My great grandmother's 101st birthday is next week. 101 years is a really long time for anyone to be alive... I mean, really. Especially these days! I mean, back in the day people lived to be nearly 1000, but nowadays it just doesn't go like that... its just not the same world, but I digress.
My great grandmother, Honey, as I've always called her, has lived an extraordinarily long time. She's seen and done some awesome things in her time, some of which I'm sure none of us will ever know about. I'm pretty certain that over the course of an entire century you can get yourself into all sorts of fun trouble, and I sincerely hope that she did. Her actual name is Pearl, but my great grandfather called her "honey" as a term of endearment, and it stuck with the grandkids, so my mom and her brothers, and all of their kids, have always just called her that. I'd like to think its really a pretty fitting name, as she's a sweet old gal.
A few years ago we went to see her at her little house, a cute place on a shady street in a small Arkansas farming town... she sat us down in her den, the room I remembered as my great grandfather's, where pipe smoke lingered and fun little wooden peg-toys were tucked away for great grandkids such as myself... we sat with her and looked at pictures, and for the first time I saw her as she was at my age. Pictures of her, rather plain looking and small, so deeply in love with my great grandfather... pictures of her as a young mother, looking as scared yet strong as we all tend to look at that point... I was amazed.
I saw where her sauciness originated, where all of the ladies in my family have gotten it from... this is a woman who truly knew herself. I've never in my life heard of a woman like my Honey. She's been an avid garage saler since I've been around, and has always attended church on Sunday. She killed a snake at the age of 99 in the assisted living facility she lived in, by simply stepping on it. She's broken her hip more times than I can keep up with by doing things women in their late 90's should most definitely not be doing... washing windows, salsa dancing, chasing lawn boys... ok, I don't know for sure about the last two, but knowing her its entirely possible. She's never been afraid to live her life, and frankly, she's done it well for a very long time.
When I got pregnant we fought with names for quite a while... if we had a boy, we were planning on the name Avery Lee, a family name... combining both sides, but we couldn't think of a girl's name to save our lives. It was on a trip to see my great grandmother, the trip that we made specifically to tell her that we were pregnant (we were nervous as hell and couldn't seem to make that phone call) that we decided on a girl name... again combining both family names. Our daughter's middle name is Pearl. Since Bean-girl goes by both her first and middle name (think Southern and say it fast: like "Peggy Sue" or "Hannah Jo") we say and hear that name often. For the rest of her days, our daughter will carry her great-great grandmother with her, and that makes me so happy.
Honey died this afternoon, one week before her 101st birthday. This time last year I had a newborn but that didn't stop us from traveling across the state to see her for her 100th birthday bash. We took her a remote control car (for terrorizing the other assisted living facility residents) and some blackberry wine (like her daddy used to make) and a great great grand-baby that she enjoyed immensely, dare I say more than the car, wine, and birthday party. The sparkle in her eye when she held her is enough to bring tears to mine as I write this... I know I'll always remember it, and I hope Bean-girl will too. Rest in peace, honey... we miss you already.