When I was thirteen I could spend money like no one else, and on the most useless of things: I always, always had a Red Bull in my hand, a new shirt, and a pack of cigarettes. (I didn’t even smoke, but it felt cool to say “Yeah, I’ve got one” when my older guy friends asked to bum one.)
So one day, in my grandma’s old Lincoln town car that’s half falling apart (which isn’t okay because she made a deal when she bought it 20 years ago that it would have to last as long as she did), she said something that I am still not able to get out of my head today. With those tired, blue eyes, she looked at me and said “I got everything I ever wanted, but I wanted all the wrong things.”
Grandma Net owns a truck top that has long surpassed her in age right off 85 in South Carolina, and just around a curve so if you’re not already in the right lane you can kiss the fried chicken and black-eyed peas goodbye. She has probably given away more free meals than she has gotten paid for; which is why that old truck stop is getting run down and pulling her along for the ride. But it wasn’t always like that. Before the towers fell, Broad River Truck Stop’s heyday was ongoing. The sizzling concrete acre parking lot was so hot and dangerous you could get numerous things stuck in your feet just while walking out the door – yet none of us kids ever wore shoes. This parking lot was always overflowing; some had to park along the frontage road. Grandma had too much money to know what to do with. But, things fall apart, people die, and things change. Grandma’s on her own now and does everything herself: working 12 hour days, taking everyone home, and raising two grandchildren – 12 and 8 years old.
It’s strange to see my grandma age and become an old lady, because she has always been anything but that. It’s crazy, watching her dab a bit of moisturizer on her face, tie her shoes and be ready for a break. It’s even crazier to watch her lay back, close her eyes and listen to her fantasies of just quitting everything and going to grow old in the grey house on the corner she bought years ago, but has never spent the night there.
My grandma has single handedly taught me one of the only things you cannot sway me on: work hard; do what you love.