AARP Eye Center
As the coronavirus pandemic has many of us yearning for simpler times and taking stock of what matters, the ties of family, past and present, are never far from mind.
I am reminded of this daily as I appreciate the glorious magenta-and-white blooms of my rain lilies, grown from bulbs descended from those of my maternal grandmother, Ruth Almeda Derrick.
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To me, these flowering plants are nothing short of a miracle. My grandmother, a woman I barely knew, died in 1959. To think that I now gaze at the very flowers that once gave her pleasure connects me to a long-ago world in a way I never thought possible.
The bigger surprise is what familial offshoots they have sprouted. It began in 2017, when I posted pictures of my grandmother Derrick on Facebook for Mother's Day. Though we shared a birthday, I had never really known her, apart from the values she had handed down through my mother, Emily. ("If you've come here to gossip, you can just go home.") I heard about her beautiful sewing, how she made her children's clothes and embroidered the pillowcases they slept on.
But I have only one very fleeting mental snapshot of her, standing in her kitchen in rural Sevierville, Tennessee, cooking on an old-fashioned stove. My immediate family lived in Louisville, Kentucky, and before the interstate, it was a long and arduous trip to my grandparents’ home in the Smoky Mountains.
My mother was with Ruth when she died of a stroke, at 68, but Mom, who had hoped to inherit her linen trunk (she probably didn't make her wishes known in time), never had a memento of her, a regret that she always mourned. And all I had from my grandmother was a bathing suit she sent me when I was 6, a present so unexpected and cherished that I balked at getting it wet when my family went to the ocean in Virginia Beach.