SPOT ON GRANNY—One "Gamma", Two Careers; She's All That And More
THE GRANNY DIARIES: Today we are excited to talk to Sherry Johnston from Alexander City, AL, home of beautiful Lake Martin, NFL greats Terrell Owens and Justin Tuck, and just down the road from late actor/singer Jim Nabors’ hometown. Settle in while we learn about life and grandparenting in a small southern city.
Sherry, tell us a little about yourself. What do you spend your time doing?
SHERRY JOHNSTON: I have two full time jobs! I’m a cosmetologist at Studio SAM Hair Salon and I’m a realtor with Remax Around The Lake.
One of my favorite things to do is hang out with friends and family. My passion is helping other people. I enjoy relaxing in my pool and I go to the beach as often as I can. I love it there!
My favorite hobby is running—it keeps me in shape and it’s also my time to meditate and talk to God. I plan to start back soon and I’m going to train for my next Mud Run.
DIARIES: Do you have any special memories about your grandparents?
SHERRY: I was fortunate to have grown up with both sets of grandparents. I have so many special memories with them—so many it’s hard to choose.
My Grandma would let me sit in the middle of the kitchen table and help make biscuits, cakes, and cookies. I could paint the whole kitchen with flour and she would just laugh and say, “Sing me a song!”
Both of my PawPaws always told me I was their favorite (but they probably told all of us grandchildren that).
My PawPaw Bill would take me to the river on Sunday mornings before church. We’d get into our aluminum boat and check his trotlines. He taught me to bait a hook and skin a catfish. He even taught me how to rob a beehive and drive his old truck.
PawPaw Bill raised cattle. When I was little, he’d carry me on his hip to see a new calf every time one was born.
He also grew the largest watermelons I’d ever seen. He’d call me and say, “Okay Sherry, I’m getting the watermelon ready to cut.” I’d slam down the phone, and out the door I would run all the way to his house, which was about a mile away. As I ran down the driveway, I could see him sitting on the side of his porch with the watermelon, some newspaper (to put the seeds on to dry), a knife, two spoons, and salt. I’d start yelling, “I’m here PawPaw, I’m here!” He’d say, “You beat me again—I was just about to cut it!”
I’ll never forget the night he passed away. He was in the hospital. My family had been taking turns spending the night with him, and it was finally my turn again. I got to the hospital later than I wanted because of work and family obligations. When I arrived, the hallway outside his room was filled with my family and I started crying. Then, one by one, they told me, “He’s been calling your name and reaching for you all day.” He’d already slipped into a coma and hadn’t spoken a word in several hours. After hearing this, I ran into his room and to the far side of his bed where I threw myself across his chest.
I hugged him and said, “I’m here PawPaw! I’m here!”
And then something amazing happened. He said, “I love you. I love you. I love you!” He repeated it three times.
“I love you too, PawPaw. I always will.” He passed away only minutes later.
DIARIES: What a beautiful story. And what special relationships you had with your grandparents.
Tell us about your grandchildren. What are their names and ages?
SHERRY: I have two grandchildren—Cooper’s three and a half years old and Emma Cole just turned two. They are beautiful with their bright eyes and dimples so big that my whole finger will fit in. My grandchildren feel just like my very own children without going through the birthing process. It’s hard to describe, but the first time I held them, I swear fireworks shot from the top of my head right there in the hospital room. I just love them to death!
DIARIES: What’s your granny name and the story behind it?
SHERRY: They call me Gamma, and yes, there is a story behind that name. When my daughter Megan was expecting Cooper, I worked with a precious girl named Jessica. One day she told all of us that my Granny name should be Glamma because I was so glamorous. Although I loved it, I didn’t want everyone to think I thought I was “all that”, so I shortened it to Gamma.
DIARIES: What have been your favorite moments or memories with your grandchildren?
SHERRY: One of my favorite times with my grandchildren is when I get to their house, they hear me come in the back door, and they take off running towards me. They’re yelling, “Gamma, Gamma’s here,” and they grab me around the legs. I always tell them to never outgrow that. Another favorite moment for me is having them spend the night at my house and we all wake up in the same bed. The looks on their little faces are priceless. I also love story time because they both crawl up in my lap to see the pages of the book we’re reading. And of course, swimming pool time with Gamma is always a blast!
DIARIES: Do you have any other thoughts on grandparenting or advice for future grans?
SHERRY: Gamma advice from me would be:
1. Go to the ultrasound appointment and see your grandchild at the same time your children get to see their baby. There is no greater joy than in that moment.
2. Spend as much time with them as possible. Connect with them while they’re young and you’ll always have that bond. Make fun, loving memories for them to treasure long after you’re gone.
3. Tell every grandchild they are your favorite.
4. Pray with them and for them always.
DIARIES: This is such great advice! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about being a Gamma?
SHERRY: Oh yes, there’s one more thing. From the time Cooper and Emma Cole were born, every year around their birthdays I take a picture of my hand holding theirs. One day I plan to put these pictures in a special book for them.
DIARIES: That is such a precious idea. Thank you, Sherry, for sharing your experiences and spending time with The Granny Diaries. Your life is full and fun and inspirational!