My Meemaw and Pawpaw were quite a cute pair. Meemaw was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her 60’s and lived a very long time with the disease. Pawpaw took care of Meemaw in their home in Baird, Texas for as long as he could, and then moved her to a nursing home just down the street. He would go visit her every day, taking his guitar to sing and yodel to her. For many years, she responded to his devotion, but over time Alzheimer’s took more and more of her from him. She eventually did not know any of us, including Pawpaw, but this did not stop him from going to sing to her and kiss on her a little. I am not sure I have ever seen a man so devoted to his bride.
Eventually, Pawpaw went to live in the nursing home. His eye sight and his mind were failing him and he couldn’t maintain his weight. He seemed to like the community of the nursing home. Over time, he became unaware of others around him and sort of forgot about Meemaw. But one day he woke up and asked to go visit her. He went and whispered in her ear that it was okay to die. And that he loved her. And that he would meet her in Heaven. And within hours, my Meemaw died. And within a few months, he did join her.
Pawpaw was quite the singer and yodeler. I grew up visiting Meemaw and Pawpaw. I can remember sitting at Pawpaw’s feet as he strummed on his guitar and sang to us. The song that sticks out more than any other is “You Are My Sunshine.” If there was ever a song that stuck with me, it is this one. I imagine that I will sing this (badly) to my own children, and tell them about my Meemaw and Pawpaw. That sound is woven into the history of the Thornton family. Lately I have found a few items containing the lyrics to this song–a pillow, a poster, a necklace. I am somewhat opposed to home decor containing words, but I would take those words. They mean something to me.
Pawpaw grew a little senile in his later years but that really just made him more entertaining. Meg and I went to college 20 minutes down the road from Baird, so we would go visit Meemaw in the nursing home, and go pick Pawpaw up for a burger. Pawpaw was slow to decide he should not drive anymore. I believe it took hitting a parked police car to decide perhaps he should not be driving. He had huge dents on the top of his car from where he would hit those big barrels seen on entrances and exits of the highway. He had hit one (or several) and it came back to bounce off the top of his car. Good thing he lived in a small town, eh? When it became obvious that he was a danger to others, the keys were put away.
When my parents were in town, we would go get him and take him to the big city of Abilene for church. I remember one day we passed those super strong Starbucks mints down the pew and Pawpaw took one. He popped that sucker in his mouth, sat a minute and then began to gasp, like he had a habanero pepper in his mouth. Within seconds, he had spit that mint out and we all watched it roll down the isle of the church. We could not contain ourselves.
Meemaw taught us not to cry over anything that money would buy back. She made us aprons that hung in her kitchen. We were her kitchen assistants. She also had a love for red birds, which still remind me of her. Meemaw was a kind soul. As cantankerous as my Pawpaw was, Meemaw was sweet. She made us feel absolutely treasured.