It was two years ago today that you left in body, but I would argue it was a lot longer than that since the woman I describe in your eulogy walked this earth. Oh, how I miss her. I talk to you all the time, hoping you can hear me. Sometimes I think you answer back in my dreams. Today I was thinking about you, as I often do, but now June 12th has a little more meaning than it used to.
Your Memorial Service was at the Cowboy Church in Henrietta, Texas. I don’t think you ever went to a cowboy church, but once I realized what it was all about, I decided you would have approved. Basically, the Cowboy Church was founded as place where cowboys could tie up their horse, pray and have a meal. Sounds like your kind of church, if you had a kind of church at all. The only thing was the pastor could not pronounce pinochle when describing one of my stories about you.
Once I saw his struggles, I thought perhaps he needed the cowboy spelling of the card game … penuckle. It was too late, however. I don’t think anyone in there knew what he was talking about.
I decided to anchor the post today with the pictures of you and Aunt Lucille working in the bomber factory before even Mom was born. You look so cute.
I remember walking into the service not being able to believe how many friends you had from childhood still alive in Joy, Texas. They all had a story for me about you, and I was not surprised by a one of them.
Until that day, I never thought much about you being in high school … you were always just my Mawmaw … always will be.
Louise LaRue Slaughter (May 18, 1925 – June 12, 2011)
I would first like to thank everyone for coming here today to celebrate my grandmother’s life.
My grandmother was simply like no one else you ever met.
The first thing about her that was totally unique is that she really wasn’t your standard, ordinary everyday grandmother straight out of central casting. In name, I mean.
No one ever called her “grandma”, or “gram” of anything else like that. I always called her Mawmaw – and there’s a story there.
“Mawmaw” was the word I used at about age two attempting to say “Mamaw”, which is what my mother called her grandmother.
But she didn’t correct me – in fact, she embraced it. I mean, how many people willingly go their whole lives with a mispronounced name? But that was her. I think she liked having a name that no one else had.
Mawmaw called me Tige from as far back as I can remember. Tige. She was my Mawmaw and I was her Tige.
Like I said, she wasn’t like everyone else.
She had three daughters — my mom, Kay, Kathie and my Aunt Ann – no middle names, they are simply Kay, Kathie and Ann. I asked her once why they had no middle names — because I had a middle name (Louise after her) and she had a middle name (Larue) so as a child I found it odd. She simply said, no one uses the middle names and we liked those names. And so it was.
Kathie, her middle daughter, was born in 1949 and had her first seizure when she was four months old. Mawmaw and my grandfather, R.W. Slaughter, were raising a developmentally disabled child at a time when this choice was not the path many people chose. I was well into my 20s before I truly realized the sacrifices she made doing what was right and not what was easy.
I cannot continue without taking a moment to tell you about Bob. Bob was my surrogate grandfather, and Mawmaw’s companion for close to 40 years. I never knew my grandfather, R.W. Slaughter — he passed away a few months before I was born. I thought about him a lot when I was little. There was a picture of him on the wall in the room where I would sleep. I would ask Mawmaw about him all the time and she would tell me stories about him when Mom and Annie were little or when he was a boy. I was very aware of the fact that the picture on the wall was my real grandfather and Bob was Bob. I never called him anything else, but I loved him like you would have loved your grandfather.
Mawmaw was always a fly by the seat of your pants sort of person. She was never prone to schedules, rules or predictable behavior of any sort. Her address book was on paper plates and her bookkeeping was on everything from yellow legal pads to torn envelopes to fence posts. It appeared there was no method to any of it, but somehow if you moved the paper plate with Doy’s phone number on it she knew where that particular paper plate was supposed to be. I learned early on just to leave the paper plates alone.
Mawmaw was what some might call a free spirit. Not a lazy spirit, as she worked very hard from morning until night and when there was hay to bale or cows to check on, she would work until it was done.
Now Bob was an Air Force man. He was all about rules, schedules and structure. As you might conclude, Mawmaw and Bob did not always agree on the methods of their work on the farm. Even at the age of 6, I could see this head-butting take place from across the field – suddenly Bob would throw his hands up and his hat down and storm off his tractor. He would look at me and say, “Terrible (he called me Terrible) your Mawmaw is crazy!” All I am going to say about this is, he is not the only person to have ever thrown up their arms, thrown down a hat and run off a tractor or from a room in an effort to keep from wringing her neck.
Now what I always loved about these moments was my Mawmaw’s reaction. She was always laughing. She literally did not care if she drove you crazy or drove you to drink. She somehow thought all problems could be solved with her cute little smile and a De-Da-De-Da-Di-Do and I am here to tell you, they often were. She was a force to be reckoned with and oftentimes it was easier to dance with her than try to get her attention.
The great thing about being a grandparent is you are not the parent. You can say yes, when you might have said no to your own children. Mawmaw took her role as Fairy Grandmother very seriously and she did not disappoint.
One time I went with Mawmaw and Kathie to get their hair cut. I was 4, about to turn 5 and start kindergarten. So I decided I wanted to get a haircut, too. Now, most grandmothers might have looked at my nice thick, brown, shoulder length bob and thought, “Perhaps the mother of this gorgeous hair would prefer I not cut it all off … ”
I am quite certain this thought bubble never entered Mawmaw’s mind.
Instead she said, “Ok, Tige. How do you want your hair cut?” and me being almost 5 said, “Like yours.”
In my kindergarten picture I look like a boy. Mawmaw’s hairdresser did my entire haircut with a razor blade. Now I was only 5, so it did not bother me one bit, but I can assure you this was a moment when my mother threw her arms up, her hat down and ran from the room screaming in an effort to keep from wringing her neck.
When I was 9, Kathie started her school year while I was still there for the summer. Me being 9, and never having ridden a bus before, said, “Mawmaw, I want to go to school and ride the bus too.” So, she took me down and enrolled me in 4th grade at the local school.
Before too long I was a student at Lead Hill Elementary, and on the basketball team, in the 4-H club and had lots of friends coming and going.
We went to Walmart and I got school clothes, school supplies and a nice Hello Kitty lunch box with a thermos. Now I know my mom and Annie were jealous because Mom had to carry a giant paper sack for a lunch box and Annie was given a Big Yellow School Bus lunch box. I, on the other hand, got to pick out the coolest lunch box in Walmart.
Now, I can tell you what was packed in that lunchbox was no better than what was in the paper sack and the Big Yellow School Bus. It was generally a peanut butter sandwich, because according to Mawmaw, “You can’t run a household without peanut butter.”
One of the things I learned to do on the farm was fish. One summer I caught a particularly large catfish. Now I was 9, so large is relative here, but to my 9-year old eyes this was the biggest catfish I had ever seen. I decided to take it up to Mawmaw so she could cook it for dinner. After all, we loved catfish. I walked into the kitchen and there stood Mawmaw and my great-grandmother, Mamaw Wines and in I walk with this catfish and present it to them. Mamaw Wines only said, “Lord have mercy, child.” Mawmaw took the catfish and filled the sink with water and put him in there so he could continue to live. After a few minutes she got a paper sack and put the catfish in it and shooed me out the door telling me to take the catfish back to the cow pond. “Tige, we do not eat fish from cow ponds, we eat meat from the deep freeze.”
I could go on and on with stories about my Mawmaw. Everyone should be so blessed as to be the only grandchild of a woman who was literally one of your best childhood buddies. I always felt invincible when I was with her.
I tend to fly by the seat of my pants like she did, though maybe with less gusto. I often wish I had her ability to sing De-Da-Di-Da-Di-Do and let the stresses of the day roll right off of me. I did inherit what few musical tastes she had. To this day, I love Anne Murray, John Denver or Gordon Lightfoot and whenever they are playing I always think of Mawmaw making up her own lyrics to the songs.
You won’t be surprised that I, too, make up my own lyrics to songs.
Mawmaw, Louise, Mother – she could infuriate you one minute and bring you great joy in the next. Today, we remember the spirited joy and indomitable spirit … and celebrate a one-of-a-kind person … and a long life well-lived.
I will be forever grateful to have had her to call my Mawmaw.