There’s a song called Grandma’s Hands and when I listen to it I hear the words Bill Withers shares. I hear him talk about his grandma and I feel everything she was to him and to their community. And despite the fact that his grandmother and mine had seemingly nothing in common, I can’t help but think of my Grandma Jimi.
Jimi wasn’t her given name. Her given name was Nelma. But she didn’t like it so I never heard anyone call her that without getting the dirtiest look you ever did see. But I didn’t call her Jimi either. I called her the same thing all my cousins called her. Grandma Peanut.
Now I don’t know if she called us all her little peanuts because we called her peanut or if we called her peanut because she called us all little peanuts. I was the 5th grandchild. Those decisions were made long before I was on the scene. And to be honest it’s never really mattered to me. She was Grandma Peanut the same way I’m Cami. The way my dad is Bob. The way my cat is Ripper.
Some of my earliest memories are of playing at my grandparents’ house. Sometimes with my cousins. Sometimes hiding from my brother. Sometimes with my grandpa chasing me around with his dentures in his hand telling me to brush my teeth. But always always always they include my grandma. And when I close my eyes and think of her the two things that always come to mind are her smile as she laughed with abandon and her hands. Playing cards. Fishing cherries out of a jar for me. Smoking a cigarette. Layering potatoes into dried beef casserole. holding her gin. Wheeling around their mobile dishwasher hands pressed into its butcher block top. Her nails always neat. And she was always wearing rings. There was one ring in particular that she wore that I always loved.
I would let my eyes rest on it across the table as she shuffled cards or gestured with her hand. When I was little I thought it big and bolder than life, but as I got older I was soothed and remembered it as delicate and stylish. A remnant of a time my grandmother would get dolled up in a black dress for a night out on the town. A time before she was my grandma. But it was always so much a part of her.
Five years ago Jimi died. It was sad, of course it was sad. But she had lived a long and remarkable life. I’m sure she lived a whole full life with friends, family, and loved ones that as her granddaughter I never even knew about. And then there was the amazing lifetime worth of living I did know about. She outlived her husband, who she’d spent her entire life with, by more than a decade. She was adored by her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and her great-great-grandchildren.
When she died I didn’t think about her things. That’s a blessing. I didn’t have to worry, fret, and mourn over her belongings. I’m so thankful to those in my family who did. I was just able to remember her. Think back to her laugh. Her smile. How mad she got whenever anyone tried to help her. I got the chance to say goodbye with my family and we pretty much all got sauced at an Italian restaurant in saying goodbye. Many of us drinking gin martinis which I know she would have loved. Though we had olives… she would have appreciated it more if there were onions.
Two weeks ago we spent the weekend visiting my aunt & uncle and my baby cousins (who are grown ass awesome independent women with families of their own.) The last morning of our trip as I sat on the sofa surrounded by those I love most my aunt handed me a ring and asked if it fit on any of my fingers.
As I took it in my hand I started sliding it onto my middle finger without looking, it was very snug but it fit. Then onto the ring finger of my other hand. And only as it nestled perfectly into place did I realize she had given my her mother’s ring. My grandmother’s ring. The ring I always remember.
A ring that in the early 1940’s my grandfather, the same man who used to chase me around with dentures and had overly long nose hair, had purchased for her in France. A ring that I always loved but never in my entire life dreamed of having.
I asked a friend how a man like that picks out a ring like this. Her answer was one word.
Today would have been my grandparents’ anniversary. I didn’t realize that when I got home today, awkwardly took a photo of my hand, and posted the picture on instagram, but of course it is.
Happy anniversary Nelma and Robert. Jimi and Bob. Grandma Peanut and Grandpa Harry. I love you both.
And also… I really love this ring.