A few weeks ago a woman I love with every ounce of my being left this world. My grandma, Audrey Ruth Shordon, passed away in late March. This is a picture of my grandma as a young girl.
Please forgive the quality of most of these pictures as they are photos of photos.
My grandma lived a hard life, of her choosing, but a hard life nonetheless. MANY things can be said of her, a lot of it not so flattering, but that part of her life happened before I was born. Let me tell you about the woman I know. My grandma was exceptional. She was my greatest blessing as a young girl. I lived with my grandma and my mom growing up, but my mom was often in school and working to support us, so to be honest, my grandma raised me for the most part until I was 13. Looking back, this situation was for the absolute best because that woman was endowed with a special capacity to love me more than I even understand today. I think today we call children like I was "spirited". Basically, I was a bit difficult as a child. I was full of attitude, stubbornness, I wasn't very lovey, I didn't like to be touched, and I was extremely independent. But my grandma met the challenge- my grandma dropped her life to raise me. She didn't have to; I wasn't her responsibility; but she wanted to. My grandma devoted her life to me and I knew it.
I still know it, gramma.
Notice the the t-shirt my grandma was wearing in the this ^^^ picture- it says, "Raylene's Grandma". She had quite a few t-shirts like this one, some had my face plastered on them. She was a proud grandma. My mom and grandma tell the story about when my mom told my grandma she was pregnant with me. It was in a grocery store and my grandma was so elated she started screaming with excitement at the cashier and screaming at the top of her lungs that she was going to be a grandma! I always knew she loved me from the very beginning.
Like I said, I was very "spirited" as a child. I especially didn't like to be loved and cuddled, but my grandma didn't care and she loved and cuddled me all. the. time. I know Heavenly Father blessed me when he gave my first years to my grandma because she knew exactly how to love me. I can still hear her humming (she always hummed the same song when she rocked her grandchildren) and I can still feel her arm around me as she rocked with me on the couch. I don't remember one single time that I didn't see pride spilling out of my grandma's eyes when she looked at me. She was proud of me when I was terrible, when I lied, when I was mean, when I was good, when I accomplished goals, when performed, when I was kind, and when I was just being. She was always proud of me and I knew it.
I still know it, gramma.
My grandma often said to me, "Raylene, you're my heart, girl. You know that? My heart.". She also told me, "Raylene, you are a spoiled brat and I can't even get mad at you for it because it's all my fault!". And then she would laugh while she hugged and kissed me. She did spoil me rotten. She is partly to blame for my "spirited" nature, but she knew it and she made no apologies. She also showered me with love. I grew out of my feelings of entitlement from being a spoiled child, but I haven't grown out of the confidence her love gave me. I knew my gramma loved me and that's exactly what I needed.
I was an awkward, nerdy, crazy little girl, but she didn't see any of that. She just saw the history I held because I looked just like my mom, who looked just like my grandma, who looked just like my great grandma. Each one of us carrying a history; and continuing a history; and it's written all over our faces. Literally. My grandma taught me about the lineage of strong women that I came from. She taught me how to be independent, strong, and fearless like the women before me.
I do look a lot like my grandma. I act a lot like my grandma too. I have a lot of the same tendencies as she did. I even see my grandma's eyes in Austin. And I have a slightly relaxed eye lid just like my grandma and just like her mom. I'm short (for my family) just like my grandma. I have dark, curly hair just like my grandma. I have green eyes just like my grandma. I even have her oval face. I once played a grandma in a college production of Lost in Yonkers and my mom often tells me, "You looked just like your grandma with that age make-up on. I'd swear I was looking at my mom up on that stage.". I'm even anemic for no reason at all just like my grandma. I've always felt there isn't anyone on this earth I'd rather be like and I've always been proud to be my grandma's girl.
I love this picture ^^^ because my grandma is smiling. She RARELY smiled for pictures, even when she was young. I don't really know why, other than I think that was her strange way of showing strength, There's no time to be idle or weak, you do what needs to be done and you move on. She was a hard worker. But my grandma smiled all the time. She laughed all the time. Just not in pictures. My grandma taught me how to work for what you want. She taught me to be strong. She taught me how to be clean and tidy. She taught me to organize. She taught me to love family, even if they make it hard to love them. She taught me family first. Always. She taught me to be strong and independent. But mostly, she taught me how to love. I worry that I won't love like she did- as whole-heartedly, as genuinely, as completely. She knew my faults, but she looked passed them like they weren't there at all. My entire life she loved me. My entire life she was proud of me. She made me feel like her whole life's purpose was to love me. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? Can you imagine what that kind of love feels like? I hope my boys feel the same from me. That is truly my greatest prayer- to love like my grandma loved me.
I wrote this poem for my grandma when I was 7. She loved it. Several copies were found in her personal belongings after she passed. I wrote a lot of silly poems for her over the years, but she always told me that this one was her favorite. I have a burning image of my grandma giving me a standing ovation when I recited this poem at a school poetry competition when I was a little girl. Her love and pride for me in that standing ovation made everyone else stand up as well. That's the kind of woman she was. Exceptional.
A Gramma To Me
A gramma to me is like an elephant because an elephant never forgets and neither does my gramma.
A gramma to me is like an owl because an owl is so wise and so is my gramma.
A gramma to me is like a falcon protecting her young because my gramma protects me.
A gramma to me is like a beautiful dove because my gramma is beautiful to me.
I love you, gramma. I always will.