Reflections on a special person

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We would get up early in the morning to watch her. She would balance this small piece of hard plastic on the end of a tiny little suction cup. Then the children would watch amazed as she put it into her eye. First the left and then the right. At the end of the day, the grandchildren would gather around again to watch her remove her contacts.

I am headed to Nashville today, which was home to my “Granny” Ponder for 20 years. While I was growing up she lived in Monroe, Ga., which I thought was one of the neatest towns I had ever visited.

They had sidewalks leading to the town square where a drugstore with an ice cream parlor sat on one corner. There was nothing like that where I grew up. There were hardwoods instead of pine trees and her house sat on the side of a hill, offering hours of different kinds of games to kids from a place where everything was flat.

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It was different visiting a grandmother that didn’t live in the same town. She had to catch up with all the news since our last visit. She lived alone for almost 40 years and could never quite grasp the way teenage boys’ appetites exploded as they got older. One year, my brother and I, along with some help from my sister completely devoured the entire Thanksgiving dinner along with all the other food she had bought for the balance of the week. It was like locusts had hit her pantry. My father just grinned.

She kept her butter under a dish so that it was always soft. She made homemade mayonnaise, which may have begun my lifelong love affair with that particular condiment.

As the oldest, I would visit her after I went off to college. She read more than any person I had ever met up to that point. We would sit up at night talking about the latest best sellers and historical novels. She was always one good book ahead of me. I would find myself working to keep up, especially when I was about to visit.

She would take me to the VFW Club for dinner. She would tell me that she was as much of a veteran as any of the men there. She smoked Lucky Strike non-filters for almost 50 years. She quit cold turkey and admitted that smoking was the worst mistake of her life.

We would visit the home she was born in out on the farm. Her father, grandparents and great-grandparents were buried up on the hill on that farm. It was a Revolutionary War grant for services that remained in our family until she left.

Eventually, she began to lose her eyesight. She moved to Nashville to be closer to my aunt when she could no longer live by herself. She discovered books for the blind. Perhaps that is why I love the work that my daughter, Catherine, and the people with the Southwest Georgia Regional Library for the Blind do with the many sight-impaired people of this part of the state. For a long time after she couldn’t see, Granny and I would continue to discuss the best books of the day.

She lived long enough to see her great-grandchildren. She moved from living alone, to an assisted living facility, to finally a nursing home. For almost 20 years, other people took care of her when she could no longer look after herself. During our last visits, I would like to think that she recognized the words Granny, Little Dan, and the touch of our babies faces.

Mary Lou’s grandmother was also known as “Granny.” She was also a Ponder, so our children were blessed with having two Granny Ponders. With confusion sure to follow, Mary Lou’s grandmother was known as “Big Granny” and mine was known as “Little Granny.” We have one wonderful picture of the two of them together with us.

They were different in many ways. Mary Lou could write a column about her own great memories with her “Granny” Ponder. Hopefully, most of you have your own memories about your grandmothers, Grannies, Nanas and Gams. Share them along the way. They are good stories.

“Big Granny” and “Little Granny” have both gone on to that special place in heaven reserved for all grandmothers. There is a new “Granny” Ponder in town. When Mary Lou picked the name for her own grandchildren to call her, it just seemed natural that she picked “Granny.”

It may be an old-fashioned name in these times, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the memories and love shared by these two women with their many grandchildren.

We stopped at Denny’s today on our way to Nashville. After looking at the menu, Ernest and I decided on the same thing. Imagine my surprise, when on the back page, in the “Seniors” section of the menu, I saw that I could get the same thing for $2 less.

There have been plenty of times, thanks to my rapidly graying hair, that I have gotten a senior citizen’s discount without asking. This was the first time that I have looked at someone and told them that I actually qualified for the 55 and older discount. Unfortunately, the pretty young girl didn’t seem the least bit surprised.