I’ve been thinking about my grandmother this week. Today, February 27, would have been her 112th birthday! She’s been gone over 30 years now, but she continues to have a great influence on my life; in fact, she once saved my life. Or maybe it was an angel.
We lived two doors down from her and I spent as much time at “Nana’s” house growing up as I did my own. She doted on me and my siblings. I could set up my electric train at her house, creating a railroad network than ran through all the back rooms and she never said a word. She took me on wonderful trips: a train trip to Washington, DC; a cross-country trip across the nation that took us through 17 states; and trips to Alaska and Hawaii. But she also expected the best from me. She was my private tutor; grooming me in public speaking, drilling me on English skills and she was constantly trying to improve my penmanship (a failed effort!). Nana rarely said no to me, but there was one occasion when she not only told me no, but said it loudly, emphatically, and unequivocally! And the odd thing was—it was over the seating arrangement at a Sunday lunch.
After church each Sunday my grandmother and a group of her little-old-lady friends were go out to eat lunch and I often went with them. There was a large group of ladies on this particular Sunday and we waited while they set up a big table in the very center of the restaurant. We didn’t pay much attention to it, but over the table was a huge, rectangular, heavy light fixture with inlaid florescent bulbs. It was almost as large as the big table where we ate.
I started to sit down when my grandmother said sternly, “You can’t sit there!” I didn’t understand. What difference would it make where I would sit?
“Why?” I asked.
Normally when I asked my grandmother a question she would take time to explain, but not this time. In fact, totally out of character for her, she almost bit my head off when she said sharply, “Because I said you can’t sit there! That’s why! The answer is NO! You sit over there and I don’t want to hear another word!” Then my grandmother proceeded to sit in the seat I wanted and sent me to the other side of the table!
Everyone looked at my grandmother with wonder. No one had ever seen her this way. I was almost in tears. The little ladies thought she might be having a “spell!”
I followed her command and soon everything settled down as we ordered our food and I listened to the ladies critique the sermon and the choir special of the morning. As we were eating our meal, I asked for a refill on my soft drink. I recall the waitress taking my glass and walking over to the serving counter. As she was pouring the drink, I watched as the glass overflowed, but the waitress was totally transfixed on something else. She was looking at the falling light fixture above our head.
Then came a loud noise and the huge, heavy light fixture crashed down on the ladies at the table. I heard screams. I could hear my grandmother pleading, “Get if off. Please get it off of me!” It took several men to lift the fixture off. An ambulance arrived and my grandmother was taken to the hospital. Three or four of the ladies were treated in the emergency room. There were no critical injuries. No broken bones. My grandmother was hurt more than anyone. She had a terrible bruise on her shoulder where the light fixture hit.
The doctor told her it would take several weeks for the swelling and soreness to go away. “I’m just thankful it was me,” she said. “What do you mean?” the doctor asked. “Ray wanted to sit in that chair, but for some reason I wouldn’t let him.”
“If that had been him, he may have been killed,” said the doctor.
I was thinking about Nana on her birthday, which was also my birthday. I might not have been here to celebrate and write this column if she had not made me sit on the other side of the table that day. Was it my grandmother? Was it an angel? She was always an angel to me! Happy Birthday Nana!