By the time I was in second grade, she'd buried her husband and two sons. She had rheumatism and heart trouble.
She'd been a lot of places and had the souvenir plates to prove it, but travel didn't hold much appeal anymore.
Dreams seemed long gone. Oh, there was still the satisfaction of presenting a fine bouquet from her hybrid tea roses for a hospitalized friend, and as she'd work in the house or yard, she'd frequently rest and sing a few bars of "In the Sweet By-and-By" or some other hymn.
Grandmama would listen to my dreams. Many a day as the sun set, I'd pull a kitchen chair to face her rocker and tell her all the wonderful things I was going to do by and by.
For a time, I was planning to be a doctor - until I hit 10th-grade biology.
In the angst of adolescence, for a time I dreamed of moving to Australia, where I would drive a truck cross-continent and have days on end to myself, my thoughts and my music.
My most consistent dream was to farm. I would not raise cattle, as my dad did: Cows have just enough mind of their own to cause trouble. I would raise corn and soybeans, which have no wandering ways, and hogs, whose steel-and-concrete confinements are more reliable than "bobwahr and bodock."
I'd rent Daddy's bottom land my first year farming, then some across the road.
Eventually I would buy 500 acres, build a fine house and teach my sons, of which I would have several, to follow in my footsteps. "Progressive Farmer" would of course do a cover article on my farming operation.
Dreams are funny things. A while back I met a man who also dreamed of farming 500 acres. Problem was, he was farming several thousand acres at the time. He wished he could cut back to the size farm I'd dreamed of growing into.
Before I left my teens, Grandmama died. It was only years later that I realized she'd still had a dream all along.
She'd lived long enough to drink deeply of both the sweet and the bitter. She'd seen roses and rainbows and ruination.
She'd seen both fulfillment and failure of earthly dreams and learned that neither is permanent.
Her dream was Heaven, where the bitter is gone, and ruination is past. All along, Grandmama had told me her dream, too - I just wasn't listening.
"There's a land beyond the river that they call the sweet Forever, and we only reach that shore by faith's decree," it started.
At the end, the dream said, "In the sweet by-and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore."
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at firstname.lastname@example.org.