A grandmother’s gift

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, July 6, 2013

By Dennis Edwards

I was wrapped in her arms when Mama and I left Obici Hospital. Dr. H.M. Diggs did the delivery. But Grandma Edwards was the co-recipient.

I imagine Mama and Dad got the first nuzzles. But when I got into Laura Elizabeth Edwards’ arms, I stayed there until I went away to college 17 years later. A lifelong love relationship started when Grandma brought me home from the hospital.

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My mother and grandmother were the yin and yang of my growing up. Mama required personal responsibility and education. Grandma was the unconditional love that makes both possible.

I remember when Mama lost patience with her for giving me too much candy. She said, “If you keep doing that, he can’t come by.” Grandma came up with a brilliant way around the mandate. She just left change under the scarf on top of her dresser. When I asked, she just said, “Your mother says I can’t give you any candy, but look under the scarf.” I was off to Mr. Outlaw’s store, and Mama was none the wiser.

Grandma Edwards had the sweetest spirit. I miss her to this day. Sausage and rolls were her specialty. Come Sunday we walked around the corner to her house to get fresh baked rolls.

Her house was a symphony of aroma. Perfume, mixed with peppermint, blended with food, seasoned with love, and carried on an eternal breeze of kindness. I guess that’s what love smells like.

In her house, watching TV on her bed, I was safe from the pressure of life and expectations. There was never a time in life then or now that I need wondered about Grandma’s love. Her affection was as certain as the grace of God.

Our connection was soul deep. I was her only son’s youngest boy, the spitting image of her favored child. I saw her every day for the 17 years I lived at home. Kissing her goodbye to go off to college was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

We had some amazing adventures. We walked all around town together. The Great Atlantic and Pacific (A&P) Grocery Store was our favorite destination. One day after buying good stuff there, we were on the way home. While walking along Charles Street, a white neighborhood at the time, Grandma asked me if I wanted to see some of my relatives.

I said, “These people can’t be related to me. They’re white.” Grandma giggled. She said, “Don’t stare, but the people on the front porch of the house there — they’re your cousins.”

“Don’t speak,” she said. “Just keep walking.”

They kind of stared back like they wondered whether we’d give away the secret. I was dumbstruck, flabbergasted, discombobulated in ways I cannot express. But I was also fascinated. Grandma had no animus about her, just the clarity that comes with knowing why things are as they are.

I learned our mysterious relatives knew who we were, even kept up with what we did. Thunderstruck, I was full of questions Grandma gently ignored. But the realization changed the way I saw people who didn’t look like me. It opened up a totally different perspective on race in America.

Suddenly certain facets of race relations became an intra-family affair. I came to understand nothing in life is as simple as black and white. At best, we live these days in shades of gray. The colors of life appear to be woven in among the hues and textures of relationships.

What a fascinating discovery.

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter and anchor, He is a 1974 graduate of Suffolk High School. Email him at dennisredwards@verizon.net.