One of my favorite bands is the Dave Matthews Band. They have a song that didn’t make the airwaves but all DMB fans know it from a few live albums–Granny. The lyrics change with almost every rendition, but these are the ones in the first version I heard:

Hello, how are you doin’ today?
I hope I find you feeling healthy
I’m so glad our paths crossed this time today
On our way into the night

I say it’s love, you keep me here, turn me up, turn me down, silly
Maybe, I love you up and down and inside out
Love, when I approach, your tears they fall like rain, you tell me
Baby, your heart into a thousand pieces dashed

Stop, only the old and wise, with clouded eyes
You can’t see what I can, ’cause I
Blindly throw my faith to the face
Of the next good thing to come my way.

Here we are all of us stand around
We’re leaning heavy on each other
Always wonderin’ hey what is it lies behind
The worried eyes of one another

I believe it’s love, so give it up, in the shadows in the dark it’s
Baby I love you upside down and inside out
Love, when I approach, my tears they fall like rain, you tell me
Baby, my heart’s into a thousand pieces dashed

Stop, only old and wise, with clouded eyes
You can’t see what I can, ’cause I
Blindly throw my faith to the face
Of the next pretty girl to come my way

I say it’s love, so there we go, turn me up, turn me down, silly
Maybe I love you so it makes crazy wild
But love, I come to you, my tears they fall, tears they fall, silly
Baby, your heart’s into a thousand pieces dashed.
Love, baby, love, baby…

Dave Matthews has admitted that the song title really has nothing to do with the lyrics, but for me, it certainly does. My grandmother never heard this song, but this song sure reminded me of her. All the grandmothers on my mom’s side of the family were called “Granny,” so even though the song might not be about a particular Granny, it reminds me of mine. There’s an unconditional and lavish love expressed in the song, much like a Granny should love her kids and grandkids.

Granny & Papa, early '90s

Granny & Papa, early '90s

I remember my Granny in the kitchen of her small Tennessee home, banging around in the kitchen while I was trying to sleep on the pull-out bed in her living room. She would be making breakfast, which would lead to her making “dinner,” which is what we called lunch. She’d be in there most of the morning with her house-shoes and her permed hair.

Granny wasn’t an emotional person. She had likely seen so much in her life that she couldn’t afford to be. She grew up poor and uneducated in the backwoods of Tennessee. We called the place where her side of the family lived “the country” because it felt like it encompassed the entire “country” in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Granny had long left the farms of her sharecropper heritage and lived “in town.” She never learned to drive, although there was a myth that she tried driving once and ran into a brick wall. Her primary vocation was to care for my Papa, who worked hard his entire life. He never really retired. But he would get up, go to work, and come home for “dinner,” which was a full-course meal in the middle of the day. Granny had it all ready for him every day without fail.

Granny could do a cart-wheel until I was in college. That country living paid off pretty well because she was the healthiest person I knew. We would try to get to do a cart-wheel and she’d refuse until we pleaded, and then, like a circus performer, she would do one perfectly to our raucous applause.

The furthest Granny ever went from home was to my sister’s wedding in Ireland. Pretty far for a country girl, but she had a great time. The only problem we had was at the wedding dinner and there were all kinds of Irish food that she had never had before. Granny was a picky eater and pretty set in her ways. Once, we took her to an authentic Mexican restaurant and she wouldn’t eat the tacos because they didn’t taste like Taco Bell’s tacos. So in Ireland, as I tasted the food, I had to translate the taste into something she actually liked. “That meat tastes like bologna, Granny, try it!” She ended up eating pretty well that night.

Granny was fit as a fiddle until the last year. In fact, one time Molly caught a glimpse of her legs and exclaimed that Granny had the legs of a 25-year-old. But as time went on, it was Granny’s mind that begin to deteriorate. She slowly creeped into dementia, and so for my mother and her sister, they lost Granny a few years ago.

My whole family with Granny on the left.

My whole family with Granny on the left.

Taking care of aging parents is so difficult. Some say it’s like taking care of children, but it’s not. It’s much harder because of the emotional burden it is to change the diapers of the person who once changed yours. Aging parents interrupt your life more than a child does, and not in joyous ways. You want to treat them like you always have, but in their confusion and sickness, you just can’t. It takes a great deal of strength and love, and sometimes you just don’t have enough of those qualities. That’s when the guilt sets in. You end up beating yourself up for feeling the way you do, while you know if they ask you the same question they asked you 15 minutes ago, you’ll scream. It’s not an easy job, and I hope I have the grace my mother had in taking care of Granny. My mom had to make some tough decisions as the oldest child, and some about which I’m sure she feels guilty. But you only get one shot to care for your own parents, and you’re bound to make some mistakes, but mostly, you do what you think is best and you keep moving, mustering all the love and care you can along the way. You’ll find that you did 100 loving acts for every 1 curse you muttered under your breath.

My Papa died in 1997, and with him my Granny’s reason for living. Granted, she had many great years with many fantastic experiences after his death, but in her heart, she lost everything. She could not live in her house any more, even though she was quite capable, and it has sat empty with her furniture ever since. You could look at her and see her staring into the distance, searching desperately for the face of her one true love. When you give your life so completely to someone and then lose them, there is a void that can never really be filled. For the woman who was so dependent on such a man, it’s like swimming across an ocean trying not to just drown in life.

But the good news (there’s always good news), is that she finally reached that other shore. My Granny died on Saturday morning after going into cardiac arrest while eating lunch at the nursing home my mother put her in only 10 days earlier. And these words of unconditional love keep ringing in my ears…

I believe it’s love, so give it up, in the shadows in the dark it’s
Baby I love you upside down and inside out
Love, when I approach, my tears they fall like rain, you tell me
Baby, my heart’s into a thousand pieces dashed

Stop, only old and wise, with clouded eyes
You can’t see what I can, ’cause I
Blindly throw my faith to the face
Of the next good thing to come my way

Jeff+