My granny is a pretty dynamic lady.
Like most of the folks from that "Greatest Generation," she's weathered more than her share of storms, both figuratively and literally.
Mildred Ward was a little girl when the Great Depression taught the people of that generation to get by on next to nothing. She was a young woman when her husband went off to war. She worked and raised my mother while my granddaddy trekked across Africa and Italy fighting the Axis powers. After the war, she spent the next couple of decades raising a family, working on a farm and in a factory to boot.
Hers is a story that many people her age can repeat in some form or another, but though similar, each story is still a unique example of what this country once was capable of. That generation is tougher than ours will ever be, and that's something for which they should be proud and we should be ashamed.
How tough is Granny? Just in the last few years, she's lived through Hurricane Katrina, open-heart surgery and two tornadoes, the first of which blew her porch away and the last of which was only a week ago. You may have seen the pictures of a school bus sitting on its side on top of Caledonia High School in Mississippi. That's right down the road from Granny.
In addition to her own family, she took care of her sister-in-law for most of her life. She's had to bury two husbands, both of whom were good, honest men, and she was still mowing the grass at the cemetery where my granddaddy is buried long after she should've been.
But being tough doesn't mean not enjoying life.
Granny has always found ways to have fun, whether it was pulling pranks on her friends, dressing up as an old witch for Halloween, charging her co-workers for a peek at her extra-long second toes or pulling her oldest grandson's leg. (A couple of years ago she had me completely convinced that she'd called the cops to come find out why her car's steering wheel and dashboard had been stolen. It was only after she told me the officer said, "Lady, you're sitting in the backseat," that I realized she was joking.)
Granny has gotten stuff done, too. She has always been active in her church. She had her recipes featured in the local paper. She has put together books that chronicle our family's history. She used to make quilts. Three of her paintings hang in my house, and they are among my most prized possessions.
And, of course, she's had plenty of love to spread around. She doted on us grandkids and then took in a new bunch when she remarried after Granddaddy died. She even told my wife, who's lost all her grandparents, that she would be her granny, too. Family has always come right after God on Granny's priority list.
She cooked most of the fish I caught as a little boy and cleaned the first (and only) rabbit I ever killed. When I was little, she made me homemade ice cream and taught me how to take a bath in a washtub. After I was grown, she tried to explain how to paint as well as she did, but I just didn't have the talent.
And not a birthday has gone by without a card.
I, on the other hand, have turned into a very lazy grandson. I don't write her or pick up the phone much, and my trips to Mississippi have become more infrequent the older I get.
I wanted to take a step toward doing better. So after my wife suggested it, I wrote this, and I can't wait to give it to Granny on Saturday in Mississippi.
Unlike Granny, I'm not much of an artist, but maybe this will paint a picture for her just the same.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.