When telling stories, I often say my grandmother did this or my grandmother said this. In actuality, she isn’t my grandmother. She, Veola Parker, is my great-grandmother. My grandmother was murdered when I was three years old, and therefore I don’t remember her and have always referred to great-grandma as grandma. My cousin Dominique has always called her, “Great-Granny” in this very tiny sweet voice.
When thinking of my (great) grandma I am reminded of her huge five gallon jug of lard that she kept in her kitchen pantry. She didn’t use vegetable or olive oil like we, “healthy 2006” people use. She didn’t use butter. She didn’t use nonstick spray or nonstick pans. She would get a big spoonful of lard and put it in her big black pan that doubles as a weapon and she’d fry her chicken. Yes, the five gallon jug of lard is part of my memory.
There is also (great) grandma’s tea cakes. As a child my grandmother would always make these tasty treats. I don’t know the ingredients to these delicious cookies. Every time I ask her for the recipe she scuffs at me, “What recipe? I don’t have a recipe. I just put the stuff in a bowl and mix it and bake it.” As a child, while grandma was in the kitchen rolling to dough and using a brown cup to cut out the cookies, I would sneak my hand on the table whenever she’d turn away and grab some of the dough. It was so delicious. Although, now that I’m older, I’d add a bit of cinnamon to it too. To this day, grandma still hasn’t given me that recipe. I want it. She also hasn’t cooked the teacakes in a long time. She hasn’t cooked much in a long time.
My (great) grandmother was born September 25, 1925. That was such a long time ago. It was a different life. When she was growing up she was “colored”. My grandmother was probably a “negro”. My mother was “african-american”. And I’m “black” or just plain “american” Its interesting what time does to people.
My grandmother has lost a host of children. First Barbara..which was my grandmother. Aunt Minnie, my favorite. Uncle John Henry, he used to scare me and he was always drunk. Uncle Robert Lee, that death hit me in a place that left me even without tears. I’m not sure if there are more.
I’m often scared that if my grandmother dies we will lose a whole world of history. I think her memories even go back to picking cotton in Mississippi. Her memories go back to “whites only and colored”. She’s so old that she doesn’t know what cell phones, digitial cameras, and video camera are. I wonder if she’s ever travelled outside the United States. Did she ever go to Europe? I wonder if she was ever a flirt? Who was her first kiss? Was she a geek, a tomboy, or a tease? Did she like oatmeal or grits? Orange juice or apple juice?
She has two other sisters that I know about. Rosa and Josephine. What wonderful names to have growing up. Veola. Rosa. Josephine.
These days the names are Jawakatema. Bonquesha. Shabarie. Tequila. Mercedes. and Denim.
In 1940 she was fifteen.
In 1945 she was twenty.
When did prohabition start and end. How old was she? How many wars has she lived through? How many presidents? How many men did she love?
I’m writing all these because my mother called to say that great grandma was diagnosed with dementia and amnesia and that really scares the hell out of me.
· Deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. It is sometimes accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.
· Madness; insanity.
Partial or total loss of memory, usually resulting from shock, psychological disturbance, brain injury, or illness.