Happy Birthday Grandma!


That’s my grandma! Annice Nelson. I called her Grandma, with the aaah sound.


My grandfather, Arthur is sitting next to her… and that happy baby in her lap? Yeah… that’s me!
My grandmother was born in Guilford County, North Carolina to Ralto and Emma Horney. She was the youngest of seven living children.
Her grandparents? Cornelius and Cleopatra Horney… I shit you not! I’ve done some genealogy and found a lot of neat facts – but that’s not what this post is about. This is to celebrate the life of one of the most influential and wonderful women I’ve ever known – My grandmother.


She was a tiny thing, like me, all her life – but she went gray early and started showing her first ones around her late 20’s. She always used a hair rinse to cover the gray, because she didn’t like the way it turned when she smoked.
My grandma was my favorite person in the world. There are so many good memories associated with her… My mother tells a story of her visiting us when I was about four years old. We had moved from Fort Myers to Chattanooga where my grandfather (My dad’s dad) was running a marina. My dad went to work there with him as a mechanic. My grandparents on my mom’s side came up for a visit, before we bought our property and they moved up permanently, and I was learning ‘new words’… and by new I mean big people words. I had learned the word shit and decided to try it out… so I did… and I got in trouble – lots of it!! So then after a little while I decided to try it again, and I hid behind my grandmother to whisper shit in my dad’s direction… every time he’d look at me, I would hide behind her legs… She tried valiantly to get me to shut up… but what saved the day – chocolate chip cookies. You just cannot use the word shit with one of those things in your mouth…

Today, my grandmother would be 101 years old, had cancer not taken her from us in 1985. She was born on June 18, and passed away on June 18. She was 76. In the 26 years since she has passed, I have missed her every single day. I have also felt guilty at times, because honestly I feel like I probably could have treated her a lot better. I was headstrong and 17, and had my OWN life to live – I could not be bothered with Grandmotherly concerns. I was rude, annoying, and sometimes downright mean. But then, grandma loved me no matter what – and in the quiet, dark hours of night, when she could not sleep, and I heard her up roaming I would get up, and spend hours with her at the kitchen table eating pie and talking about life. We talked a lot about nothing, and a little about everything. I learned a lot from her – like perseverance….

Grandma was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 1984, only a month after I found out I was pregnant with my oldest. All she asked was to live long enough to see her great-grandchild born. We were heartbroken when we found out – she had been told 10 years earlier that there was something in her bladder, they were not sure what, and they wanted to take it out and make sure. She not only refused the surgery, but she never told anyone about it. Years later, and she finds out she has a tumor the size of a grapefruit in her bladder and that it has now spread to her lungs. She has emphysema and requires an oxygen tank…

The first few weeks after her diagnosis were horrible. She was going through the Stages of Grief I suppose, and it was rough on everyone. I was about 4 or 5 months pregnant, and emotional, hormonal and ready for anything. Grandma was the same way – I will never forget walking into the kitchen one day about a month after the diagnosis. She was cutting fat from a piece of frozen fat back for a roast. Now, mind you this was just two weeks after we had to have her finger stitched back on for the very same reason. I said “Grandma, you really shouldn’t do that” and she turned on me, knife in hand, and told me to get the F*** out of her kitchen. Well, hormonal pregnant teenager freaks out and goes to get mom, and a huge blowout ensues. I was terrified, and scared. Once she came to terms with her illness things began to settle down and I spent some of the best time with her during those months she survived. When the chemo wasn’t making her too sick to be home, and she wasn’t so tired. She finally entered a mental health facility five months after her diagnosis, she felt depressed and suicidal. She stayed there until the week of her death, when they called us to come bring her home – she required 24 hour care by this time. She died, in my aunt’s arms on her birthday, in her bedroom with my grandfather at her side. It was peaceful and exactly the way she wanted to go. When my mother and I arrived, before the funeral home came to take her away, we all gathered around her bed and sang Happy Birthday to her with tears streaming down our faces.

Good-bye grandma, I love and miss you BIG, and I cannot wait to see you on the other side. Happy Birthday, Annice Nelson, you would be proud of the family you built!

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