Nickole Brown

Seth Pennington writes about his Grandmother Nellie Mae

Seth PenningtonShe was losing her husband. Pronounced barren. Pronounced soon-to-be divorced. Nellie Mae drove to the adoption agency, picked out a boy and a girl, while her husband Leonard sold groceries. He came home to a tableful of family, sat down to sweet tea off the stove and Salisbury steak, and stayed.

When Nellie turned 49, her ankles swelled with her belly as she carried the life of my mother. This is something she would never call accident but God-given.

The summer mother was 11, the family was packing for vacation. Leonard was working on the stove and became a beautiful conduit flowing electric. He was buried in a section of the cemetery called The Garden of Gethsemane.

Nellie Mae didn’t drive. She never did, never would, even as a single mother, but she could grow African violets like no other. She developed cataracts and kept the TV on. She allowed problems to exist or not; that was her way. Anything broken was fixed with the curtains drawn.

Later, after a heart attack, she moved into my home. I was 15. I walked in on her nude body, hunched over, struggling to put on hose. I shut the door quickly on that moment, her heavy breasts. She had raised my aunt’s children, suffered a stroke. We spoke none of this. I can’t even remember the sound of her voice, but I have the smell of her bed, all lotion, all powder, all lightness, all kept to myself.