Publisher: twinger Volume No. 3 Issue No 17 Date June 4, 2005
The definition of a lady is a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior; a woman of refinement and gentle manners; a woman of superior social position. A lady is not coarse, vulgar or uncouth. A great lady strikes a delicate balance between power and grace.
Women aren’t born ladies. Through their life circumstances of friendship, social responsibility, style of dress and interaction with society they earn this title.
One of my favorite scripture passages is the 31st chapter of Proverbs. From verse 10 until the end of the chapter, it describes a wife of noble character. She is referred to in our family as the P31 woman.
When I was a child, I was blessed with 2 grandmothers, a grandfather, a great-grandmother and a great-grandfather. They all lived in Mobile, Alabama, which is the birthplace of my mother, father and the majority of my siblings. When we made our annual summer vacation from Dallas to Mobile, we usually stayed with my mother’s parents, Granddaddy and Tootie. From Mobile we would head to Gulf Shores for a time of fun in the sun. My grandparents had a house there until after granddaddy died at which time Tootie would arrange for us to stay in a rented house or condo. We were blessed with her careful planning and hospitality for many years. As my family matured, it became harder for us all to make this trek and so we stopped going to Mobile for a time. When my son Ryan was small, my family decided it was time to start going to the Gulf again in the summers. With Tootie’s sage advice we embarked on the process of securing a suitable place to stay. What a chore this was! You see Gulf Shores is a popular vacation spot, and if you wanted a nice place to stay in the summer, you had to begin calling in January. We also began the process of meal planning and staple procurement for our weeklong stay. All of a sudden it became crystal clear the many sacrifices Tootie had made for our visit. We had never worried about food, money or other essentials in the past because Tootie had taken care of it all. Through unpredictable weather, and children aplenty Tootie exuded refinement. As she would say, “Everything has to be just so”, and it was.
Her favorite color is pink, befitting a lady. On the occasions that I sent Tootie flowers, I never considered any color other than pink. I remember staying with her when I was young. She was always up before, and went to bed long after anyone else in the house. She was a woman of order and her household ran like a well-oiled machine, even when the Johnstons came to town. I have no recollection of anger, cursing, or petty gossip spewing from her mouth. She had wonderful friends and honed the fine art of cultivating her many friendships young and old. She was firm, and after my grandfather died, she called the shots. You never had to wonder who was in charge when Tootie was around. Her word could be counted on, and when she said she would do something it was as good as done.
She chose her clothing carefully, and always looked her best. I don’t remember ever seeing her look disheveled, even early in the morning. She had this emerald ring that my grandfather squirreled away money to buy for her. It is elegant and I always admired it. Tootie always wore that ring, and her attire and demeanor was such that the ring never looked out of place. I asked for and received the ring from Tootie. I dare say I have a hard time personifying the image of a lady befitting such a treasure. I am only heartened by the fact that she felt me worthy enough to possess it.
When she moved to Dallas several years ago, I would have the occasion to visit about every six months. I always made a special “date” with Tootie. It would seem that I did this for her, but in looking back I did it for selfish reasons. You see, Tootie had this special way of centering our visit on me and my life, not on her and her life. She gave me her full attention for the duration of our visit, and it made me feel special.
Tootie is in the hospital in Dallas today and she is dying. When my mother called to tell me the news that her kidneys had shut down, I knew without her telling me that this was the case. Most of the time, death comes when we least expect it. It leaves us feeling helpless, sad, and sometimes bitter. I refuse to allow the sting of death to taint how I feel about Tootie. She and I both know that I love her, and I choose to rejoice in her life and the legacy she has left me. In life, as in death, she is a great lady, a P31 woman.