Thursday, June 12, 2014

For My Granny

A year ago today, on a hot, humid mountain day, we laid to rest my maternal grandmother.

I've thought a lot about her and that day today. Last summer I missed the first day of Kentucky Reading Project due to her burial.  KRP required me to write a final paper at the end of class.  To honor my grandmother, I'd like to share the introduction and conclusion from that paper.

For me, Kentucky Reading Project started long before June 12, 2013.

It began in a small Harlan County, Kentucky hospital room on September 7.  It was there my parents welcomed me and had plans that included a life that would be different than their own.
They were supported in this endeavor by their surrounding family.  From an early age, I was sang to, talked to, and, most importantly, read to.  Though both my parents had only a high school education, though my grandmother across the road had only an eighth grade education, they knew the importance of words.  Thus, they made sure to enrich my life with words-nursery rhymes, books on cassettes (when I was two I had multiple books memorized and would “read” them without the cassette to the elementary aged children in my neighborhood, who sincerely thought I was a child prodigy), Bible stories, fairy tales.  They taught me songs, words that rhyme.  And they demonstrated the utter magnitude of words-they had the power to make one laugh, cry, or soothe.  And as I still love words to this day, and want others to find them just as endearing.
But I’ve learned cycles are not just in reading instruction.  Over a long period of time, my grandmother (the one who sang, played hand rhymes and read fairy tales to me) developed dementia.  It was a difficult few years, but even in the midst of her failing memory and ceasing mobility, I knew we needed to keep her brain active as best we could.  So I did what I know-listened, questioned, and had dialogues with her.  When she could barely speak, I got picture books and read to her side by side. Her gnarled, stiff fingers always traced the pictures, so bright and vibrant.  And we would talk about those stories.  The experiences I had as a child helped tell me what to do-I would talk, sing with her and go sit on the edge of her bed and speak to her when she could only blink and gurgle.  Upon leaving her house one time, I leaned over, kissed her and said, “”Bye, Granny! I love you!”  Her eyes met mine and she gurgled distinctly, “I love you, too.”  Those were the last words she spoke to me.  And those words, like the ones I heard when I was small, left a distinct impression on me.  In the ensuing two years until her death, I clung to those words.  And since her death, I treasure them all the more.
I will forever associate my granny with Kentucky Reading Project as she was one of the people instrumental in helping me learn to love reading.  We also buried her on the first day of class.  She would have pitched a fit if she knew I missed the first day due to her burial-she was so proud education is my profession.  She used to tell me that she wanted me to go and “learn ’em good”. 
And now, thanks to Kentucky Reading Project, I surely can. 

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