When I was a little girl in the South, Sundays meant three things:
- Sunday School and church;
- Lunch at the Piccadilly with my parents and their friends; and
- An afternoon of family time or service.
The latter could take many forms. Often it was a Sunday drive, off through the countryside and up the Natchez trace, just a couple miles from our house. Sometimes it meant a formal visit from our pastor, in the parlor that was reserved just for pastoral visits and grown-up company (I remember mostly the pro forma “hello” we children had to give him as he sat in the front room with my parents for what seemed like hours, while we scampered off to play in a room less resistant to our mess). Sometimes my parents would go visiting the sick or the elderly. Sometimes, rarely, I think, they’d take us with them.
I remember these visits as if they were yesterday, the hours we spent with the couple who lived in Siam, the man outliving his wife by many years, and the stories he’d tell about his adventures and the beautifully smooth rock art that he brought home. The afternoons spent quietly with Marty’s Grandpa, admiring the cross-stitched art that he and his wife made over many decades, inspiring me to take it up as a child too. Sure, Grandpa Tom had family in town, but we just liked him, and we loved to visit him, as we had lost our last grandpa early. There were other older folks from our church that we’d visit, many lost to my memory, but I’m sure not my mother’s, who cared for everyone.
Mom and Dad also spent many hours visiting the elderly in the hospital. I wondered little about this, assuming it was something that grown folks do, and I don’t remember much about it one way or the other. But when everyone was well or the visits were over quickly, we would sit and do puzzles together on a Sunday afternoon.
We did puzzles together a lot, my mother and I, and my grandmother when she visited us. My Gramma, Phoebe Ann Rugh, was an amazing woman who even today takes my breath away with all she accomplished. She was a single mother, widowed when her kids were small, just a little older than mine, and she made her living by opening an arts store in Pittsburgh just after World War II. (Mom, I probably mangled this all to pieces. I’m sorry. I’m remembering what I can.) She was kind. More than anything else, she was kind. She would sit at the kitchen table for hours with us, making puzzles, playing board games (oh, the Monopoly!), and crinkling that kind, kind smile at us as we learned to play with others.
I loved her. Still do.
This weekend was incredibly hard. We went to the museum on Friday, sure, but then I couldn’t do anything on Saturday, and Sunday’s accomplishments consisted of the following:
- Sitting up in the recliner, and
- Doing puzzles.
My children and I do puzzles now, because I am too weak to go outside and play, or even to go up the stairs very often. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do our museum trip this week. I hope we can. But if not, I’ll sit here like my grandmother and so many before me, talking to friends who stop by and doing puzzles.