayed and gave thanks for the life that she lived and asked that He send angels to usher her into Heaven. Only after I made my aunt and uncle promise me that they would not leave her alone after she passed until the funeral home came to get her, I walked out of her room. As soon as the door closed behind me, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor in a heap.

I had intended not to fall asleep. Somehow I thought I would be able to feel it when her spirit departed this plane. It was only after I was startled by a knock at the front door that I realized I had drifted off. I knew what that knock meant.

I walked to the door, pulled back the curtain and saw my aunt and uncle, our pastor and my fiance standing on the porch. For a second, I thought about not opening the door. Maybe I could make it go away. Maybe they'd all go home and Maw-Maw wouldn't be dead.

"We stayed with her, Honey," said my Aunt. "She went very peacefully."

My uncle, Maw-Maw's son went into my Paw-Paw's room to give him the news. Within a minute I heard Paw-Paw's yell across the house, "My baby's in Heaven."

We buried Maw-Maw on December 13th, 1982. Within two weeks, the man I thought I would marry dumped me.

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