In today’s post, I would like to spotlight one of the Garner’s most senior “villagers.” In past posts, I have referenced the village that it takes to survive, not merely grief, but life. While each member of our village has been instrumental in our family’s survival over the last 7 years, there are some whose shoulders definitely need replacing after carrying our family’s burdens for over 40 years. While her husband is fine (Fast Eddie, we all know you don’t need an ego boost, love you), I am sad for anyone who does not have a Jane Wynn in their life. (Heretofore referenced as, “Slick,” which is short for, Slick Jane.)
While I can’t remember if my dad coined Slick as TB before or after Molly died, I remember my dad’s words when he bestowed that nickname upon her. “Jane Wynn is the friend you want with you in the trenches of war, she’s our Trench Buddy.” Mom and Dad quickly moved to, “TB,” when referencing Slick. However, we know that I won’t even watch movies that have war in them. While I wholeheartedly agree with their sentiment, everyone knows that Slick and I would be the first to be blown out of a trench because of our inability to blend in; so I will always think of her as my Slick.
Mom and Slick matriculated around the same time from West Georgia College. While Mom was a cardinal and straw, x and the gold horseshoe, Chi Omega; Jane was the president of Kappa Delta. I won’t compare the two to The Bloods and The Crips, but I won’t not compare them either. They knew of each other. In my mind, they curtly nodded at each other, straight-lipped, as they passed one another on campus, but I don’t know how accurate that is. As fate would have it, they ended up teaching together at a rural elementary school, and attending the same church. Lucky us, they allowed their Greek affiliations to morph into the modern philosophy of, “All of Panhellenic is glorious and we are on the same team!” These progressive thinkers, along with a couple of others, set the foundation for what has become a lifelong legacy of loyalty, friendship, love, forgiveness, endurance, and compassion.
My Slick has the most uncanny long-term memory. (She can’t remember why she walked into the bathroom until she wets her pants, but I digress.) She remembers more details of my mom’s pregnancies and the infancy of my brother and I than our own mother. (Sorry, J-Lo, you have a lot of strengths, but short-term and long-term memory are not on the list.) For instance, did you know that when my mom was in Sunday school the summer she had Griffin, he knocked her bible off of her belly from the womb??? I do, because Slick has told me. You might not be aware, but Slick would also tell you that I had the tiniest features and legs. The only thing my mom tells me is that I cried a lot.
I have very few milestones, holidays, traumas, or memories that Slick is not a part of. From sitting across from her at Captain D’s, Western Steer, or the Polar Cub for 6,000 consecutive Sunday lunches, to her promising me on my high school graduation that college would be the most fun time of my life, to sobbing in her lap last year when Lamar was missing—she truly has been a constant in a life of perpetual upheaval.
While Mom had to quit teaching because my constant crying might or might not have been caused by the ginormous tumor in my eye, Slick “dug ditches” every day for 150 years as a first grade teacher. (If you want pure entertainment, ask her to describe her brief, post-retirement gig as a bank teller.) When I decided to enter the education field, she was ending her career. Sure, she was exhausted. She was jaded. She knew what I was getting myself into. Most retired educators told me to run the other way. Not Slick. She encouraged me. When I spent the longest 9 month of my life with my own first grade classroom, I would call her crying and questioning my will to live, much less go to work. Slick never discouraged, only told me to keep, “digging ditches.” I survived, and somehow those children in my room did too. Like my own Mama, Slick knows me better than I know myself. A few months ago, I told my mom some thoughts I had been having about my career path, and she laughed. Just that day, Slick told my mom what she thought I needed to do, and it was pretty much verbatim what I had been processing in my own head.
Although I did not need confirmation that Slick was our “ride or die,” nothing solidified her place more on the pedestal upon which she sits than her role in our healing over the last 7 years. At first, day after day, night after night, Slick was there. She cried with us. She held us. She made us drink. She gave us medicine. She made me take a shower. She went with mom to the doctor, sat in the corner, took notes for me, and spoke to the doctor on our behalf. She helped organized the momentous task of thank you notes. She helped us move the pen when we couldn’t remember how to form letters. When I reluctantly went back to Nashville to student teach, I could do that with full confidence that my Slick was going to put her eyes on Mama and Daddy every day.
Just like she knows me, and just like I love her, she had the same relationship with Molly. Like the Kenimers, the Putnams, the Worthys, the Buchanans, and so many others, her heart was broken when Molly died. I know she went home and broke down, and I know she had to take breaks from the weight of emotion at our house, but I don’t remember that. I remember her being a rock for us. Her rock hasn’t eroded or moved since December 29, 2009. When we have questions about those first moments and days from when Molly died because our brains have protected us from those memories, we call Jane. Just like she dug ditches with thousands of first graders, she digs them with us. She explains to us why we made funeral decisions how we did. She explains why nobody let us stay by ourselves for weeks. She reminds me why I wasn’t allowed to use the hall bathroom.
So, why am I choosing the mild February night to make sure you know how sad you are that you don’t have a Slick in your life? For the first time since Abraham Lincoln was president, I can’t pull on to West Fairlawn Drive, go in the door (without knocking), and say, “What the hell is going on?” For the first time since she left Hogansville to start her path to the presidency (of Kappa Delta), Slick has left 30117. Her husband, Fast Eddie, is clearly aging and feels the need to return to his roots. While they aren’t settling in straight up Portal, they are setting their sights on the closest metropolis, Statesboro. What makes her the epitome of a trench buddy, is what makes her a wife, mother, and grandmother without parallel. I don’t do well with change, and I’m selfish. This hurts like hell, but I am happy to know that she must feel like my Mom is strong enough to get through a week of lunches and dinners without her. Emily, Cliff, Ford, Wynn, Fast Eddie: take care of our Slick. She’s spent a lifetime taking care of us.
Slick, when Molly discovered more than meat loves salt, I have no doubt that your face was a part of what that looked like.
For Griffin, Molly, Julie, Marla, Ellen, Katie, Carson, Thomas, and Sarah— We love you more than meat loves salt.