Good Grief, Grandma!

by Jennifer Greene-Sullivan

Ms. Wanda and Lee Lee play outside,

Grief never does run straight. There are days that go by that I don’t cry, yet there are some days where I cannot stop my tears. December 10, 2016, Carolyn Stokes Greene, my paternal grandmother died. For years, I had dreaded that date.

When I was a teenager, I often dreamed that Grandma had stopped breathing while snoring one night, and when I was pregnant with my first child, I had a nightmare where I was in her yard when the ambulance came to take her or my grandfather to the hospital. I awoke from each of those dreams, crying from the pain of losing her, and I would call her. She would say, “Love, we are right here. When are you coming home? I’ve got a few things I bought for you that I want you to try on for me.”

In 2010, I had a dream where my maternal grandfather visited me. In this dream, he told me that my entire life would change and never be the same after December 10. In my dream, we were sitting in the home that he and my maternal grandmother lived in when he passed away.

I only dream of my papa (grandfather) when he has something life altering to say. Needless to say, after that “word” I was paranoid for a couple of years, yet I couldn’t possibly imagine that 2016–all that I’ve known ended. My dad died the week before my grandmother, and my uncle sold our childhood home and property regardless of how hard my brothers and I tried to purchase it.

I was so devastated about these loses that I went to find answers–any way I could. I sought a closer relationship with my Savior and my Creator as well as a “word” with my grandmother. I saved every voicemail she ever left me, and I took all her receipe books home with me just to see her notes, scribbled in the margins.

Now that I have time to reflect on the last five years without her, she still has a way of getting her point across to me even from Heaven. Obviously, my new children’s book is her latest message to me. I could just hear her say to me, “Now, Love, I had to help Joshua with the illustrations.”

Ms. Wanda always looks out for her children!

How would Carolyn Greene do that? Well, let me explain. There are images inside Joshua’s work on this book that are clearly influenced by her. My grandmother was beautifully dark complected. She was the quintessential Southern lady. She always was impeccably dressed with necklaces and earbobs to match.

She always wore costume jewlery on her wrists, ears, and neck with each outfit, and her makeup was flawless regardless of where she was going. Her staples were deep pink lipstick and nail polish. She had perfectly manicured naturally long nails, and her hair was always stylish. In her younger years, she was considered buxom and very attractive. Amazingly, I cried when I saw her hands, perfectly drawn in Joshua’s illustrations.

A Little Serendipity in the Form of Grandma’s Hands

I began the tearfest with noticing her hands in illustrated form, but I really lost control when I saw her house. The fourteenth illustration was Joshua’s rendition of Ms. Wanda, the sitter’s daycare.

Have mercy! It’s my grandmother’s house down to the pink azalea’s, the door, the window, and the old bricks.

The illustration was of Ms. Wanda, Lee Lee, and the children, waving hello at the person who arrived to pick Lee Lee up for the day. It’s such a lovely illustration. What Joshua had no clue about was that Ms. Wanda’s daycare is my grandmother’s house. The house that built me.

Joshua and I did not plan this at all. He sponteanously incorporated so much of my childhood into this book without even knowing. I will ALWAYS look at this illustrated page with love for the bricks, the pink azaleas, the door, the window, and the nostalgia. Thank you, Joshua, for bringing so much happiness to me and to my future readers.

Most importanly, to my grandmother Carolyn Greene, “Good Grief, Grandma, you’ve out done yourself this time!” I see you. I love you.

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I am an English teacher, mother, and wife, but I love to write. I feel that I am blessed to be able to use my talent to write about my children's books, poems, short fiction, and parenting. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about my experiences with beginning a writing career while focusing on my children and my job. I look forward to comments and to hear from my readers!

3 thoughts on “Good Grief, Grandma!”

  1. Lovely what we remember of our grandmothers! My ‘Nana’ also had painted nails, perfectly coiffed hair, and a little smile that I imagine will be part of me forever…. Thanks for writing a book about the special relationship we girls have with our grandmothers! Xo


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