Tag Archives: Grant

Out Into the World

Dear Grant,

So Friday is the big day, huh? College.


College? How did THAT happen?

I looked at some pictures today of the campus at good ole’ F.U. and it got me all verklempt. It’s a beautiful place, filled with shiny happy people and I have a good feeling that you will grow there, from the kind and clever young man you already are into an even truer version of yourself.

There will be some rough spots along the way, no doubt. I was dying to go to college back in 1879, but even though I had dreamed of getting there for so long, I still turned my face to the wall and cried a few tears after the lights went out on that first night. There I was, under that brand new comforter and in sheets right out of the box–on my own and out in the world. Alone? Not really, but kind of more alone than I had been up to that point in my life.

So if you get a little lonesome Friday night and start to feeling alone in the world, I hope you will think back to these few stories and know that you are 100%, unequivocally loved by me and everyone else in this big messy family.

I came to meet you in the hospital right after you were born, but the nurses had you in the fishbowl for some nursey kind of stuff. We didn’t get to meet that day. Instead, your dad showed me a video that he had made right after you were born. In the frame you see your mom beaming with happiness. The nurses had you in the bassinet to do the Apgar test and get you cleaned up and you were screaming and yowling and shaking with fury. There you were out in the world for the first time and you were NOT HAVING IT. In the video, Joe walked over to where you are and reaches out his big ole finger. He said something calming, like “Hey, buddy” and he touched you on the arm very gently. You immediately stopped crying (and he started).

About three weeks later, you came to my house for a visit:

grant 4

Yes, we had pink carpet. It was awful. So was that marriage, but that’s another story for a different day. You were out in the world for real, out in the suburbs. I still didn’t get to hold you that day. Papa did. He held you in his lap and cried because he loved you so much. I’m glad y’all share a name. I’m glad we all share a name.

A few months later, Fartbuster and I came to babysit you, so your parents could go out in the world. That’s a tale I’ve told already in Saved By a Nectarine. I owe you a thank you for that episode, really. If it hadn’t been for your diaper catastrophe, Fartbuster and I might have had kids together. Thank you for scaring him off. I owe you one.

grant 3


You were too young to remember Fartbuster. Much like you, Aunt Ashweeeee spent those couple of years learning how to walk on my own and learning how to feed myself and learning how to move around out in the world. There was one night when I came over to babysit you and I was just gutted with sadness. As much as I loved you, being around you awakened this fear that I would never have a child. I’d never have someone to love me the way your mom and dad love each other. And to top it all off, I woke up the next morning with a giant zit on my chin. You asked me, “What dat?” and I almost sobbed the answer: “It’s a grown up kind of boo boo.” But with a simple little kiss, you made it better. You fixed a little part of my heart that day. Thank you. I got the courage to go out in the world again.

grant 5


I don’t know if you remember Uncle Richard. Y’all hit it off right away. I brought him to Callaway Gardens to meet everyone. You and Jackson were playing in a giant pile of leaves and Richard took a few steps back, got a running start, and did a flip right into the pile. Your face lit up like you had found one of your kind roaming around in the world. He was a lot of fun and loved you. He proposed to me on your sixth birthday–do you remember that? I called to wish you a happy birthday and said, “Hey, Grant! Uncle Richard asked me to marry him. Should I say yes?” You said, “Sure, I guess so.” I took your advice. Thank you for that.



You were too young to know it at the time, but you’ve helped me through some of the toughest days of my life, just by being your joyful self. On the day Richard and I finally got married, your sass kept me focused on the happiness we made that day in our backyard, not on the sadness that was out there in the world. You ate a GIANT piece of cake (More Up, Please!) right under your mom’s nose.

grant 7


You and Jake rolled down the hill until you were covered in grass. Richard’s dad had such fun playing with you that day. Thank you for that, for being a little boy so full of life. You and I shared a toast, each with our own kind of bubbly drink. I raised my glass and said, “To the Student of the Week!” and we clinked glasses. You raised your glass and said, “To the bride!”

grant 8


Thank you for that.

Not two weeks later, you helped me find a little glimmer of joy again when I was completely lost in grief. I was waiting in the vestibule of the church for the funeral director to bring Richard’s ashes in for the service. For a second, I was by myself in that quiet spot, right out there in the world all by myself. I didn’t know what to do to keep myself together. Then the door cracked open and I saw your dad and mom, looking sad. Before I could say anything, you came busting in and gave me the biggest hug. When I let you go, you rocked back on your heels and said, “Aunt Ashley! We got new shirts!”

Do you know how precious it is to me that I can look back on one of the saddest times of my life and that few seconds of joy is the thing that I remember most vividly? Thank you for that.

grant 9

Well, I better wrap this up because you’ve got a big day ahead. I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you go out into the world, remember that you are never alone. You’ve taught me that lesson over and over in the last almost 19 years. I will come running if you ever need me, Grant, whether you need cake or a new shirt or a hug. I owe you.

Go have fun.


Aunt Ashwee

Unca Joe, Aunt Fancy, Goose, Aunt Sassy, Aunt Smarty, Aunt Bossy

Unca Joe, Aunt Fancy, Goose, Aunt Sassy, Aunt Smarty, Aunt Bossy

Make Us Thankful

A Thanksgiving memory: Little Gay, Me, Joe, Beth, Jake...and that's Grant in the front. Mr. Enthusiasm!

Thanksgiving many years ago: Little Gay, Me, Joe, Beth, Jake…and that’s Grant in the front. Mr. Enthusiasm!

My dad had a theory that you could measure how Baptist a person was by counting the number of times they said “Just” while asking the blessing before a big meal. Like this would score pretty high on the Baptist-o-meter:

(with every head bowed and every eye closed)

Lord, we just ask that you just look down on us Lord and just bless this food that is just such a blessing. Just help us remember, Lord, just how very blessed we are to just have what we need. We just praise you Lord….(continue for 12 minutes)

Now, now…to all my Baptist leaning friends, please don’t get your noses out of joint. In our family, we make fun of all peoples, of all faiths, in equal measure. We even did it a little when Grandmama Eunice was alive. But not when she was in earshot.

Speaking of Grandmama Eunice, I think she was the source of the standard blessing that Daddy used: “Lord make us thankful for these and all our many blessings. Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service, Amen.” No matter how much extemporizing the blesser did, they always brought the blessing to a close with these lines.

Over the years, asking the blessing got to be more and more special to Daddy. We all gather up in the kitchen or around the dining room table. Sometimes we hold hands and sometimes we just try to keep the kids in line. (See that just sneaking in there? Raised Baptist!) Daddy would say a few words about how lucky we were to be comfortable in life and the duty we owed to those who weren’t as lucky. His blessings always celebrated our family and the deep love we shared for each other. If it had been an especially tough year for one of us, he would say thanks that it was over and we were all still together. There was the blessing that remembered Richard when he was in the hospital. The blessing that welcomed Brett back home after she got her life straight. Last year, he said a blessing of thanks that he had made it through a bad health scare.

About fifty percent of the time, he’d get choked up. And that led to one of the most enduring stories in our family lore and it’s the thing I’m thinking about as we head towards this first Thanksgiving without Daddy saying the blessing before dinner.

Mr. Enthusiasm strikes again! Grant and Jackson at Callaway Gardens.

Mr. Enthusiasm strikes again! Grant and Jackson at Callaway Gardens.

For a few good years, when the nephews were small, we set aside one autumn weekend to take the whole fam-damn-ily to Callaway Gardens. Piled in together in one big villa, we’d cook and tell stories and laugh and jump in the leaves and let the kids stay up late.

The villa had a long dining table, big enough to hold all of us. Before we sat down to feast on tenderloin from the grill, Daddy asked the blessing. Halfway through, he started to get emotional and took a second to compose himself. All of the adults stayed quiet, but tiny little Grant, who was about three, piped up in a very loud whisper, “Papa’s cryin’ like a BABY!” 

Daddy loved that story. We had a reason to tell it again quite often, pretty much every time we got together.

I don’t know who will ask the blessing this year. Probably Joe, or Brett, maybe even Grant, who is tall and gracious and clever (still). I know we’ll all cry like babies. That’s just the way it’s going to be.

But in the midst of sorrow, may we be thankful for these and all our many blessings. Grief is the price of love.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, but it's my favorite picture of Grant.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, but it’s my favorite picture of Grant.



A Grown Up Kind of Boo Boo

Yesterday I reminisced about babysitting my nephew Grant with less than a little help from Fartbuster.  Good times, good times.  Well, life moved on as it would and a few years later I found myself back babysitting Grant when I was learning to be single again.  Fartbuster and I had been separated for several months.  I didn’t have many weekend plans back then (apart from singing “Landslide” into a hairbrush) so I volunteered to keep Grant one Saturday night.

As I drove up the interstate towards their house–going 75 in the slow lane–I saw a familiar car pull up beside me then sail past.  The color and the make rang a bell.  As it pulled in front of me, I noticed the Auburn bumper stickers and the National Guard tag.  I hit the gas and pulled alongside the car–it was Fartbuster’s dad and stepmother!  I honked the horn and waved.  They seemed just as startled to see me as I was to see them, speeding up the highway.  They waved then drove on ahead.  That’s when my heart broke, right there in the slow lane because I realized that in the split second I had made eye contact with them, my heart had entertained the idea that they too were headed to my brother’s house, where the whole babysitting gig would prove to be a ruse.  Maybe, I was heading towards a surprise party where Fartbuster had assembled our families to announce that he had been an idiot and everything would be going back to normal.  That idea flitted through my head just long enough to break my heart because no, it was Saturday night and I was on my way to babysit because I didn’t have a child of my own to tend to.  And I probably wouldn’t because I was 31 and no one loved me.

Even around that adorable kid, who called me “Aunt Ashwee,” my heart was heavy.  Grant and I played games and read books and put on jammies and I put him in his bed.  Joe and Beth had instructed me to stick with the routine and in the event that he cried at bedtime, I was supposed to let him cry it out.  He fussed a little when I put him down, but nothing too bad.  Then he was out.  I sat in the den and cried for a while, until I had cried it out.  Alone in someone else’s home, on a Saturday night, spurned and unloved while people who had been my family a year ago drove off to who knows where.

At eleven pm, the phone rang and woke Grant up.  He began to fuss, then to cry then to wail.  I didn’t know what to do–my instructions said to let him cry…they didn’t say for how long.  It was awful, sitting there alone in the hall, listening to him cry when I could have used a hug myself.  My brother called at 11:30 to give me an ETA and heard Grant crying in the background.  He said, “What’s going on?” and when I explained that he had been crying for 30 minutes, he said, “Oh good grief, go pick him up!”

I went into the dark nursery clucking and cooing but Grant was beside himself by this point.  I felt like a monstrous idiot.  I got him calmed down quickly.  His little curls were wet with sweat.   He sobbed, “Weeeeeead a BWOOOOOOK!”  I stuttered, “Ummm…I’m not allowed to turn the light on, Sweetie, so we can’t read a book.”  He hiccuped again and asked, “Sing a song?”  With relief, I sank down into the rocking chair….but couldn’t think of a single song.  I started on “Rock a Bye Baby” and he shrieked, “NOT DAT ONE!!!!!” Okaaaaaay.  So I sang “Jingle Bells.”  Over and over and over until he fell asleep.

I collapsed on the couch in the living room and was out cold by the time Joe and Beth got home.  At the crack of dawn, Grant toddled out of his room and wished me a good morning by poking me in the eye.  Oh, he had the best giggle and the twinkling brown eyes!  Regardless, I felt like shit on a cracker.  I had a no-sleep headache and a gigantic zit throbbing on my chin.  But children don’t put their needs on hold when you aren’t feeling up to it.  They still have to be fed.

boo booHe led me into the kitchen, pointed to the fridge and asked for milk.  In the middle of finding a sippy cup and a lid, he started hollering to be picked up.  There I was, a novice, trying to balance a toddler on one hip and a gallon of milk in the opposite hand while pouring it into a thin plastic cup without knocking the whole mess over.  I was feeling lower than a snake belly…so OF COURSE that’s the moment my darling nephew pokes the massive zit on my chin and chirps, “Waz dis?”  I swallowed my tears and sighed, “It’s a zit, Grant.”  He said, “Waz dat?”  I thought for a second and answered, “It’s a grown up kind of boo boo.”  I turned back to the counter and focused on pouring the milk.

That’s when I felt the brush of his curls on my cheek as he leaned in and placed the gentlest little kiss right on my big fat zit.

Because when someone you love has a boo boo, grown up kind or not, you give it a little kiss to make it better.

Saved By a Nectarine

Today I stood on the back steps at my dad’s house as my brother and his family arrived.  I went to hug my nephew, Grant, and thought for a second that he was standing on a step above me…or I was standing on a step below him.  But I slid my foot out and realized that I was on the porch.  I looked down and HE was standing on the porch.  How could this be?  We were BOTH standing on the porch and that kid looked me straight in the eye!  I gawped about how much he’s grown.  Joe said, “Check out the hair on his legs!”  Yeah, that wasn’t as impressive because I still have more.  

Back in 1999, Grant gave me my first introduction to the demands of parenting.  Specifically, that part of parenting that’s a lot like guerilla warfare–hour upon hour of mind numbing tedium interspersed with a few moments of blazing panic and chaos.

I wouldn’t babysit him for his first year–too tiny, too scary.  Once he got to be about 18 months, though, I decided it was time.  How hard could it be?  Here’s some background about me–I was the baby of my family, so no experience taking care of younger siblings.  My younger cousins weren’t that much younger so no experience there.  I hadn’t really done any babysitting either because we lived way out in the country.  So there I was past 30 and I had only changed about three diapers in my life.  Here’s another piece of evidence as to how truly ignorant I was:  I brought Fartbuster along to help.

We got our instructions about bedtime schedules and where supplies were located and numbers to call in emergency.  Beth already had Grant’s dinner laid out, ready for us to serve.  As they were walking out the door, she said, “Oh, if he eats all that and is still hungry, feed him a nectarine.”  OK, no problem.  She neglected to tell me that the kid hadn’t pooped in DAYS.  As David Sedaris puts it, we were “packing a musket.”

Joe and Beth drove off like everything was cool.  Fartbuster and I hovered in the foyer, not quite sure what to do.  We both looked at our watches.  Yep, five hours to go.  Grant came toddling around the corner holding a book above his head.  He sang, “Wead a bwook!  Wead a bwook!”  Thank you sweet Baby Jesus!  We knew how to do that!  For the first hour, we wed bwooks.  And like all idiot novices, we got sucked right in to the whole “This is EASY.  We should TOTALLY have a kid.”

Just like Donna Read, I got dinner on the table while Fartbuster followed Grant around the house, protecting his head from any jagged corners and keeping small objects out of his mouth.  One hour down and we had really hit our stride!  I fed the dear boy his dinner and he gobbled it right down.  So I sliced a nectarine and he gobbled that down, too.  Look at us–serving fresh fruit to a healthy baby boy!  He asked for more and I understood his adorable baby talk.  I sliced up another nectarine and fed him that one, too!

I like to think that at that very moment, Joe and Beth were clinking glasses at their fancy dinner when they sensed a change in The Force and they laughed.  Oh, how they laughed.  They laughed and miles away the musket went off.  

incoming-baby-army-helmetAbout 20 minutes after dinner, I looked at Fartbuster and said, “Good GOD!  Was that you?”  He stood in the kitchen, a good 20 feet away.  He denied it, but then the smell hit him and he grimaced.  As we two idiots stood there agape the paint started to bubble up off the walls and the fumes made me light-headed.  Then, in slo-mo, we both turned to spy Grant standing in the middle of the den with a 20lb diaper set to go off like a BOMB.  Maximum capacity with rapid acceleration.  Nowhere to go but…ARGH!  He was pulling himself up onto the good couch.  The fabric covered couch.  I ran over and scooped him under the armpits then wheeled towards the kitchen.  “HELP!!”

Fartbuster was nowhere to be seen.  A few seconds later, he peeked up over the edge of the counter.  That fool was tucked down behind the counter, hiding like he was in a foxhole and Grant was a grenade.  Which…OK, so Fartbuster had a point.  I’m dangling the grenade in the den and that diaper is getting bigger by the second.  I hissed, “Get over here and HELP ME!”  Fartbuster stood up with his hands in the air, full surrender pose, and said, “No way.  This was all your idea!”

He stayed hunkered down in the kitchen.  I must have used 35 wipes to change that diaper, but I got it done.

So next time I see Grant, I should look him straight in the eye and say “thank you” for that moment because it’s probably one of the reasons that Fartbuster and I never had a child together.  Saved by a nectarine.

Now, if that made you laugh, share it with your friends!