COLUMN: Pause the chaos; Play the memories


Brittany Hively

Granny reading a copy of The Parthenon, as she did every week.

Instant messages, cell phones always in hand, instant news notifications, full schedules of things to do and the list goes on. This is how our world currently runs, everything needs to be done instantly and we need to be as busy as possible from the time we open our eyes until the moment we can no longer keep them open. But why?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column titled: Generational Hustle. I talked about the fight between generations and the challenges each of them faced. I spoke about my granny and all the things that happened in her lifetime and the struggles she faced compared to some of mine. 

This week, I lost Granny. She’s in a better place and I’m left in heartbreak, unsure how I will ever live without her. 

What do chaotic lives and losing Granny have in common? The time I do not regret being with her. 

Granny had four kids, 12 grandchildren, a bunch of great-grandchildren, and her first great-great-grandchild on the way. 

Out of those grandchildren- my cousin, Jess, and I are the only granddaughters. Jess always joked that she was the favorite grandchild because Granny babied her. This morning I realized how true it was because I was her favorite child. 

My Granny was the constant in my life that I never fully realized. I lived with her more than anyone else. I stayed with her every chance I could growing up. She took care of me when I was sick and always made sure I had what I needed. She’s the one I was the most afraid of my now-husband meeting when he met the family. She’s the one who taught me about Jesus, hard-work, unconditional love, and to be a good human. She was not just my Granny, she was G, the woman who raised me. 

My entire life I struggled to find out where I fit in. I was not like the others in my family. I did not have the same thoughts or do the same things. I struggled. This week I realized that I always fit in with Granny.  

Growing up I spent every single Sunday with Granny. I would go stay with her often. I would go to church with her. I moved in with her when I was 18 and again during the first few months of my marriage. She was the first I wanted to tell about my pregnancies and college. As an adult I helped her run errands and take her places when she just wanted company or did not feel like driving. My kids would ask about her if it had been a few days before we visited (we visited at least once a week).

When I started to write, Granny asked where her copy of my stories were. I brought her a copy of every story I wrote and she would read them. She is the only person who has read every single thing I have written, except for my Generational Hustle piece, which was about her. 

She was my biggest supporter, but she never told me my stories were good. She never said I was going to do big things, none of that because as parents do, she had to teach me to be humble. 

I can count on one hand the days I did not see Granny over the past few months and most were due to hospital stays and coronavirus restrictions.

During the past month or so, Jess and I were her full-time caretakers. My kids said they lived with Granny now and they did. They gave her love every morning and every night. She asked about them constantly. They could not wait to show her their school shoes and backpacks and tell her about their day. They filled her walls with art. I truly believe they kept her going. 

Over the course of caring for Granny, I did things I never dreamed of doing. No sugar coating here, I am a writer and PR professional, not a caretaker. But I did it. Because it was Granny and I would do anything she needed. 

Jess and I knew Granny better than any grandchild, maybe even better than her kids. We did not hesitate when she needed us and sometimes it was hard. We had to work our schedules around caring for Granny, we gave things up to be there for her when she needed us, we dealt with the mood swings that came with her illness. We stayed up all night and had deep conversations during her more lucid moments at 3 a.m. We cried and comforted each other in private when she would get mad at us or be hateful because of her situation. 

While it was some of the hardest times, I would do it all again. 

During those moments, we were with her. She knew if she needed something we were there. She knew she was cared for and loved. 

During those early morning moments when I was running on six hours of sleep in four days and she would pull me to her, rub my arms and tell me she loved me. I knew it was worth it. 

The conversation I will never forget was when she said, “just pray for me.” In which I responded, “always. That’s how you raised me. You raised me to be good and strong. Do you know how much I love you and how much you mean to me?” And she responded, “ yes. I know, I know I did,” and kissed my forehead as she rubbed my arms. 

Those are the moments I will never forget and are the most precious. 

I have kids and multiple jobs and things that need done, but the chaos of the world being put to the side was worth it for the memories over the years. Everything slows down at Granny’s house.

Ben and Maddie reading with Granny. (Brittany Hively )

My kids will always remember their Granny and all of the memories they have made with each other. Ben will always have his Granny’s cookie recipe and remember his dubbed “cookie spot.” Maddie will always have the memories of their chair cuddles and matching flannel. 

The days seem so long and we tend to keep them filled to the brim, but this is our reminder to slow down. 

Go visit Granny or Aunt Ethel or whoever may need visited. Go to the park or for a walk with the kids. Put the phones and electronics away for a day and just be with each other. Make the cookies, cuddle on the couch, make the memories. 

A few months shy of 30 years of memories with Granny will never be enough. 

Every good part of me is because of her and I will cherish every memory made, every afternoon spent with her instead of being full of the chaotic world, every gossip session and lesson she taught me. 

While she said she knew, I hope she truly knew how much I loved her and how much she meant to me. 

Pause the chaos; play the memories. 

Brittany Hively can be contacted at [email protected].