The lady in red is Granny Boo. The date Christmas ’02 at my house in Key West. The year we had the 8′ tall candy-cane peace sign in our yard.
Granny Boo’s real name is Nancy Tazewell (the 12th) Lee (my grandfather’s name) Yakel (Aunt Gay’s father’s name and the only husband GB killed) Scott (Aunt Susie and Uncle Tom’s father’s name, GB’s last husband. Who we believe died of natural causes.)
That’s my mom and me with GB. Mom is GB’s oldest daughter, real name Nancy Tazewell (the 13th) Lee (her dad’s name) Richardson (my dad’s name, also dad to my two brothers and one sister) Sexton (my first stepfather) Richardson (she married dad a second time) Rutherford (my last stepfather’s name.)
Actually, Charles is still my stepfather although he and my mom have not lived together for about 100 years. They are both afraid they’ll get married again so they just stay married. This is logic Mo could really wrap his mind around.
Granny Boo was only 92 in that picture, a babe, game for anything. She had a blast that Christmas in Florida! She’d spent her adult life, after her kids were grown, in Ft. Lauderdale. She loves Florida, is a seafood fanatic, loves the ocean – everything about it. After she fell and broke her hip 10 years ago, she moved into Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C. They have taken incredibly loving care of her.
My grandmother has always been a bigger-than-life, dominant, passionate, woman. A strong woman. When she looks at you, she looks directly at you with those steely gray-blue eyes, like in this (terrible) photo from our visit to D.C. in 2000. You always know what Granny Boo is thinking. Because she tells you.
GB’s 96th birthday was March 25th. Mom was there and told me later that, for the first time, GB looked smaller, a tad frail. Although we shouldn’t be surprised, we were. Frail has never been a word anyone would use to describe Granny Boo.
She’s the kind of woman who does what needs to be done, gets on with it. She was a divorced working mother when it was anything but acceptable. But being married to a louse was unacceptable to her. She embarrassed my mother (who, by the way, was the May Queen at Greenbriar College in her day) by always being the youngest most fashionable mother at the PTA – a knockout. I guess that’s where I get it.
She was pregnant with Gay when her second husband, a violent drunk, threatened to kill her when she threw him out. She called the police, they gave her a gun (boy, those were the good old days). Sure enough, the fool came back at 2 in the morning, staggering up the stairs, hollerin’ his intentions. So she shot him. Dead.
You can see we got kind of a history in my family when it comes to our marriages. And to ending them. I like to remind Hal that we don’t always divorce our husbands. It’s really not a threat. Just a fact.
To escape the notoriety, GB moved mom, 5, and Gay, just born, to another town seeking a quiet existence. But one day for show and tell at her new school, mom shared the newspaper clippings, describing the scene in detail. Mom has a flair for the dramatic. I guess that’s where I got that.
I could tell you so many stories about Granny Boo. Not all of them happy, her life was not an easy one. She is a remarkable woman. I’m grateful she’s my Granny Boo and didn’t get born into someone else’s family.
Mom called tonight to tell me that GB’s heart is failing, she is on oxygen. If tests show she has pneumonia, the third time since January, this is likely It. If she does not have pneumonia… this is still likely It. But, with nothing to speed It along, It could drag out for quite sometime. With GB stuck in bed on oxygen ’til the Angels come. Yuck.
Granny Boo has been ready for It for years. Really since she lost her driver’s license just before moving from Florida. Not being able to drive was It for GB. But if she’d kept her driver’s license she’d definitely be dead by now and likely have taken a few surprised souls with her. Her driving there at the end was pretty terrifying. Hal says I drive like GB. That makes me happy somehow.
Her friends are dead, save for Ellen, 99, a childhood friend. How many people do you know live to be 96 AND have a childhood friend who is 99? I find that remarkable. In March, Mom took GB to visit Ellen and they had a fabulous time. Granny Boo’s memory is a little faded, but Ellen remembers everything like it was yesterday. She told story after story. Mom and Granny Boo were enthralled, a most excellent birthday.
I don’t want this to be It. But it’s not up to me. Well, not totally. I’ve sent word to Granny Boo that, no matter what, she cannot die before Wednesday. I just spent $80 at Martha’s Flowers and the Rose Medley won’t be delivered till then. Granny Boo LOVES a nice big fat ole pot o’ roses. I’m sure this will keep her alive. Pretty sure.
So we are waiting for news. I love that my boys know and love their Granny Boo. I appreciate that she’s been with us long enough for me to be old, old enough to understand the enormous gift of having her with us for so long.
My friends always ask about her name: Granny Boo. I’ll tell you. When she was a baby, everyone would say she was beautiful. She couldn’t say be-yoo-ti-ful, she’d say boo-ti-ful… she’s been Boo ever since.