Words will never capture everything this woman meant to me.
She and my grandfather took me in when I was a baby and raised me for several years when my own parents couldn't get their shit together. From the time I was 18 months to when I was nearly 5, I called her mother.
I have a lifetime of stories and memories. Some are wonderful and filled with so much love I could burst. Many are fraught with frustration, anger and complication. All are built on love.
I was named after her, even though my mother tries to tell me otherwise.
She taught me to sing and dance and of the joy in staying up late at night to tell stories.
She passed down to me her stubborn streak as well as a love for antiques, music and a strong drink.
She was more than a little disappointed that I didn't share her affinity for sparkly, glittery clothes. She loved sequins and bright colors and wished my mother would show more cleavage.
She bought me my first pair of contacts when I was 13--a teenage game changer. She told me I had gorgeous, long legs and then helpfully advised that I might want to think about getting a nose job.
She told me I was beautiful every time I saw her.
She told me I was smart and could do anything I wanted.
She had a hard time saying goodbye to people she loved and would sometimes instead just pick a fight before you left. She just found it to be easier that way, I guess.
She was born and raised in Wichita Falls, one of three sisters in a very poor family.
She had only eight years of formal education and met my grandfather while working as a telephone operator at Sheppard Air Force Base. He wanted her to connect him to his girlfriend in Paris, France--he was buying her a pair of silk stockings. My grandmother, most likely tempted by the thought of such luxurious garments, patched him through to Paris, Texas instead.
The rest, of course, is history.
Rachel Ann Leibrock was a true beauty and a huge personality--always a consummate performer--who charmed everyone she met.
I had the chance to say goodbye to her last month in Dripping Springs, Texas. She remembered me and finally got to meet my husband. She told me I was beautiful. She told Cory he was handsome. She asked us both if we liked to drink beer. I said I did, but liked whiskey better. The biggest smile broke out across her face.
Last night I thought about my grandmother before I went to sleep. It was an exhausted, fleeting thought, one borne on love, remembrance and worry.
This morning I woke to news of her death. I feel all things sadness, joy and relief.
Mostly I'm happy to know that she's back with my grandfather. He's been gone for more than 10 years and she was never really the same after his death.
Goodbye Rachel Ann Leibrock. You will never be gone from my heart.
This gave me plenty to write about which, in turn often meant that I found myself trying to censor some thoughts and feelings, to keep them private.
And, often when I felt that coming on--that need to censor, to keep things hidden--I tried to push through. I tried to write honestly, I tried to write the truth, I tried to write like a motherfucker, instead. Because, otherwise, what's the point?
I don't know how successful I was with any of that. Certainly I failed, miserably, at posting my stuff to BlogHer as one is supposed to during this challenge. And I'm still catching up on reading other blogs--something I do want to do for equal parts inspiration and perspective.
The writing challenge proved one certain thing: I'm a million miles away from being a really good writer, This isn't a false plea for praise. I know I'm a good writer. But i'm not a really good writer, much less a great one.
But I'm trying. Everyday, I'm trying.
*The above photo is, like the phrase, borrowed from Cheryl Strayed and The Rumpus.
Tonight was a good night. We didn't get to see my side of the family on Thanksgiving so tonight my brother and sister-in-law had us over for dessert. Her parents were there as were my mom and my other brother, sister-in-law and niece.
It was low-key and fun and the older I get the more I appreciate and value and honestly just love being around my brothers--my 16-year-old self would be shocked to discover this, I know.
More than anything I love getting to watch Audrey get bigger and more curious and playful. Her great big smile is adorable and watching her play with her uncle--who was, he'll admit, too scared to pick her up when she was a newborn--is pretty much the best.
Now we're home and we're changing into comfy clothes and we're going to watch a movie and hang out with the cats. It's supposed to start raining anytime so I'm glad we made it home off the road before then.