Driving through Tennessee and Kentucky a few days ago, I swear I could feel my Grandmother’s essence and I was moved to tears. I found myself wondering what her life was like as she traveled through this beautiful part of the country, singing from town to town.
Emmy Lou was an amazing woman who lived an incredible and very full life. Back in the day, she was a singer and guitar picker. She hosted her own radio show and toured quite a bit as well. There was a time where she filled in for “Daisey” Lange, one of the Coon Creek Girls who were a popular all-female “string band” in the Appalachian style of folk music down in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.
The story goes is that my grandmother turned down a serious offer to go to Hollywood to expand her career and instead, chose to stay home and raise her family.
The memories I have of my Grandmother when I was growing up are really vivid. I remember her always being exceptionally kind, extremely patient, wonderfully loving, and she always seemed to move thru her life with quiet strength and resolve.
As a kid, I spent most of my summers at her old house that sat directly on the Jetty property in Nokomis, Florida. 200 yards from the front porch was an old trolley car that had been transformed into a bait and tackle store. Grandma ran that store for years. It’s where the local fisherman would get their daily start of sunshine from her beautiful smile and joyful greeting. She made sure the vending machine was always stocked full of my favorite soda, Grape Nehi, and that a big-ole glass jar of Tom’s Beef Jerky was readily available for me to reach up and grab a piece from the counter.
The Jetty was my summer playground. It’s where my cousins and I would map out our daily adventures and then head off to explore in the Florida pines. Since we loved to fish, we would happily collect Pinfish and Grunt so my Dad or Uncle Joe could use them as bait for their Snook. There was always the daily ocean swim and HOURS of scanning the beach sand collecting shark’s teeth.
Dinner time was special. My favorite dish was definitely Grandma’s famous fried chicken. My most dreaded vegetables, brussel sprouts, and peas. The BEST memory was when after the dishes were all done, and the table cleared, Grandma would bring out her guitar and explore tunes where she would sing with my Mother and Aunt Sue. They had incredible instincts and finely tuned ears for 3-part harmony from the years of having sung together. I marveled at how they made it look and sound so easy and I was in total awe.
Every night, exhausted from the day’s activities, I would always fall asleep quickly and with the sound of the ocean still in my ears. Every morning, I would wake up to the screech of excited seagulls and the smell of bacon.
The memories continued as Grandma said goodbye to her Jetty home and she moved inland with her 5th husband, Paul. She saw me sing at my very first recital when I was around 12 and made sure to sit right up front, so she would not miss a single thing. I took a snapshot in my mind’s eye of that exact moment when I saw her beaming at me with pride as I walked up to the mic, terrified. I’ve held that image of her safe in my memory all these years and I pull it out to look at it every once in a while when I need strength or I’m scared.
In her last couple of years on this earth, Grandma had an aneurism and slipped into a coma. The doctors pretty much wrote her off as her spine filled with fluid and her almost 6-foot frame dwindled down to about 85 pounds. She was moved to hospice and our family visited her often, making sure to play music for her all the time.
Doctors could not explain this next part of the story. She eventually came out of the coma but without her memory. As months rolled by, she miraculously started gaining weight and her memory slowly returned. She fully recovered and was finally sent home. We had her for one more full and glorious year before she had a heart attack and passed. All of us are so fortunate and grateful to have had that additional time with her.
I love and miss you, Grandma! I hope that I still make you proud and that you are beaming down at me from heaven. ox