Dear Will and Owen,
This is a story. It’s like one that many people have told me, but you have not heard it much. Yet. But as you become an adult and get older, you will begin to understand it. It is a bit of family history with a lesson. Right now, I need to reflect on it and memorialize it for my own reference down the road. Years from now, maybe you will find it helpful to reflect back on it as well.
My mom, Carol – your great-grandmother you call Mamaw – grew up on a farm in Crystal Springs. She worked hard and had fun with friends in school and in extracurricular activities. She married my dad, who also grew up in Crystal Springs, after he got back from two years in the Navy. They went to college and later moved with his job to Atlanta, where I was born soon after they arrived. Shortly after I was born in 1953, they moved “back home” to Jackson where they lived together until he died in 1989. My dad had bought his parents’ farm before he died and my grandmother and granddaddy Courtney lived there until they passed away.
Just over a year after my dad died, Mamaw married Papa Wallace who was a long-time church friend. In 1995 they built a new house on the Courtney farm that Mom inherited when my dad died, and they moved down there to live. They had a wonderful second marriage (his first wife had also died of cancer years earlier). They traveled and enjoyed their families and lives together until Papa Wallace passed away in 2013. Mom stayed on the farm after he was gone, taking care of the house they built together, the yard, the bills, the taxes, the pasture rental, everything. And she missed him greatly.
In October 2018, Mamaw told your Gram that she was tired of being lonely living down on the farm alone, and that she was ready to move. The caretaking of the farm was stressful. It had become harder for her to navigate to any unfamiliar places, even though she could get to the grocery store, doctor’s office, stores and other places in Crystal Springs. She was still driving up to church in South Jackson every week, but it seemed that was becoming a bit more unnerving for her on the highway. When she made the decision to move, she expressed relief in even selling her car. (Note: Giving up your car is often the LAST thing most older folk will volunteer to do.)
Gram took her to see four independent living and assisted living places near us in Madison. Mom chose one that seemed more “homey” to her and now lives there in a personal care suite. She enjoys the social interaction with the other ladies on her wing and the numerous activities that go on during the week. We go by and pick her up for church every Sunday and take her out for shopping (that would be Gram, not me – Gram is the perfect daughter-in-law) and other things. She says she no longer has the headaches she used to have, and she attributes that to not feeling the stress of taking care of a big house and 50 acres by herself. She is eating more, and more regularly, and getting her medicines at the right times every day. We feel much better about that.
Soon after Mom moved in to her new place, we received an offer to buy the farm. As I write this in early April, the closing of the sale at the attorney’s office took place last week. Mom has not been back there but a couple times since she moved in early January. I can tell from some of her comments that she misses the farm – but not so much the farm as the home she had with Papa Wallace for 23 years. That place is full of memories. Family gatherings. Dinners with friends. Holiday celebrations for her extended family. Intimate times with her husband. The feeling of having roots and security in a place shared by her loving, supportive soul-mate. Moving away from that place must be hard. But she has always been a pragmatist, and Mom told me recently that “things change and we have to be able to change with them.” Her memory is slipping rapidly, but she tells us whenever she sees us how much she enjoys and appreciates the things we can now do with her.
Yes, Mamaw has moved, and she is doing her best to move on – into a new and different phase of what has been her full, memorable life as a Crystal Springs “country girl.” We will watch, give her some space to be who she is, and help where we can. Meanwhile, enjoy your memories of the Easter egg hunts, Christmas Eve celebrations and all the other good times at the farm. And keep moving on to the next best thing.