I love West Virginia.It is beautiful. . . not in the awe inspiring way of the Grand Canyon that calls for thoughts of God, but on a more human scale. You go to the Grand Canyon, but you can live in West Virginia.The hills are not mountains if you have been to Colorado. In Colorado the mountains seize you and do not let you look at anything else. In West Virginia the hills are not so grand, but nestle you. As a little boy I remember rolling down the lawn (something you can do in almost every yard in West Virginia!) after the grass had just been cut. My skin would turn green.And then you could catch fire flys and keep them in a mayonnaise jar with holes punched in the top.All my life there was one place that did not change. 1908 Preston Street was the home of Father’s family. There Papaw and Granny, and later just Granny, sat in the home they had built. It was all hard wood and solid, but nothing so fancy.I have been in many finer houses, but no finer home. You could, on a very rare and lucky day, get a pillow and lay down on the rug in front of Papaw’s chair. There might be cartoons on! Papaw and Dad would be telling stories and you could listen as well. You might have gotten a book at K-Mart or even a comic! Original multi-tasking. Granny, if you were really blessed, might make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with lots of jelly and cut off the crust. She would bring it with a glass of soda (rare treat!) that tinkled with ice as she walked. I still love a “tinkly glass” of soda.There was nothing great about any of us, I suppose. Our stories were not Homeric. We talked too much and all at the same time. My cousin Kelly and I could talk a lot even by the standards of the family and we always had something to say. I wish we would have listened more, but then we would have been Wise and not ourselves. In those days before DVD, Ipod, and the internet, talking was an art. My grandfather was good at it. . . again in a homely way.My grandmother was the rock on which the home was built. Nobody will remember her, I suppose, for any great deeds. Perhaps, at times, she loved the house too much, especially when Papaw died. She could be stubborn, but she had lived a hard life.Granny never had much time for feminist complaints. She and Papaw had raised two kids, both with serious illnesses, by the force of her will. She had helped raise her sisters before that running a household at an age when most moderns still are called “babies” by their doting bobo mothers.There was a time before people were taught to sneer at middle class living. Granny recognized the value of comfort, because she knew what it was to go without it. Granny had no time for social experimentation because the hard life of the country had taught her how fragile civilization really is.She was as a real a woman as you could know. She had her truth and was not afraid to express it. I am not sure she ever voted for a Democrat and George W got her last vote. If the force of one mark on a piece of paper elected the President, then I would pick hers as that mark.John Kerry never had a chance in her mind.Sibyl Reynolds (Granny had a name! I still remember the shock of finding this out.), born a Lanham, was the last of my grandparents to die. I was lucky to have all four right up to college.It is unfair to complain, but some sort of center is gone from my life. Preston Street is sold. My grandfather’s chair does not sit in the corner. The fridge, always full, is empty and there is no Pepsi in a carton by the door.It would have been selfish to want her to stay. She was ready to go to the next life. Still what will we do without her?Most of my memories are from the time in childhood when being self-centered is natural. It was only as I grew up that I came to recognize the simple power of an intellect fed on a daily reading of the King James Bible for more than eighty years. It was only when I grew older that any of us could recognize the sacrifice, the labor, the heroic doing of duty that made that home possible.I get it now, but am not sure I ever could express it to her. Perhaps it is best that I never tried. It would have sounded like foolishness to her, talking about what everyone did in her world (how blessed she was to be able to take duty for granted!), but few do in mine.The last time we were alone together, Granny and I, we talked and talked. She could not clean like she used to do and that gave her more time to sit. At last. She knew my love. . . and that was enough. In her world she could assume that love because she was born in a generation before love had to be packaged and sold to youth. Her generation earned it through quiet sacrifice.Granny was like my home state. She was beautiful, but not like a film star. She was strong, but not in a buff LA Fitness way. She was wise, but had little formal schooling. There are none like her to take her place.Except perhaps there will be. Maybe all over the United States young women, home school mothers and hard working single ladies, are turning from the packaged and cheap. They are denying self and finding love in family. They are making food, like Granny’s apple butter, instead of packaged stuff. They have traded grand visions for smaller ways. These simple heroes are trading Big Dreams for Mary’s “be it done unto me.”And so my own family Sibyl speaks to me today. She rests now waiting her sure and certain hope of better things to come. The wise Sibyl of old saw the first coming of the Christ. Our own Sibyl waited every day for His Second coming.Her job and place now must be taken by another. Who will dare to do it? Who will lay down power and great glory for family and faith? Who will trade all the wisdom of this age for the wisdom of the age to come in “the old black book?”I can sense the rise of the old Feminine Power. Thank God for it.Heaven is a great and glorious place. It shines like a Celestial Rose and great men find their highest power failing when trying to describe it, but even Dante knew there were spots reserved in the great chain of being for simpler folk like I am. There are great heights, but also homely hills. There are sublime pleasures, but also simple stories to hear.There will be spot in heaven, I trust, where the mountains are low, but green. There will be lawn chairs (white and made of metal that rock a bit when you sit in them) and memories. There will be fire flies that do not die! There will be a feast of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when we tire of the great food at the High and Royal feasts. I am sure there will be comics and cartoons.And in that place the Sibyl that was will be Sibyl that is. Good-bye Granny. I will see you in the Morning.
Essay / Uncategorized