When I asked Steve Burnett if I could do a tribute to my Granny on Speculative Faith, he thought it was a wonderful idea. I thought it was, too. Until the actual writing of this post came to me.
How can mere words describe my old lady? She is a complex organism of light and dark; cookies and collard greens; bleach and mothballs; hair-braiding and gardening; old books and typewriters, joy and sorrow; comedy and tragedy; practicality and wild abandon.
She is Granny, the sower of imagination. There is no memory, distant or recent, where she is not there.
She’s at a nursing home now. On Sunday, December 20th, the family will celebrate her 90th birthday. Tuesday, during my usual Zoom call with her, I told her about this post. Today, I’ll read this to her so she knows how I feel about her. 1
“I know that you love me because you’ve shown me. Love is not words, but actions.”
This is true. Yet, words are what she gave me. Granny taught us to read and write when we were young. It is with words that I will attempt to share her with you.
So, I’ll start with this: whenever I think of Granny, I think of monsters.
Lots of monsters. Black and white monsters, monsters in color, some with tentacles, others with glowing eyes. Giant monsters. Tiny monsters. Those bearing human skin, and others adorned in gray flesh. No matter what, it is Granny who gave me my love for monsters.
People who follow me on Facebook notice my sisters and I have an unhealthy obsession with the Alien and Predator movie franchises. Granny likes them, too. At the risk of sounding cliché, there’s always a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever we watch them.
When it comes to demonic or spirit movies, I’m less likely to watch them. I remember screaming behind the blanket watching Poltergeist and The Exorcist. Granny never blinked. I can’t remember her having a reaction to them. Then again, her real-life stories of things she’s seen would rip the skin off your body. Hollywood horror ain’t got nothing on Granny.
There are vague memories of my mom arguing with Granny. “Mama, stop watching them scary movies with the kids!”
Granny shrugged it off. She’s always been a law unto herself.
She also gave us our love for sci fi. Together, we watched Star Trek and follow the exploits of Captain Kirk and his crew. We devoured black and white sci-fi movies such as Them, The Mole People, The Monolith Monster, The Terror from Beyond Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Crack in the World, Godzilla, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and many more.
Growing up, we always sat on Granny’s couch in her room. Underneath the cushions, she’d place the books she was currently reading there. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Sandford are some of the more vivid ones I remember.
The book Granny and I really connected over a horror novel called Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. She and I talked about it for a long time, reminiscing about certain scenes and the like.
Little wonder the first book I ever published was a horror/thriller novel. I won’t mention the name because I cringe. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since then. Granny was the first to buy it. I offered to give her a copy, but she refused . She looked at me and said, “You get your money from these people. You worked hard for it.”
I think one of the reasons why Granny had no fear of the horror flicks of my childhood was because it wasn’t the monsters of the screen that frightened her. Nor was it the demons, ghosts, and goblins. Not the serial killers or the alien abductions.
I believe her real-life nightmare was the fear that she would be forgotten. When my sisters and I moved into our apartment, Granny thought we would leave her behind. That we would never come see her again or something insane like that.
Years later, as we look forward to celebrating her 90th birthday, being forgotten is the last thing that will ever happen for her.
But her one constant is this: even if her worst nightmare happened – that her grandchildren would forget her – she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus never will. When we were younger, I remember her singing an old hymn called “Never Alone”. The lyrics read:
No, never alone,
No, never alone;
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.
Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that the same song is one of my favorites, too.
Along with her love for speculative fiction, she gave us a love for Jesus. Whenever she braided our hair, she’d have us recite scripture. The one we know by heart to this day is John 14. I can remember the hard plastic comb digging into my hair, Granny’s Vaseline laden finger soothing the sting as we recited, “Let not your heart be troubled…”
And if we got it wrong, whack with the comb on a tender scalp!
As I look over what I have written, these clumsy words really don’t capture all who Granny is. She had a hard life growing up, much of which shaped her personality.
Psalms 127:3-5 talks about the heritage of children. I joked with an author of friend of mine, “Granny gave us the legacy of horror. I feel as if I must pass that on to my children. I have to give them the nightmares I once had.”
She told me once she wanted to be a bookkeeper. Reading was her leisure, but numbers kept her active. That never happened for whatever reason. Yet, as I look back over my life, and what she has meant to me, had she been a bookkeeper, would she have been the sower of imagination? Would I be who I am now?
Who in your life, familial or not, has shaped you as a writer or reader? What memories of stories that connected you with others do you have?
- Too often, we wait until death to show our loved ones that we cared. I didn’t want to do that. There’s a song that says, “Give them their flowers while they’re living.” This is my flower to Granny. ↩