Blanche Norman 1911-2010
Photo taken June 2009
I'm not a big personal blogger- I keep it strictly op-ed and news coverage, occasional a bit of self promotion.
My personal life influences my work certainly, my upcoming film Spark is largely autobiographical. But today was one of those days where I felt compelled. Blanche Norman passed away today. Born Febuary 16th, 1911 , She was 99 years old and my great-grandmother. She was also a mythic character of my childhood. Part- Big Eddie Beale part Minnie Pearl part Rosie the Riveter. She ran the family farm well into into her seventies. She went fishing everyday; herded cattle, turkeys, chickens, guinea fowl; taught me how to collect eggs, shell peas, pecans, all the things I know of provincial farm life that shock and amazing my urbanite friends-yes I can deliver a calf like nobody's business. I spent my childhood jumping on hay bales and wandering through pastures and forests. It's this agrarian landscape that shaped me as an artist as much as any formal training. She had the most amazing garden I've ever seen. I spent all my summers wandering through it, picking flowers and playing in it's fairy tale landscapes. To this day I have a love of flowers and gardening because of her.
She and I were both big personalities in my family and butted heads more than a few times esspecially over (her son) my grandfather's illness (he died of ALS- Lou Gehrig's Disease) but she was always there to offer me a glass of sweet iced tea and peppermint sticks (which she always kept in a mason jar in her fridge for some reason) to make up.
I'm constructing my thoughts as I go here bare with me. I'm in my 30s and damn lucky to have had such close long relationship with my extended family. Most are not so lucky. My husband never knew his grandparents, let alone his great grandparents. I knew my great-great grandmother- the women in my family seem indestructible- until they are gone- and it seems they were so briefly here, never enough time. She made me a sock monkey when I was three years old. He sits on the night stand to this day beside my bed. He's there right now. I haven't told him the news yet. I haven't the heart yet.
I've thought about how hard being ninety-nine must have be- She had buried her parents, her sister, a brother, her husband, both her children, even a grandchild. But she was present for so many wonderful events swell the births of grand children, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. It's the cyclical nature of life -I know. Birth-Death-Rebirth. If you follow a more Judeo-Christian teaching some believe your ancestors look over you, as a sort of guardian angel. I like this idea. I love the idea of her as the angel on my shoulder who encourages me off on adventure, goads me on past my fears, past danger, and protects me. Come On Granny- Lets go!
I spoke to her on the phone two weeks ago, she was weak and in Georgia- I in Portland, It was right before hospice moved her from the hospital to home. We ended the conversation with a childish faux argument. It's seems so fitting that these were our last words.
"I love you"
"I love you more"
"Nope- I love you more."