My grandmother, Margaret Rodwell King, died peacefully on August 31. My dad asked me to give a eulogy at her memorial service. It wasn’t until after reading my own words aloud in our church sanctuary yesterday afternoon that I realized how much they were influenced by my family’s battle for Taylor, the lessons my grandmother taught me and the love that serves to guide us through an imperfect but beautiful world.
My Grandma Margaret was an accomplished woman. She was a Duke graduate, a community leader, and a political dynamo. She worked hard for a cause she believed in and mentored others throughout a volunteer career that spanned more than 50 years, and she did it without asking for anything in return. She was an outstanding public servant, a wonderful role model, and a loyal friend.
But to me, she was just Grandma Margaret. And while she may have been a rock star campaign manager and a hall of famer and a university trustee, none of that mattered to me. Because when I was a kid, she made the world’s best grilled cheese sandwich.
I grew up five minutes from my grandparents’ house in Barclay Downs. It had a pool table and a pinball machine, a turtle pond and a big-screen TV with a Sega Genesis video game system, and a Laserdisc player that rated as high-tech when I was growing up. It was the ultimate playground for kids.
The best part, though, just might have been my grandmother’s grilled cheese sandwiches. She used Pepperidge Farm white bread, real butter, and American cheese melted just so. And she had a magic pan.
I can’t tell you what makes a frying pan magic or where you purchase such a thing. But Grandma Margaret said hers was magic, and I believed her. She wouldn’t make my grilled cheese sandwiches in anything else. If the pan was dirty, she broke out a sponge. When we went to the beach, the pan went, too. The pan’s “magic” came to symbolize the magic of long hours spent at the house on 431 Scofield Road and lazy weeks in the condo at Windy Hill Beach.
The passage of time is a funny thing. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. But I’ve come to understand that some things just change.
Some years after my Granddaddy Parks passed away, Grandma Margaret moved out of the house on Scofield and into an apartment at Merrywood.
I don’t know what became of the magic pan.
When she was still finding her way at her new home, my grandmother took a journaling class. One of her first assignments was to write a letter to someone – God, a neighbor, family member, friend, opponent, someone she admired…
She wrote a letter to my sister Taylor—out of all of her grandchildren, probably the one she got to know the least well.
In it, she wrote of finding her place at Merrywood; she lamented that she could not see my sister more often, but said she understood that growing up and going to school could keep a person busy. She suggested Taylor write a letter to her sometime.
I’ll never get to ask her why she chose to write to my sister.
Maybe she wished she’d gotten to know Taylor better or had opportunities to spend time with her like she did with the rest of her grandchildren. Taylor was so young when life changed for Grandma Margaret; my sister never even met my Granddaddy Parks.
Our time here together is short, but that only serves to make the experiences we have that much more meaningful.
Hold the people you love close to your heart. Cherish each day.
I’m so thankful I had the time with my grandmother that I did.
And I thank God that today, she’s at peace.