Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nana's House

Nana and Aunt Blackie ~ Nana's on the right.

Today, I feel profoundly sad ~ and profoundly grateful ~ all at the same time. My dear mother-in-law, Nana, passed away one year ago today. She was 85 years young. A year ago yesterday, my father-in-law, Papa, died too ~ he was 86 ~ and the day before that ~ Buster our American Bulldog of eleven years died. I needed to do something about it ~ I'm not a crier ~ but I cried. I'm not a writer ~ but I wrote. Let me warn you ~ it's long ~ almost like a short story ~ but if you read it you might learn some of the things I learned at Nana's house.


She had a twinkle in her eye and was an angel on earth ~ I'm certain of that ~ I bet her halo is one of the shiniest in heaven.

She had a profound love for a beautiful environment and pretty things. She was a domestic diva ~ long before Martha Stewart ever came on the scene.

She loved homemade plum jelly and coconut cream pie and mustard ~ she knew I loved these too ~ except for the mustard.

She was passionate about cooking and loved trying new recipes. She was a really good cook, except when it came to roast beef ~ it was always burnt or dry ~ she would often burn the biscuits as well ~ "that's how you get it at the Pugh house" ~ so Gavin said ~ he says it when I burn things too.

She was smart and savvy and knew what was up when the grandkids would say, "we're going to get out of the house for awhile" ~ they'd sneak off to Rosa's for good Mexican food ~ she was fine with that as long as they brought her back a taco ~ she loved Rosa's.

She loved to set a pretty table with pretty dishes and fresh flowers and a lovely tablecloth ~ she would invite strangers off the street to come in and dine with us ~ even when we didn't want them to.

She always had food ready to eat ~ and tried to feed everybody ~ I think she thought the whole world was going to go hungry ~ they wouldn't at Nana's.

Halbrooks Hash Recipe

She prepared Halbrooks (her maiden name) Hash every time we went to visit her ~ it was originally named Buffet Summer Special ~ not anymore ~ she renamed it. It had ground meat, olives, onions, almonds, Velveeta, tomatoes, bell peppers, noodles ~ and lots of other interesting ingredients in it ~ the grandchildren didn't like it ~ I did.

She recycled long before it was the cool thing to do and would send cards ~ lots and lots of cards ~ used cards with the signature marked through and then she would sign them. She was way ahead of her time ~ she had pretty handwriting.

She was a bit of a pack rat ~ but not too bad ~ except when it came to the expired food in the pantry and freezers ~ it was kind of scary looking in there ~ everyone knew to check the expiration dates.

Nana, Nat and grandbaby ~ can you guess who?

She had a way with babies and was there for the birth of all three of mine. She taught me how to bathe my newborns and then she would grease them down from head to toe with Vaseline ~ so I did too.

She was a good mother ~ she modeled it for me and countless others ~ I hope I've done half as good job as her ~ that means I would be a success and I would be happy.

She had lots of "adopted" kiddos ~ young and old ~ they called her "Mom" and "Nana" ~ they loved her and she loved them too. We shared her with them ~ Nana believed in sharing ~ she had lots of love to go around.

She loved serving others and she did it without ever complaining.

Nana and Reagan

She had beautiful eyes ~ but they weren't so good ~ she had thick glasses and long eyelashes ~ Reagan has Nana's eyes ~ they are beautiful like hers.

She loved to laugh and had the ability to laugh at herself ~ she had a contagious chuckle that would cause other people to chuckle too.

She had a way of singing your name whenever she called you ~ it was a beautiful melody.

She rejoiced when good things happened to other people and she was genuinely happy for them.

She was a lady ~ a real lady. She was extraordinary ~ but she didn't think so.

She was only "ugly" to someone one time in her life that I heard of ~ she told a little friend of Nat's to "go home and never come back" when the little boy asked Nat if that was his grandma. She was 36 years old when Nat was born.

She loved to play games like ~ Uno, Skip Bo and Chicken Foot ~ she played so much until the games wore out. She cheated ~ sweet little Nana cheated ~ we didn't care. She was good at games and would usually win.

She was a friend ~ and had lots of girlfriends ~ and they loved her ~ she loved them back. She did a really good job of it ~ she was a loyal friend.

She loved her grandkids and would read to them ~ and taught some of them to read.

She was patient and never got mad ~ unless you threatened to spank one of her grandchildren.

She let the grandkids water her flowers until they almost drowned ~ this made her smile.

Nana and Corbin

She let them build forts in the trees in her backyard and took pictures of them in the forts and framed them and put them in her house for all to see. After Nana and Papa passed there was only one thing Corbin wanted of theirs ~ the panoramic picture Nana took of him one summer of him in the fort ~ he loved going to Nana's.

Nana and Gavin

She tooled around town in an old Lincoln Town Car ~ it fit her ~ it was born the same year Gavin was ~ he's driving it now ~ it fits him too.

She could burp really loudly ~ my sons and the other grandchildren were impressed. She taught them how to burp loud ~ she tooted too. It made us all laugh.

Nana and me

She loved decorating and interior design ~ she liked to look at magazines and get ideas of how to recreate the pretty images in her own home ~ she had a real knack for it. We would rearrange or redecorate a room ~ this made her happy ~ it made me happy too ~ I felt like our hearts beat as one when we were talking about design ~ she understood me and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside ~ like I could do anything.

She loved me like I was her own ~ when I hurt she laid in the bed with me and cried too ~ and I didn't feel so alone.

She grew up on a peanut farm in Beattie, Texas. She spent her last thirty seven years in West Texas ~ she loved West Texas and their beautiful sunsets ~ the dry climate, the heat and the wind. She loved being able to see far off in the distance of the Texas plains. She found beauty in what others would consider ugly.

Nana's whole name was Bessie Beryl Halbrooks Pugh. She had five sisters and one brother ~ all of them were named after rocks ~ Jewel, Opal, Ruby, Pearl, Beryl and Crystal ~ except for Lloyd. Her parent's names were unusual too ~ like Snowing and Lula.

She loved homegrown tomatoes sliced up and served with her eggs at breakfast ~ she liked hers cooked with the yolk partly runny and partly done ~ that's how I like mine. Everyone loved breakfast at Nana's.

She was always positive ~ she saw the glass half full. I have a tendency to be negative ~ and see the glass half empty ~ I feel ashamed of this and want to do better ~ I want to overcome this yucky trait so she'd be proud ~ funny thing ~ she would be proud anyway.

She was a teacher ~ not really ~ but she taught ~ quietly.

She taught me how to make sausage gravy, crepes, homemade yeast rolls and pear pie ~ the best pie you will ever sink your teeth in. I'll share the recipe if you ask.

She taught me how to eat black-eyed peas with mayonnaise on them ~ it sounds gross ~ but it's so yummy. They go really well with cornbread, fried okra and sliced tomatoes ~ you should try it ~ it's my favorite meal and was one of hers too.

She made homemade pickles ~ she got the recipe from the back of Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime. They are really good ~ she taught Nat how to make them ~ he had a great teacher. If you're lucky you may get some for Christmas.

She made "pink stuff" at Christmas ~ it was filled with fluffy marshmallows, red jello, cranberries, nuts and whipped cream ~ she said it was cranberry salad ~ I think it was dessert.

She thought we all liked five bean salad with onions and vinegar ~ but we really didn't.

She had jet black hair when she was younger ~ it turned silvery grey as the years went by.

She was tall, slender, stately and had excellent posture ~ but the osteoporosis shrunk her as she got older. She was still tall in all of our eyes.

She had really bad bunions ~ so she'd have to stretch her shoes out so they wouldn't hurt ~ she never wanted surgery though ~ she was happy to visit people in the hospital ~ but she didn't want to be there.

Buster (upside down ~ sorry Jared), Gavin, Reagan, Nana, Nat, Papa, me and Corbin

She didn't like dogs too much, but would tolerate Buster when we came to visit ~ except when he got underfoot when she was cooking and then she would say "Get away dog." I don't think she ever called him Buster.

She would snooze in church and tried to teach me how ~ my head would nod ~ hers wouldn't.

"Nat and Dana"

She loved giving gifts ~ she gave generously. She gave us some stuffed lovebirds for Christmas one time ~ they were in our wedding but were alive ~ we called them "Nat and Dana." They lived on her back porch and had babies. Nana took them to the taxidermist and had them put to sleep ~ it's kind of a weird story but true ~ she wanted us to have a lasting keepsake from our wedding ~ she was so pleased with herself ~ we still have them ~ how could we throw "Nat and Dana" out?

She didn't have the best of teeth when she was younger ~ so she was always concerned about the health of ours ~ she hung new toothbrushes all over the Christmas tree each year and everyone got to pick one. I think I will continue that tradition.

She said we always had gumbo for Christmas dinner ~ but sometimes we didn't ~ when we did the rice was crunchy.

She always made Jewish Cookies at Christmas ~ I never knew why they were named that ~ she said they were every one's favorite ~ but they were dry and crumbly and weren't mine.

She laughed at this family picture ~ it ended up being our last. The boys have their Nana and Papa's sense of humor ~ Reagan slipped his shirt off and Corbin turned his head right before the timer went off ~ not everyone in the picture was happy about that.

She loved Christmas and everything about it ~ it didn't matter what "day" we celebrated Christmas as long as the family got together ~ she loved her family.

She loved grilling hamburgers and making homemade ice cream. She loved for the family to get together and eat ~ and we did.

She was generous ~ she gave away her money ~ she was gracious and grateful and would always tell us to "just be thankful" even when we didn't want to be.

She spoke softly and sweetly and never raised her voice ~ which made it difficult for Papa to hear ~ since he was deaf ~ she tried to speak loudly to him.

She seemed genuinely interested in others lives and she really was ~ she asked good questions.

She visited people in the hospital ~ people with new babies and sick people. You knew when she was coming down the hall to see you ~ she wore clickety high heels and had quick steps.

She forgave and didn't hold grudges ~ even when others hurt her ~ she would give good reason why they acted as they did ~ she would say "Just be bigger than them" ~ I need to work on this one.

She loved God and she prayed ~ she did role call when she talked to Him about each of us ~ she prayed for lots of other people too. One time we were dog sitting for our neighbor who played major league baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. The dog was a Boston Terrier named Lou Brock ~ once when Nana was kneeling to pray, Lou Brock wanted to pray with her ~ Nana didn't want Lou Brock to pray with her and said "Get away dog."

She loved to sew and was a wonderful seamstress ~ she made lots of clothes and curtains ~ we cut out many a project on her kitchen table.

Nana's front flower bed

Nana and Papa ~ working in the yard.

She loved to garden and grow pretty flowers. She loved tulips and roses and hydrangeas ~ they were one of her favorites ~ mine too!

She was an encourager to all ~ she would see a quality in someone and point it out to them.

She was so Pollyanna ~ she would find something good in even the worst situation.

She was brutally honest ~ to a fault sometimes.

She saw the good in people ~ even when she knew the ugly things in their lives ~ she kept their secrets and loved them anyway ~ she didn't gossip.

She traveled the world.

Everyone felt like she was their best friend ~ including me ~ and I'm sure I was :)

She loved unconditionally without expecting anything in return.

Nana and Nathanael (Nat)

She liked to tell jokes ~ but would always mess up the ending and get tickled ~ that was the best part of the joke ~ my husband, Nat does that ~ just like Nana ~ except he slaps his knee and she didn't.

She always rooted for the underdog and was happy when they came out on top.

She snored louder than anybody I have ever heard ~ no one ever wanted to share a hotel room with her. When we would go for visits, you could hear her snoring through the walls ~ we would all get tickled and laugh.

She never thought more highly of herself ~ she always went last in line and let everyone go before her ~ she was polite.

She was usually the first up and the last to go to bed ~ she didn't want to miss out on anything or any conversation.

She was busy, industrious and never lazy ~ she would make time to lie down for a nap though and would encourage us to do the same ~ we always felt better.

Reagan, Gavin, Nana and Corbin

She generally wouldn't give advice unless you asked for it. I asked her how to maneuver through the teenage years with my boys ~ she told me "just love them."

She opened her home to people ~ too many to count~ who were down and out ~ and gave them a place to live until they could get back on their feet again.

She was good at hospitality and philanthropy.

She was unselfish and would give someone the shirt off her back ~ she did that lots.

She had the gift of listening and gave wise counsel ~ but only if you asked for it. I need to learn that lesson.

She couldn't play the piano or sing ~ neither could I ~ and that's okay. But she would still wake you in the mornings singing "Beautiful dreamer, awaken to me. Starlight and dew drops are waiting for thee" ~ and would serve you orange juice on a tray. I'm not a morning person, but I tried to smile anyway.

She ended every phone conversation with "I love you...thank you for callin."

She loved well and was loved well.

She had Parkinson's ~ but it didn't have her. As the disease progressed it made it more difficult for her to smile but she smiled with her eyes and on the inside ~ She won!

She loved only one man in her life ~ he loved her back.

Bessie and Jessie ~ Nana and Papa

She had the name of "Bessie" ~ he had the name of "Jessie" ~ she said, ''Me and Jessie, we got our own thing goin."

She said she "hoped Papa would go before her because she would get along better without him instead of him without her" ~ and he did ~ his heart broke.

She said she "wasn't going to Papa's funeral" ~ and she didn't ~ her heart broke too ~ forty five hours later to be exact.

She said she "really wished they would just go together because they didn't want to live without each other" and they did ~ I think they had a pact and God was in on it.

There were over 1800 people in attendance at their funeral ~ the funeral of two humble people. Papa often wondered if anybody would show up for his funeral ~ they did.

There were over 250 flower arrangements delivered in loving memory ~ the flower shops ran out of flowers. It was a sea of beautiful blooms for Nana ~ a lover of flowers.

The funeral lasted more than three hours. There were lots of "important" people who told great stories about Nana and Papa ~ but Landry, Misty and Reagan did the best.

They loved their children ~ Datha ~ Terry ~ Nathanael ~ it says so on the tombstone they picked out ~ they were their pride and joy.

I'm not so sure I've forgiven either one of them for leaving us ~ I'm not sure any of us have ~ but I'm grateful they are together forever ~ they got what they hoped and prayed for. It's been a year and we all still get emotional when we think about them or talk about them ~ but we will see them again one day ~ at Nana's new house ~ we're promised we will.

P.S. Someday I will tell you about Papa ~ he was an angel too!
P.P.S. Thank you for indulging me ~ next time I will post a regular post.


  1. Goodness. You have this pregnant lady crying this morning.

    Love you, Dana!

  2. Nat and Dana - I didn't even know your Nana, and yet I'm all teared up. The way you describe her, kept me hoping how I want to be more like her, too!! Blessed by your post, Pinciotti

  3. Sara, I didn't mean to make you cry ~ I love you too!

  4. Ok cousin, I am crying! I am NOT a crier! I know that I am not supposed to pick favorites within the family, but Aunt Bessie, she was my favorite. I loved spending time in her presence. What you day about her is so true. Everyone felt as though she loved them the best. That is truly a gift - to love all people like she did. I laughed really hard about the snoring part - that is an unfortunate Halbrooks trait and she wasn't the only one to have it. I love the first picture of my Nanno and Aunt Bessie and all the pictures of your "boys" and Nana. You know, you are hard on yourself and you shouldn't be. Your love and devotion to your dear mother-in-law is inspiring. Good relationships with mother-in-laws are difficult and you made it look so easy. You loved her unconditionally and I know that she must have felt just as blessed to have you in her life, as you felt to have her. I am going to copy this post and take it to show my Nanno - after I blow my nose and dry my eyes!

  5. What a lovely tribute! What a legacy of love and care she left! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I AM a crier and I'm crying. Thank you for sharing a tribute to one of the most incredible people I've ever known. It makes me happy to know that you realized how much she loved you. What a big, beautiful heart she had! She made the world a better place for all who knew her.

  7. Thanks to all of you for stopping by Nana's house ~ it was always hard leaving and saying goodbye ~ right Birdie Pearl and LaWanda? Love to you all.

  8. Dana, I loved your post about Nana, it was beautiful! Thank you for sharing your memories! They made me smile and cry...

  9. How precious. I love this blog! Keep the stories coming.

  10. What an amazing and sweet tribute to Nana. She reminds me so much of my Mee Mee. Thank you for the tears of joy and memories!!

  11. Thank you for sharing...


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