it’s so hard to believe she’s gone. Before the emphysema and the diabetes and the congestive heart failure got so bad, this woman was like a force of nature.
Tough as nails, would outwork anyone, and do it while laughing at the most absurd things. Random memories, in no particular order:
the year I was 7 or so…the only time we were left in her care that I was old enough to remember. As an adult I cringe at how she must have felt when I said ‘but why don’t you make me biscuits for breakfast? my REGULAR maw-maw does’. To do her credit, she tried. She just forgot that biscuits need shortening, and we wound up with hardtack that even the most seasoned sailor would have cracked a tooth on. Instead of attempting to eat them, we brought them outside and used them to play catch with until they finally disintegrated…laughing all the while.
14 years old…when she came to stay with us in Maine. I was smack in the middle of teen angst and she took me seriously. We’d sit up until 3 in the morning talking about everything under the sun…she oh so carefully asked me the questions I needed to hear, questions that still resonate with me today.
4 years old…with her ability to laugh at the most hurtful things, she retold the story over and over – of how she lit up a cigarette and I immediately stood up, hand on hip, and declaimed ‘you’re going to be thrown straight into the pits of hell!’ She understood that I was at that age just a product of my upbringing…and her presence in my life is one of the things that helped me see my way clear of so much.
16 years old…just out of high school, and bemoaning the fact that college wasn’t in my future. She is the one who gave me courage to believe that no matter what anyone around me said, I was a reasonably smart human being and my gender didn’t define what I was capable of doing.
24 years old…dealing with a sticky situation at work – and calling her to talk it over, as one person in management to another. By that time her management days were past, but she had so much wisdom to offer me. Any successes I had on the various jobs were due to taking her advice.
20 years old…that’s when I started gaining weight (the undiagnosed insulin disorder) and couldn’t figure out why. She came up 6 weeks prior to my wedding and did my own personal boot camp. The 6am walks with her were full of laughter. We’d come back and she’d stand over me and count every calorie and every iota of fat in my lunch for work…and I knew after work she’d be there to do an hour of aerobics that more often than not ended with us laughing hysterically as we tried to outdo each other with the craziest moves to cajun zydeco. Give that woman an umbrella and some jazz and she could boogie with the best of them! 😀 Then there were the days we both narrowly escaped injury trying to use the treadmill and cardioglide – we both were slightly technically challenged! And in the darker moments when I was fighting what my body was doing and was so discouraged that so few calories a day could result in weight GAIN…she would hold me and let me cry and remind me that when her diabetes struck, and she was morbidly obese – the only exercise she could do was to stand up during a commercial break and shuffle once around the coffee table and so she did. And then it was twice, and then three times – and she managed to lose enough weight to not need insulin for another 10 years.
The years since my son was born were particularly close years for us, as I began to sort through the lifetime of baggage that I needed to shed in order to be a good mama to my boy. The validation she offered is one of the more healing things I’ve experienced.
As her only surviving granddaughter, we had a special relationship. So many of the things I see as my strengths are a direct result of her influence on my life…the quirky way I see the world and the humor I find in the darkest corners of my life are her legacy to me.
I miss her.