Yes, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since February 20, 1971 - but it’s still hard to believe that Granny Tyree (my father’s mother) has been gone for 50 years.
Oh, I shouldn’t have been caught off-guard. All the joys, sorrows, friendships, jobs, technological innovations and cultural upheavals of five decades leave this former 10-year-old with only hit-and-miss memories of Sarah Elizabeth Gipson Tyree (a.k.a. “Sallie Bet”).
Perhaps I’ll consult my older cousins when I write my memoir (“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tyree”), but right now I’m frustrated that I can’t remember (or worse, never appreciated) Granny’s favorite color, favorite food or the distinctive qualities of her voice.
So, I try to focus on the big picture of how she directly or indirectly (through Dad) shaped the person I am today.
Would I have such a thirst for knowledge if she hadn’t encouraged my father, my uncle and my aunts to get an education? What about if she hadn’t exhibited her love of books, magazines and newspapers? (My mother the workaholic confided that she used to hate visiting her in-laws and finding everyone sitting around - ugh! - READING.)
Would I be a newspaper columnist now if Granny hadn’t gotten me hooked on seeing my youthful witticisms in print by submitting them to the “It Happened Hereabouts” column in the “Nashville Tennessean” Sunday magazine?
Is it pure coincidence that I’m syndicated by Cagle Cartoons, or did Granny’s scrapbook of World War II editorial cartoons plant an idea?
Would I fight so hard to leave an “I was here!” message if not for the diaries Granny kept?
Didn’t my writing of an inspirational book owe a little something to Granny’s religious convictions, which still resonate in descendants undreamed of during her lifetime?
How did I learn to look for the silver linings in life? Perhaps it partly stems from the sense of humor Granny maintained as she faced the cancer that cut her life short just days before her 64th birthday. (I’m still haunted by memories of ultimately futile “cobalt treatments.” But at least Granny could get a chuckle from a hospital roommate who matter-of-factly informed a visitor, “I’ve done had my whole hysterectomy took out!”)
I like to think I’m “paying it forward” when I count to 10 and tolerate some inconvenience caused by my son. After all, Granny did try her best to catch my pet chameleon that ran onto a busy street, and she did dutifully walk visiting grandchildren to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but sometimes I dwell on the fact that every day someone else who knew Granny Tyree (or at least shared the planet with her) has passed away.
I know many of my readers are grandparents. If you’ve passed on wisdom, life skills and love, take a bow.
If you haven’t always been the most nurturing person, today is the first day of the rest of your life.
As for younger readers, if your grandparents are deceased, write down the good things you remember about them. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer-worthy - just heartfelt.
If you have living grandparents, the crossword puzzle can wait. Text, call or visit right now to let them know how much you cherish their impact on your life.
It may be the least regrettable thing you ever do.
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”