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Old photo makes for long-lasting memory

It's a picture I had saved for a long time. And it said a lot about my grandmother. About her sense of humor, her nice smile and a hint of orneriness that compelled me to end many phone conversations with a joking: "Behave yourself."

She always got a kick out of it - that I asked, and maybe just as much that I thought I needed to. My grandma had an independent, stubborn streak, and she was proud of it.

That might not have boded well for some of her doctors or caretakers, but it was amusing to a grandchild. Along with that independence was a playful side, which also was very appealing to her grandkids. You could easily joke with her, and we always shared plenty of laughs.

This is why I was so drawn to that picture, the one I had saved for a long time. It showed my grandmother, younger than I can ever remember, wearing the type of novelty T-shirt you might buy on a beach vacation.

I'm not sure how I got the picture, but I know why I like it so much. It's the juxtaposition of the matronly grandmother I knew - the woman who babysat me, cooked Christmas dinner and was there for all my big childhood moments - with the young woman in the funny T-shirt.

I took the picture with me to Illinois for her funeral this past weekend, carrying it in my breast pocket with the idea of breaking it out when somber moods needed to be brightened. It worked well - the people I shared it with enjoyed it as much as I had over the years.

After showing it to my aunt, I learned the story behind it for the first time. My aunt had always worn the T-shirt - which depicted a pair of long arms with big hands strategically placed on the front - on vacations to the Lake of the Ozarks.

One time during a visit from my grandma, my aunt rolled the shirt up so the design on front couldn't be seen and asked her mother-in-law to try it on. Everyone got a kick out of it when Grandma found out she had been tricked.

She played along, though, posing for the picture that would end up in my possession and then in my pocket. I saved it all these years, not knowing what to do with it. Then it hit me; it would be a great gag to have it put on T-shirts for guests to wear to the 90th birthday bash we were planning for her in March.

Elsie Mae Lockhart won't be here for that celebration, but I'll always have that picture and many other memories of a very special lady. And though I know she's gone on to a better place, where things shouldn't be too rowdy, I still can't help thinking of those words I've said to her countless times:

Behave yourself, Grandma.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.