Happy birthday to my grandmother

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, July 13, 2013

Friday was a special day. It was my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

Velma Seal is known to many in the area, especially in Varnado, where she spent most of her adult life. She was married to Robert Seal, who died when I was a baby, and is mom to Billy, my dad, and Jackie, who died 13 years ago.

She’s known to me and my cousin Jim as Mimmie. To most everyone else she’s Aunt Velma.

My grandmother was raised in Kokomo, Miss., and had three brothers and six sisters. (Three more siblings died as babies.) Many of her siblings, like my grandmother, ended up in Washington Parish.

Mimmie is the only one left now, but some of her siblings were well up in age before they died.

One “big” sister, Beulah Miley of Bogalusa, died in 2008 at the age of 97. Another older sister, Lela Bishop of Pascagoula, Miss., died at the age of 104. A brother in Picayune, George Pittman, was 91 when he died. A sister, Letha Mae Delancy of Pine, and younger brother, Wilton Pittman of Bogalusa, were killed in car accidents. Aunt Mae was 73; Uncle Wilton was 82.

Mimmie doesn’t move as quickly as she used to, and she doesn’t get out as much as she used to, but she still gets out some and still lives alone.

My grandmother has always been a huge part of my life. I spent many days and nights with her when I was young, and when we moved to Mississippi during my childhood I spent many weeks during summer and winter vacations at her house.

She spent hours playing with me when she wasn’t working. She’d cook my favorite foods and watch my favorite TV shows.

When I was a teenager and then a college student I still wanted to visit. She was a sounding board for me, a confidante. We took vacations together. We had lots of fun.

Several years ago Mimmie moved from her house in Varnado to Bogalusa to be closer to my parents. And when my daughter came along, I was sure glad she did. The path was worn quickly between the two houses. When my grandmother moved from the house next door to an apartment behind my parents, it became much easier for Cassidy.

“I’m going to Mimmie’s,” she’d say as she slammed the back door closed.

When Cassidy was younger she spent countless hours at Mimmie’s. They’d play games, do puzzles, play store and play restaurant. But mostly, they played dolls. My grandmother played those make-believe games for hours. It was their special time together, time Cassidy will treasure always.

Cassidy’s older now and doesn’t spend as much time there, but she still loves our Mimmie. Just recently I went looking for her and found her sitting on the floor by my grandmother’s chair deep in conversation. They were talking about her upcoming 100th birthday and the secret to longevity.

“If you laugh a lot you won’t have wrinkles,” they told me.

My grandmother has given a lot of herself to me during my lifetime. And she’s done the same for my daughter for the past 13 years, and we are both truly blessed because of it.

I gave my grandmother a Grandparents Journal in 1988, and several years later she returned it to me after sharing some of her memories of me growing up and her life after my birth.

On the last page she also wrote: “I pray you can always remember me as a good and loving grandmother.”

Mimmie, you have been a wonderful grandmother and great-grandmother, and we love you with all our hearts. Happy Birthday!

Sandy Cunningham is publisher of The Daily News.