Early this week, we got the awful, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking news that our beloved “Nana” was in failing health and not likely to recover from a horrendous fall that she recently encountered. It was devastating news to my lovely wife, Leigh Ann, who is the oldest of Nana’s grand-children. It was devastating news to her daughter, Debra, and son, Michael, and her other granddaughter, Jaime, too. It was devastating news to her entire family, including us that got the privilege of knowing her in the later years.
Here’s Leigh Ann’s tribute, which was read at Nana’s funeral on Friday. I hope you take the time to read it. It doesn’t matter if you knew Nana or not. I am sure you have had “Nana’s” in your life, too, and you can relate.
Here’s Leigh Ann’s tribute:
LA’S TRIBUTE TO NANA
Just the other day, I went down to sit on the boat dock. Just wanted to watch the waves crash into the soil; the ole’ river roll along; and sun lose its’ arm wrestle with the moon.
How I wanted to just forget this awful week, and the loss of our most lovable grandmother Nana. And, at the very same time, I wanted to remember every single detail of her most amazing life and how she touched, molded, framed my life.
At times, I wanted to cry so hard it would make the river rise.
At times, I wanted to laugh out loud so hard it would make the turtles rise.
So, I did both. At the same time. And, I didn’t care who saw or heard.
As I sat there and wondered about both life and death, for some reason I glanced down and saw the big scar that resides on my knee. It has been my constant companion since I was about Maggie’s age. And, for just a few minutes, I allowed both the memories and the tears to flood my mind; my soul; my eyes. And, I knew right then and there how much my Nana meant to me. And, I knew right then and there how much my Nana would always be with me.
You see, when I was just a young girl – yeah, about the same age of Maggie is now – I spent a lot of my days and nights with Nana. Some how, some way, we just gravitated to each other. Some how, some way, we just found each other. Over the period of a few weeks, I spent more and more time with Nana. After all, it was about the time that every little tyke was turning in their little tyke tricycle and graduating to a bicycle. And, Nana seemed to be the chosen one to teach me how to ride on a wobbly two wheels rather than three.
It didn’t take her long to teach me how to balance; how to pedal; how to stop; and how to ride. I had a great teacher. I am sorry for that lovely bush that I mowed down several times in her neighbor’s yard. Collateral damage. But, other than that, I was a quick study. Or, so I thought.
One day, I asked Nana if I could ride over the hill, and, of course, out of sight. All by myself. Mrs. Barbara Brown, on the other hand, didn’t think that was such a great idea. But after a couple of hours of intense negotiations, we had brokered a deal.
I could ride my bike – all by my lonesome – over the hill, as long as Nana could follow along in her car and keep a close watch on her oldest granddaughter.
Seemed like a good compromise. Seemed like a good idea. And, off we went. Little girl on her bike. Nana in her car. We sailed along.
Until I found out that going down a hill on the other side went a lot faster than I thought; anticipated; expected; or could handle.
The bike went one way. I went another. And, Nana went into high gear.
As the blood gushed from my scraped and scratched knee, that looked like it had encountered a bobcat of asphalt, Nana scooped me up; plopped me in the backseat and headed home for some emergency care.
We ran to the bathroom and I took my seat on the toilet as Nana grabbed the gauze and frantically searched for the peroxide to douse the wound and disinfect the injured kneed. In her haste, she grabbed a bottle and began to pour the liquid liberally over my leg.
Much to Nana’s surprise, though, it was not peroxide. It was Listerine Mouth Wash. Fireball for the tonsils. Paint thinner for the breath. And, nitro glisten to a young girl’s raw leg.
At that moment in time, Graves County got its’ first public warning system. Courtesy of one Leigh Ann Sears. I screamed like a siren in the night that clearly could and would wake the masses – even those that had gone to sleep about 100 years before.
Nana – who truly loved me like Peter loved the Lord – looked at the bottle and the mistake, and began to cry right along with me. She grabbed a towel and wipe the hot sauce from my leg and began to dab my injury with love and hugs. Over and over and over and over. There was no doubt that I quit crying before Nana did. No doubt.
The scar on my knee stuck around. Still there today. The story managed to stick around, too. Nana didn’t like us telling it, much. But when we started laughing, she would giggle a bit, too. “Oh, Leigh Ann, don’t tell that story,” she would say. We would tell it any way.
Through the years, we had many stories. The theme would always change. The message was always the same. Nana gave us everything she had, and more, just to make us happy; just to make us laugh; just to make us memories that would last. A lifetime. Forever.
Often times, we would take off on trips. Oh, the places we would go. Nana taught me at a young age what it was like to see the world. We hiked, biked, explored every nook and cranny we could find. Because of her I have explored every inch of the Land Between the Lakes.
When I got old enough, Nana took me on her bus trips with her and her group of friends. I was 8, 9, 10 years old, and Nana would load me on the tour bus full of “older folks.” We would be gone for a month at a time. We went all over the country. North, South, East, West. We were the biggest tourists there were, and we didn’t care one bit. We didn’t miss a thing.
We also didn’t miss an indoor swimming pool. Nana and I had every “old folk” on the bus in the pool every night after a long day of sight seeing!
I remember one bus trip in particular. We travelled across the country to CA. It was my favorite. After 4 weeks on the road, and seeing everything between KY and the West Coast, I cried when we got close to home. I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
To this day, she teases me about a sparkly, denim jacket that I desperately wanted on the San Francisco pier. For some reason, and somehow, I got that jacket. Wonder how that happened?
And, oh, the singers and the music we would go to see and listen. Nana’s the reason I love old country music. We would spend a whole weekend at the Paducah Executive Inn together. Just the two of us at their telethon. 24 hours of old country music. They were raising money for charity. Nana was raising a child.
We would stay up all night listening to the acts. I can still see the Oak Ridge Boys and Statler Brothers on that stage. Then, there was “Fan Week” in Nashville. She took me every year so I could wait in line to get autographs in my little book. There is no telling how many times we stood in line to see Conway Twitty at “Twitty City. He was my favorite, so she always took me there first. She wanted to make sure I could shake his hand.
When my William – “Will” — came along she did her best to teach him the same things. Albeit a little slower. But with the same zest for life. With the same amount of love and giving.
One year, we went to Las Vegas. We pushed Nana in a wheel chair all over “The Strip.” I could write a book about that trip alone!!! Ha ha. But here’s a quick snapshot:
At one time, Will – always a tad big for his age — tried to ride her electric scooter — WITH HER. Well, that ended up about like my bike trip down the hill. They both ended up sideways on the Vegas strip!
Another time, my husband, Gene, and I wheeled her into Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to watch a baseball game. Nana was a die-hard Cards fan. We were Reds fans. One of my favorite memories of her and Will was at that game. I just loved watching them bicker about who was the best team. Both loved every minute of it.
And, then there were our famous card games. Oh, so many card games. She taught will to play Five Crowns before he could read. Both were so competitive … I always lost. Sometimes she won…. Most of the time Will won.
But Will would aggravate her the entire time. If she hesitated to play or discard, William would say: “Come on Banana” ( what he called her when he really wanted to aggravate her).
And, there was the food she would cook…. Nana has been stocking my fridge for as long as I can remember. It would take 3 college friends and their tiny dorm fridges to hold all the food she would bring us at Western Kentucky University. And, it didn’t stop there.
We had to buy a separate fridge at the Lake House just to hold everything she would bring when she came, and still, sometimes, we had to use our neighbor’s fridge, too.
We all had our favorite dishes that she would make. And she would bring ALL of them. Every single time! House tea and chicken salad will never be the same now that she’s gone.
In one of our last visits to see Nana, just two days before she passed, Nana apologized that she never got Gene’s 7-layered salad made before she got sick. She told me:
“I had all the ingredients in the fridge to make it for him but then I had to go to the hospital. I am so sorry I didn’t get it made for him.”
That was Nana….
My travel partner, my teacher (wish she had taught Will to ride a bike like she taught me! LOL).
My biggest fan, my heart. I hope she knows how much she will be missed.
She will always be with me. Always. All I have to do is glance down at my knee and remember her. When I was growing up, I always hated that scar. I thought it was ugly and people would notice. Today, I love that scar more than you will ever know. And, I love the one who took care of it even more.
Love you, Nana.
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