Exist Loudly

Unpaved Roads: An Ode to Ruth

I found the beginnings of this post from November 2014 and recently saw something on Pinterest (it really is the devil ya’ll) that read “most of my favorite memories come from some old dirt road” and I knew when I read the below, it was time to finish the post.

From Nov 2014: Last Sunday, I had lunch with my dad, Rickey, and my aunt (his sister) who everyone calls Sister. Sister takes care of my grandma (their mom), Ruth, who has Alzheimers. To be honest, I avoid going to visit my aunt because I have this memory of my grandma that I don’t want to taint. I always want to remember her as this sassy, former snuff dipping, smart ass, take no shit woman. (For those who know me, yep, she definitely influenced who I have become.) I sat with my grandma for a bit, just staring at her and talking to her. She’s a shell of what she use to be. As my aunt fed her, I saw that sassy, former snuff dipping, smart ass, take no shit woman shine through.
Not in words, because she hasn’t spoken in ages.
Not in action, because she hasn’t moved in ages. I saw it in her eyes.
That spirit.
That fight.
That fuck you, I’m gonna do what I want and you can kiss my grits if you don’t like it mentality.

Back to 2016: I always have and will look up to my grandma. She was a spitfire in a day and age where you weren’t suppose to be a spitfire. My grandpa who was a sailor (Navy man) was a church going fellow. He didn’t have the mouth of a sailor. I remember only hearing him say damn ass once in my entire life. That’s the only time I heard him cuss. My grandma was the one with the sailor mouth. I briefly remember her smoking (or at least I think I remember), but I know for a fact she dipped Rose’s snuff with the green label. I remember on Friday’s when we’d all gather at my grandparents for dinner (their 6 kids and spouses and the 10 grandkids) and after dinner the home movies would roll out. I love the sound an old movie projector would make when it started and the fwap fwap of the film coming off the reel at the end. I’m transported back to my grandparents living room with a TV that weighed a shit ton and the brown carpet with squares that had orange and green lines it. (I won’t lie, I remember being slightly sad when they got new carpeting. It meant I couldn’t lay on the floor and trace imaginary worlds into the orange and green lines, but once I laid on the new carpeting and felt the softness of it against my legs, I forgot about that “old ugly carpet”.) I would watch her move across the projector screen in awe. She was on the back of a motorcycle. She riding on a bicycle with her arms and legs thrown out to the world. She was shaking her tushy like no one else, hanging from a tree limb, or being silly in the yard with one of the kids. She wasn’t grandma like at all but she was my grandma and her on celluloid made me want to be that adventurous fun loving spirit I watched dance across the screen.

She was caught on film.

One didn’t get to take a photo or video of Ruth. If you did, it was normally her with a hand in front of her face or her making a goofy face. (I think I channel that same energy when I am in pictures/video.)

She was strong, brassy, honest, and said whatever crossed her mind. No apologies if she offended you or upset you. I only saw her cry once and I remember the day vividly because I learned what it felt like to hate someone that made my grandma cry like that and feeling so heartbroken that I couldn’t fix her tears. Mostly though, her tears were tears of laughter. My god that woman was funny as hell. I still quote the rhymes she use to say to us as kids. My favorite was “I don’t know but I’ve been told a green grasshopper has a red asshole.”

me with my grandma in November 2015

me with my grandma in November 2015

I would giggle uncontrollable because she said a “bad” word. I still smile at it because anytime I say “I don’t know”, that rhyme whirls around my head. My grandparents had an upholstery shop and we grandkids would play in the endless piles of fabric and upholstery tools and I remember once a sewing machine driving a needle through her thumb. She threw a few cuss words out and I saw a tear. One single tear of pain slid down her cheek before my grandpa snatched the sewing needle out of her thumb with a pair of pliers. She bandaged herself up and went back to work. Maybe that’s where I get my pain threshold or maybe that’s where it’s inspired from. I have memories of sitting on the swing with her watching people leave the church across from their driveway. It was an African American church and we would sit and listen to them sing hymns because she didn’t go to church on Sundays with my grandpa and once I was old enough to fight not going, I stopped as well. She would always use politically incorrect words and I would cringe at her word choice but her words never came from a place of hate. They always came from her heart and her heart was filled with abundance, joy, and glory. Her heart was also filled with sassy and smart assy.

I’m reminded of lyrics from Brooks n’ Dunn’s song “Red Dirt Road” … “I learned the path to heaven is full of sinners and believers. Learned that happiness on earth aint just for high achievers. I’ve learned I’ve come to know there’s life at both ends of that red dirt road…”

I don’t remember why I started this post in 2014. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic. I know why I’m finishing it in 2016 though…

In the last 7 months, I’ve been chasing “The Aussie Dream” but I couldn’t have done it without a spitfire of woman in my life like my grandma, Ruth, or my mom, Lek. There are no paved paths in my life. All my roads have been unpaved and I’ve hopefully paved them along the way in case anyone wanted to follow, but I’ve had champions all my life who have inspired me to not be “THAT GIRL” who just succumbs to society’s current description of what a girl should be. They taught me to fight, believe, be strong, do what the fuck I want and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my ass (or grits if you remember the show Alice).

So thank you grandma and mom for being bad asses and showing me how to be one too.

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