Friday, May 7, 2010

A "Grand" Mother's Day Story: A Tribute To "Sparky" Carmella

This is a story about a woman I really didn't know. When she was with us I was still a child living in my own little world, so focused on my activities and my problems. These things were paramount in my life. I wish I would have been a little older because I missed the opportunity to cultivate a friendship with my grandmother on my mother's side, Camella, AKA "Sparky"...

She was a renaissance woman at a time when they were scarce. She worked hard to better herself. She went to college for bookkeeping, stenography, and teletype operating because she believed that everyone should be able to make an honest living for themselves. On top of that, she was able to take care of the household chores with some help from her daughter. But it was the love for her family that was the foundation of her life. Even when she lost her first husband - my biological grandfather - in a car accident, her faith and love of her family never faltered. So when I decided to write about my grandmother, I went right to the people that knew her best: Her husband (and the man I've know all my life as "Grandpa") and her daughter:

"Your grandmother loved you. She wanted the best for you. She was always so proud of you and always looked forward to your visits. Whether they were for moments or for hours they were her favorite things. She shared your life story with others because you were so precious to her." ~ Grandpa

"Your grandma was there for our family from day one. She came to visit you every weekend you were in the hospital as a baby. She visited every week to help me prepare medicine and learn how to do your bronchial drainage therapies. She always got you socks and underwear for Christmas in addition to a "cool" gift, she always read to you, and she was always there to listen. She was my mother and I modeled my nurturing after her." ~ Mom

The more I heard about her, the more I remembered her passion. She was so sweet and caring. Whenever she saw me, she made a mad dash in my direction just so she could give me a big hug and pinch my cheeks until they turned bright red. Grandma could cuss a blue streak if something irked her right way. I rarely heard it myself, but the stories of it are legendary. I'd like to think this is where my fondness for cursing came from, but I could just be a potty mouth at heart. She would take me out for my birthday to Old Country Buffet, where I could stuff my face while we talked about life. There was no dumbing down of topics, just a filter on the number of them. It's something I always tried to emulate when I speak to children. Grandma knew that honesty always worked, no matter what age you were.

The best example of this was our final conversation. It was, to put it lightly, intense. We came over to visit so my mother could help straighten up her house. Grandma lacked the strength to do this on her own because she was nearing the end of her fight with leukemia. When Grandma called me downstairs for a chat I took notice of her weakened state. Her body looked frail and her hair was spotty, but her soul burned strongly behind her bright blue eyes. She told me in no uncertain terms that her life was ending. She would not be here to comfort my mother while her granddaughter was dying. That would be my job.

"It's up to you to be the man of the house and take care of your mother. She needs you and you need her. Your sister needs you too, Joshua. Promise me you'll take care of things when I am gone?" she said.

Even though I was fourteen and I didn't fully understand what was happening, I accepted the responsibility. This was a serious request. She was asking me to make a transition. A transition from being her grandson to her friend. Growing from a boy to a young man. Whether I wanted to or not, I needed to do this for her. I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her, then I headed upstairs so she and my sister could speak alone. I don't know what was said between the two of them, but I know from Angie's own words that she and Grandma had bonded because of their impending futures. They both passed away within days of each other only a few months later.

Grandma...I hope I've lived up to my promise. I love you and I miss you. I wish I could have grown as close to you as I have your husband and my other grandmother. How special it would have been to really get to know you in my adult years. I think of you often when I look at my wife. She's got bits of all the strong women I grew up with mixed with her own marvelous personality. I think you'd dig her. And, of course, I see you in my mother - eccentricities and all, which is a good thing.

To all of the mothers, "mother-like" figures, and children out there reading this: Be thankful for the time you spend together. It can never be replaced.

P.S. - Check out my Mother's Day post from last year. :-)

Peaceful and Happy Mother's Day Things,



  1. Love it. Love her. Love you.

    Mom xoxox

  2. How Beautiful... brought tears to my eyes...

  3. Josh, this brought back wonderful memories of your Grandma Miller. She and your grandpa George were ALWAYS there for the birthday parties and important occasions while you and Angie were growing up. You captured her personality and essence beautifully! Thanks for transporting me back in time to "be with her" again. It was a real treat! Love, UB

  4. Wow, Josh. You got me. You really got me. Thanks for opening yourself up like that and sharing.


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