Category: A Prolonged Forward


My paternal grandmother, my Mee Maw, died around 9:15 AM Dallas time. I’m roiling a bit in mortality, starting to realize that yes indeed, I’m across the line where life stops giving you things and it starts taking them away.

Iain Banks has terminal cancer and has less than a year to live. Roger Ebert posted about how he wanted to take a step back to deal with his health then died two days later. My beloved male golden Buddy is sick and we might have to put him down soon.

I am so fortunate to have known my grandparents, members of the greatest generation. All my grandfathers were involved in WW2. All my grandmothers too in their own way both official and not. All the males have died. Mee Maw was the first of the mothers.

Mee Maw, such a silly name for a matron of a large and wondrous family. A name filled with love but somehow diminishing of the scope of her contribution and influence. A child’s name that somehow over time can’t be replaced. I can’t think of her as Joan Toulouse.

She was my Mee Maw.

She made an astounding oyster stuffing that to this day remains a secret from me, and divinity that I would look forward to the entire year as a child. Fluffy white, nutty tan, and a chocolate that was rich and deeply satisfying. I remember the toy drawer in their house, hot wheels cars and puzzle games. Their dog Molly. Family arguments. The sound of her voice above it all. Mee Maw.

Like all humans she wasn’t flawless. No one is. If I be speaker of the dead in this case I can name plenty some grievances I had against her treatment of my mother when my father left us.

And yet I remember her cradling the head of my Paw Paw, her husband, in her hands after he died during a heart surgery.

“He was good.” she said in that moment as her tears spilled onto his face, and I was beside myself at seeing my first dead body and it being my grandfather.

“He was ornery. But good.”

He was ornery. And he was good. She had feared the worst during that terrible moment and it had come true and she simply held his lifeless cheek, yellowed by a death only minutes passed, and spoke the truth. Can I say now grievances are important? They are not.

And so mortality roils, as it does for everyone at some point. We’re here, then not. Those we love and cherish, flaws and all, are here. Then not. Sometimes we know when it can happen and have some time, sometimes not.

I hugged Buddy tonight, and searched for affordable flights to Dallas for the funeral.

I got to see her this October at my brother’s wedding and she was alert and we had a good talk.

I wish, I dearly wish, I had gotten that astoundingly good oyster dressing recipe. I would have liked to have made it for her.

When All the Fools Rush In: Part 2

Following the great heart rending that was my April fools joke for my brothers, in true spirit of the event, they both bided their time and enacted their revenge according to their own timetable.

After you pull off a good (or in my case especially traumatic) April Fool’s joke, you have to be on your guard for a while.  I spent the next few weeks walking on eggshells around the house.  I was careful when I came home from school, tested every door carefully before I opened it. I used the restroom looking over my shoulder all the time, and showered with the door locked and bolted. Over time, as we all do, I lowered my guard.  I figured in the end that my brothers had decided to get me on the next April Fools.  Well, let them try. I was already thinking about how I would get them first.

One late September day I was reading comics in my room after school.  Slowly, I drifted into a nap. My middle brother Scott burst into my room.

“Jamie!” he yelled, calling me by my family nickname since my middle name was James, “Maggie’s gotten out we can’t find her!”

Now, since we had gotten Maggie this had become a common occurrence.  The townhome we lived in had a small back yard but she had become a ninja at darting out the front door or back gate when you opened it. It weirdly makes sense since she was a stray when my youngest brother Jeff found her. Her escapes usually resulted in no end of angst on his part until we found her.  He had been too young to really get attached to the previous dog Angus. But he loved Maggie more than a a young boy loves the first stray he brings home and gets to keep.

Speaking of Jeff, I trudged down the stairs to find him practically hysterical. It was dusk, and Maggie had never gotten out this late before.  He kept babbling about 18 wheelers coming down the street in the middle of the night and hitting her.  I rolled my eyes, irritated at the drama and that I’d been roused from a late teenage nap.

I never took naps as an adult like I did when I was a high school teenager.  Jesus, does anyone?

For some reason I had become pretty adept at finding Maggie and getting her to come home. My mom passed by in a hurry and told me they were taking the back to search, I needed to take the front.  She also asked if I had remembered to shut the back gate when I came home.  It’d become a reflex with me, but I hesitated a moment as I tried to remember precisely. This of course indicated guilt, if not at least a teenage disregard for Important Family Things ™ like remembering the dog liked to escape and was important to my brother.

“Find the dog.” My mother growled.

I went out the front door and began calling for Maggie.  The street we lived on was called Timberleaf, and was a long befittingly tree-lined street with townhomes all along each side.  With no break in between the buildings this meant the street was basically divided in quarter mile sections, which is why it was usually easy to find Maggie.  She didn’t a whole lot of places to escape to. It was either up the street, or down the street.  The same went for the alleyway in the back.

For over an hour I trudged up and down the road calling her name. “Maggie!  Maggie!”

It was the simplest of pranks, and the most effective.  As the minutes passed and the sun went down I began to get more and more worried.  Had I left the gate open?  It never took this long to find her, was she hurt? Each time I passed our house calling her name, I could have simply looked in the front window and discovered the prank.  There, with my two brothers, barking her head off trying to get my attention because she could hear me calling her, was Maggie.  They watched me trudge up and down the street before I heard her muffled barking as I neared the house for the 15th time.

Oh thank God, I thought, but I mistook the muffled barking for distance. So two more times I walked further up the street trying to pinpoint it before absentmindedly glancing at the house to see my grinning brothers and mother and the ecstatic Maggie, who just couldn’t wait to answer my calls.

I stood dumbstruck. They found her and didn’t tell me? I thought.  Then it  hit me.

In retrospect, they spent 2 minutes to set me up for over an hour, while I had spent an hour setting my brothers up for 2 minutes.

Well played.  Well played indeed.