Maw Maw is ninety-seven today, and sharp as a jack knife. Well, she might be really ninety-eight. Her granddaughter says her birth certificate and Social Security Card don’t match.
Anyway, government paper wasn’t vital in 1918. Not compared to things like prayer, food, the Bible, or enduring flu pandemics.
Things have changed.
“She grew up in Turkey Hill,” her granddaughter says. “Everyone knows her by her real name, Ozenia. She hates being inside, loves outdoor things like blackberry picking, or gardening…”
Her granddaughter shows me a photograph that goes way back.
The woman is a leftover from Alabamian history. She has Native American blood. High cheeks, blue-black hair, a glare hard as the flat-side of a skillet.
And old time religion.
The ancient kind without air conditioning, stadium seating, or headset microphones. The rural sort, with faith healers who could raise the dead.
She was reared in the days when radio was witchcraft. When girls went shoeless, and boys called them, ma’am, or Mama. When children knew how to fend off cottonmouths with nothing but faith and garden hoes.
“When we were kids,” her granddaughter goes on. “She carried a hickory switch in her purse. She didn’t spare the rod… That woman fears the Lord.”
She does more than fear him, she speaks in tongues to him. She’ll tell you about healings and miracles she’s seen over the years. And she can even help you get one.
Maw Maw is part of a generation who sees prayer and weeping as going hand in hand. Who believes God can make something out of nothing. She may be old, but her heart isn’t.
“After church,” her granddaughter says. “She always visited the nursing homes. She’d bake cakes, take’em with her. She’d ask if we wanted to go. We rarely did.”
Today, Maw Maw lives on her own, does her own laundry, doles her meds, has her teeth, and will be dog-gone if anyone cooks for her.
Truth told, life isn’t much different for Ozenia than it has been. She still wakes early. She still drinks Sanka—black as soot—then reads her Bible and bows her head to move a mountain or two.
When asked about her birthday, Maw Maw says with a smile, “My time here is short.”
I suppose she’s right. Life for anyone is a flicker. Even for Baptists and Pentecostals. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, you realize your oven timer’s about to go off. But to her this is no curse, it’s a privilege.
Because some glad morning when this life is over, Maw Maw plans on going into the miracle business full-time.
Until then, happy ninety-seventh birthday, Ozenia.