I arrived at the house: Woodlands. The soothing smell of the woods seemed to seep through my nostrils; the air seemed to permeate through my pores. The familiar descent of the driveway, we were greeted by numerous cars parked there. There was a gathering. Mom's hug and kiss. Tami gave me a hug, I arrived just as she was ready to leave. Inside I met Aunt Genia, Uncle Kip, Uncle Harry, Mom, Genia, Henry and Elsa playing in the living room, hugs all around. And there sat Grammy, in her spot on the couch in the living room. I greeted her frail presence with a kiss. A space was cleared for me to sit next to her. She held my hand for a long time. Her breath was short, her speech was slurred, but she was as dignified and peaceful as ever.
Over the course of the evening: we ate, we laughed, we talked, we were with one another, and it was wonderful.
It became late, time for her to go to bed. She had a slight black out due to cardiovascular weakness, and shortness of breath. Uncle Harry and Aunt Genia revived her, and so as is her usual routine she put cold cream and Vaseline on her face, brushed her teeth, put her pjs on, and lied down in bed. When it came my turn to say good-night, we gazed into each others eyes, hers looked brighter than usual, less blue, more hazel; the gazed lasted some time. Words were exchanged: "I love you." This phrase she always felt was unnecessary. It was a given, always; but she said those words to me tonight, and I said them to her. Those words were enough. No need to say the usual, "Sleep well;" or "See you tomorrow." Those words said it all. May you rest, beloved grandmother.
It was so wonderful to see all the beautiful contributions to the album of memories shared by family and friends of Gene Morse on her 90th birthday. For posterity's sake, here's mine:
90 years full of grace!
As I have recalled the many memories of experiences I have shared with you, directly and indirectly, one common aspect of these memories is constancy. You have been a rock, a constant hope in both troubled and calm waters. This constancy makes it easy to recall significant repeated events which often get blurred together over the passing years. At Christmas dinners, when did I switch from one table to the others, the dinning room, the kitchen, the television/ book room. Was it a Christmas dinner, or a birthday celebration, or the viewing of slides from a recent trip, or a Thanksgiving gathering when a 50 year old uncle wrestled his teen-aged nephew to the floor? There was always good food, biscuits, gravy, vegetables and meats; and dogs made good companions and plate cleaners.
The lights of the tree, the gifts under it, and the chirping artificial bird. The chirping canaries, that would accompany many breakfast mornings on various occasions; breakfasts consisting of grapefruit, Melba toast, eggs, and morning prayer, "Lord Jesus be our Holy Guest, Our morning joy our evening rest, and with Thy daily bread impart Thy love and peace to every heart. Amen." Then I would try and kicking the legs of a cousin or sister on the opposite side of the table, sometimes I kicked your crossed legs by accident, and received a threatening yet playful look.
The house was fascinating in and of itself for a young boy. It was always such a privilege to stay in Uncle Harry's old room, especially knowing that it was where he once lived, and where Granddaddy would perch to shoot creatures in the woods. The laundry shoot was clearly for more than just dropping clothes in my mind; where many things lost there? On occasion I remember cold showers upstairs, about which I would never complain. The grandfather clock, the pictures on the walls, lighted fires; your room with young handsome pictures on display of cherished people, Granddaddy's desk and your "vanity desk"; the basement - dark and musty, full of mystery and many things I preferred to leave unexplored. Nearly equally as daunting was the refrigerator, navigating through mysterious Tupperware and other containers. And, of course, Braves games on the couch, if a space could be found among the adorning books and magazines.
The outdoors: the beach and the woods. Meaningful and magical memories. Most recently, walks with you around the driveway, you were never stumped when asked to identify a plant, tree, or shrub. Living in Woodlands those seminary years was a gift from God (quite often we wish we were still there). At the beach, venturing into the high waters of the ocean, with your swim cap on tightly, as we held your arms to keep you from going under. From earlier times: big wheels racing as fast as they could, mushrooms emerging as wonderful shapes until my sister would stomp them into pieces...did we ever eat any of those? And at the beach, freedom to run and play and wander, always welcome tables and your smile.
There is the constancy of your presence in church, front and center, always saving a seat, or patiently waiting for me or other family or friends to sit by your side. Standing to sing hymns—Granddaddy singing loudly off-key, but no one seemed to mind. Notes scribbled on bulletins, and lunches afterwards: Agnes Scott Cafeteria, Morrison's, Pick-a-dilly, occasionally Chinese; anyone was welcome to join us. When I drove you to church, you insisted that I cut through the bank from Clairemont to Church St. to by pass Commerce and the Methodist who would "invariably" be stopped by the light and in the right hand lane. We weren't late...often.
I never recall a harsh word spoken, discipline and reward were done with kindness and grace. Your constancy is your own security, your own sense of self; your love for life and for others, and for your God. You have taught me the faith, as well as given me deeper understanding of life's meaning.
This short recollection of memories only begins to recount all of the many gifts you have been given, and have given so many others and me. I am proud my daughter bears your name (which you gave her permission to change in a note you wrote to her when she was born).
With constant love, I am your grandson,
Chester Craig Topple