For Mother’s Day last year, I wrote about my late mother Betty Lane (Batchelor) Swearengin. Now, I am thinking of another important mother who was once part of my life, my grandmother, Virginia Batchelor.
We called her “Memaw” and I spent many nights at her Durant home which was another home for me.
“Matthew, you were my star boarder,” Memaw often said to me. I lived with her my last year of college in 1991-92 and also spent most of the summer of 1983 at her home.
I never knew her husband and my “Pepaw,” James Batchelor, because he died nine months before I was born. My first name is James and I was named after him.
Memaw was so much fun. The family gatherings were held at her home. The house had a large den, kitchen, dining room and one upstairs room that all of the kids would retreat to after dinner.
When I was visiting her in the late 1970s, we flew back to Laramie, Wyoming, where my family moved in 1977. It was the first time I had flown on a jet which was very exciting, but I was also a little sad because I had such a great visit to Durant.
However, as I thought about it, my sadness turned to excitement because Memaw was coming with me to stay with us for awhile. “Memaw, I said, “I’m sad we are leaving but glad I have more fun to look forward to when we get to Laramie.”
Memaw asked, “Are you looking forward to getting home to see your friends?”
I paused for a couple of seconds as I realized she misunderstood what I meant.
“Memaw, yes I am looking forward to getting home to see my friends but what I meant was that I am happy I will have more time with you.”
Her face lit up and that was the first thing she told mom when we landed in Laramie. It was something she never forgot and she told that story through the years.
She was a fabulous cook but also liked to go out to eat.
In May 1983, I got in the passenger seat of my brother Mark’s Datsun 240Z and we drove from Laramie to Durant to spend the summer.
Upon arriving at Memaw’s, she asked, “Boys, do you want to go to Naifeh’s?”
Although we would have been happy if she had made us a fabulous home-cooked meal, we were thrilled that Memaw wanted to take us out for dinner.
Naifeh’s, still in business today, was then located in Mead, and it was her favorite restaurant. We always went to the “club” area in back which was really cool as a child because it seemed as if this was an “adults only” area of the restaurant. It was dimly lit like something you would see in an old movie and we knew as children we had to be on our best behavior.
I introduced her to my love of pizza and once a month, I would come by and we would share pizza and talk about life. I didn’t have to knock on her door or call in advance. I had a key and just let my self in. It was truly home to me.
As she was getting older, some of the new technology baffled her. “Matthew, I don’t understand all of this internet dot com stuff,” she said.
I reassured her that I was still trying to figure it out myself.
We celebrated her 90th birthday in 1999.
My father died later that year and in January 2000, my mom and her daughter, Betty Lane Swearengin, died, something that was obviously very painful to Memaw as it was to all of us.
Memaw’s health was declining and she had to move out of the home she had lived in for almost 60 years. It was a sad day for all of us and moving things out of her house was heart-wrenching. The World War II surplus bunk beds that were in Uncle Dan’s old room upstairs were disassembled and carried down the stairs. I slept in these beds many times as did all of her grandchildren.
This was the room that all of the children went to when we were visiting her home. We kept ourselves up half the night telling ghost stories or just giggling over silly things.
I visited her in the assisted-living facility she lived, but I could tell she was no longer the same. Having to move out of her home was very painful for her. She placed photos of all three of her children on the wall and when I went by to see her a few days later, the photo of my mom was gone. Memaw said she had to take it down because she couldn’t bear to look at it knowing her second-oldest child was no longer with us.
She died in 2002, however, she will always be with me because of the wonderful memories.
Memaw, rest in peace. I love you and will always miss you. If Heaven had visiting hours, I would bring you a pizza and we would have another wonderful visit.
Contact Matt Swearengin at 634-2160 or [email protected]