Did you know that my first name isn’t Claire?
I was born on February 10, fifty-six years after my grandmother. My parents decided to put her name on my birth certificate, and in that, we shared two things: a birthday and a first name.
As I grew into a young girl, I couldn’t wait to spend time with the older Beverly. My Bebe. Her house was the one where we could play Hungry, Hungry, Hippos. Her house had the huge mirror in the back, where we could watch ourselves dance. The bedroom I slept in at Bebe’s house had a Popeye the Sailor Man lamp. The yard was lined with trees. Small ones I could climb in. And for many years, there was a stump in the back yard we could jump on and off. Once, my cousin William did a back-flip off that stump.
There was a garage behind her house I never went in.
But when I spent good time with Bebe, it wasn’t in her home town, Augusta. It was in St. Simons Island. At Christmas, she was always the same. So warm and welcoming and big-arms around you loving you. I remember she’d bring out crackers and cheese. She’d offer a tin of cheese sticks and her famous, homemade fudge.
And she was always so generous.
She was the grandmother that bought me treats in the grocery store. The one that stuffed envelopes with surprises. She helped me buy my very first laptop. She wrote me letters and always encouraged me to write down my stories. She clipped out newspaper stories she thought would interest me, and sent them to me in the mail.
In a word, she was wonderful.
A few years ago, she moved to St. Simons. Her mind was still sharp as a whip, but her body began moving more and more slowly. And then, last week, she took a hard fall that sent her to the hospital. But she’d been to the hospital after a fall. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary.
But two days in the hospital seemed unusual.
And four days was unprecedented.
And pneumonia wasn’t part of the plan.
And then, it was over.
February 10, 1931 – July 10, 2013