Tribute to Granny

POSTED IN | 11:17 PM

"Well, I don't feel just really weepy, but maybe that will come in time..."

The words of my granny Lillian Qualls floated across her Bristow, Oklahoma dining room clearly, not betraying the inner turmoil that boiled just below the surface. Or so I thought. Emotive analysis is only so keen when you're a 13-year-old male.

Standing perched with a leg on the chair in a blue night gown, my Gran spoke these words in 1996 to several other family members. With fresh soil over her husband of 13 years, her countenance was stunning considering the circumstances.

Several days previously Harley, the grandpa I knew, had died of a heart attack in their bedroom, essentially.

The loving cacophony of the funeral whirred and chugged.

During the service my uncle Reuben quoted Harley's "that'll be a dollar ninety eight" punch line, made famous through years of practice and always accompanied with a grampy chuckle.

Then it was casket, eulogy, flowers, tears, soil, stone, burial.

And that was all. And then there we were in the house, Granny in the blue night gown.

Lillian Lela Qualls, my mom's mom, died 13 days ago now, passing peacefully in the night with a good book of a friend perched nearby her still frame.

But, in her passing, I wonder if my numerous family members (we're a hoard to be certain) hold quite the same stoic line as she did. Or if we're even capable of that. If we're quite as able to merely utter a few non-weepy sentiments and move on in life, thinking the law of averages will eventually take hold and right what is askew.

I wonder if I can merely do that.

But to her credit my Gran had much practice with this thing called upheaval.

Outlasting the Depression on an Okie farm alongside her seven (or was it eight?) siblings before marrying young and birthing her first — a girl — she had learned much already.

But the War in Europe had other plans, ripping my grandpa Reuben Paul away on a several year tour where he doctored sinister wounds, and miraculously, survived — one of only a handful bearing the red cross to do so in his platoon.

Then two more kids came along to Granny, the last of which is my mother. The Placid Providence is not lost, or the what-ifs un-entertained at what wouldn't have been had my Grandpa's war experience turned out even one bullet trajectory different.

And certainly God's grace kept her afloat during many tempests. Even through the unexpected hospital death of my Grandpa when he was only 41 and my Gran only 39 and with three kids.

She went to work at a time when women largely didn't and blazed a rough swath to make three adolescent ends meet while still having enough in the piggy for her own sanity. I can't imagine these difficulties.

So you see, my Gran was a strong woman. Always trusting in Someone other than herself. Firm, consistent and yet personable, one of the friendliest people I've known probably.


"Well for the land's sake!"

"Well I declare."

These were all favorites. As was the occasional "Now John! you stop jumping on that sofa!"

But a granny scold never cut you very deep, even when you're a young-un.

Granny cooked like I think heaven will taste. And nary a lessened-fat substitute made its way into the pot. Ever. Nothing but full-octane delish in her kitchen. That was her pure culinary Gospel. And that's the way it's supposed to be I think.

And yet her strength is there. A testament of adaptation. A lesson in learning, coping, surviving. Of mistaking and re-routing. Of walking in blindness when there were likely so many reasons for despair.

But the Pity Path never seemed an option for Gran. Though no doubt a proud woman she was, hers was not the way of self-inflicting misery. Not even when Grandpa Harley died some 12 years ago, the nuptial lodestone of her rich old age.

Gran went to God on January 29th. Perhaps she's even perfecting some angelic culinary delights right now, exchanging percentaged ingredients for ones bearing the label "whole" and telling Gabriel to put some elbow grease into those egg whites, why don't you!

But there are memories. Many good ones.

I'll hold on to those months last year when we'd go out for lunch every week. You would always ask me where I wanted to eat like you didn't have an exact place calculated. You were sneaky like that.

I'd say "you decide" casually and immediately you'd give an answer.

"Now John, I think I'd just like a good hamburger." I would just smile and never let on like I knew what friendly slight of hand you'd dealt me. And we had some good lunches together. Lordy, lordy.

So Gran, this isn't so easy you see — bidding farewell. You were a great woman and you lived through some crazy history lessons of life experience. For the land's sake! My life seems like a walk in the Feather Party Park when held aloft beside yours. And yet I probably don't see God in things nearly as much as you. I pray we could have a faith like yours, too.

Gran, we will miss you. I will.




5 Responses to 'Tribute to Granny'

  • keely steger said...'> 9:19 AM

    Beautiful, JStu.
    I thoroughly enjoyed all my conversations with your Gran, the most recent just this past December, as she and I talked about this baby in my belly and the little boy standing in front of us, eating brownies and cookies like there was no tomorrow. She was swell.

  • Hannah said...'> 10:02 AM

    From a fellow writer's standpoint, this is eloquently said, John.

    From a fellow human's standpoint, this is honestly and vulnerably said, with undertones of the wisdom, strength, feistiness and dignity you so admired in Granny Lillian.

    I wish I could have tasted her cooking. The way you speak of it makes me never want to buy something 'light' again. Heaven must taste grand.

  • Reuben said...'> 6:58 PM

    Nice job John. You captured her essence very well. Unfortunately, a written "Oh" can't do justice to the true inflection of that musical sound she made. Nor can it convey its two-syllable construction. What an expressive word she made of it!

  • Peggy said...'> 12:19 PM

    John, what a beautiful tribute to Aunt Lil. She is in my very first memories as a child - Mike and I are so glad we were able to see her in December. She's forever in our hearts.

  • Ed Stone said...'> 11:31 AM

    Well written memories of Aunt Lillian. Great pictures!