Saturday, June 21, 2008
Show & Tell #3
This is my grandmother. This Sunday (June 22nd), she would have been 88 years old.
She died on July 5th three years ago.
She was more than a grandmother to me. She was my best friend, teacher, confidant, mother, cheerleader, pen pal.
Growing up, I lived only a few blocks away from her. My best memories are of riding my bike over to her house. A tradition started with my tricycle and my parents watching me go down the block while my Grammie would be down at the bottom of the hill around the block waiting for me. A tradition that I kept with my ten speed, sneaking off to visit her on her day off while I was a teenager and needed to get away from my parents.
Both my brother and I would frequently spend the weekends over at her house. It was a wonderful treat. The weekends I spent over at her house were fun and relaxing. When I was little, I could stay up late, while she watched The Love Boat and The Tonight Show (shh...now, don't tell your parents I let you stay up this late!). She had a spare room off of the living room. It had a small bed and since I was too scared to go upstairs to one of the bedrooms, she would let me sleep down there. She would sing me this song. I would fall asleep, occasionally hearing the dull sounds of the television in the living room. The next day, she would make breakfast, we would talk--talk about anything/everything. Grammie often told me stories of the past, but she did not live in it. She could understand the problems of a teenage girl (or at least listen sympathetically). She always had her radio on (being a widow since my dad was 16 years old, it was her companion). She had a huge cabinet record player, and she and I would take turns picking records to play. The first place I played air guitar--her dining room. There was always ice cream (vanilla) and Hershey's Chocolate (in the can) and she was always baking something--usually a cake. On Saturday evenings, we would play cards (this was our game) or we would read books. She was the one who told me about my brother being born. I was 8 years old, sleeping in that room. She came to me in the middle of the night and said "You have a baby brother."
Grammie and me--the early years! She was usually our babysitter--even when I was old enough to watch my little brother, it was nice to have her come over to keep an eye on us.
At my college graduation. During college, she would always write to me. Every week I got a letter from her, usually with a few dollars inside for a "treat". After I moved 800 miles away, we would write letters back and forth, letters that sustained me through the worst kinds of home sickness and doubt. After she died, I found some half written letters in her nightstand. In recent years she had not been able to write too well, but she had still tried (often opening the letter with an apology for the bad writing).
Grammie loved to feed squirrels that would come into her yard. She loved nature of all kinds. Every year, I make a donation in her honor. She never drove, taking the city bus to work. Grammie loved to walk anywhere and everywhere. I would take bus trips with her to the downtown mall ["The Kalamazoo Mall, the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States, began with the closing of Burdick Street to auto traffic in 1959. The four block long mall, stretching from Lovell Street on the South to Eleanor Street on the north, has been restyled to match the attributes of the Arcadia Commons development, where the new Kalamazoo Public Museum anchors the north end of the mall. The creation of the mall gave Kalamazoo the name of "Mall City."] She worked downtown for over 20 years, so wherever we walked there, she was warmly recognized. Often we would stop and she would introduce me (I was her only granddaughter). She was very proud of her grandchildren and often showed us off. She was also the typical grandma who bought the expensive gifts mom and dad would not buy, who would take you out for ice cream just before dinner.
August 1995 was an awful year for my husband and me. My husband's father had a sudden heart attack and died (age 51). (Michael is named after him) We went back to Michigan for the funeral. We did not stop by my family's house (they lived 3 hours away from his family), mainly because I knew Grammie and my brother were coming up to visit us in Boston 2 weeks later. We got home from the funeral, and there was a message on the answering machine from my dad--my Grammie had had the first of several minor strokes she would suffer for the next several years (she never was able to visit me in Boston).
Grammie, me and my son.
For a time, she lived at home, using a cane and walker. It was a hard blow for someone as independent and spirited as she was. But she seemed to improve. When we saw her during our trips we made to Michigan afterwards, she was still Grammie. Then, some years later, she fell and broke her hip. After that and some more strokes, she had to live in a nursing home.
Her last few years were spent there, and slowly her spirit started leaving her, although it was only in the last year that she started to have problems with her memory.
Grammie and Michael.
July 2005 I saw her for the last time. The doctors had found advanced cancer (they had originally thought she had a cold/pneumonia), and she only had a few weeks to live. I spent time with her, she was weak and barely able to talk, but she was happy to see me. My main regret in life is that I did not stay with her longer. I was feeling pressure to take care of my son and I thought I would see more of her the next day. I said good bye and that I would see her tomorrow. She said she looked forward to it and smiled at me. I was in the shower the following morning getting ready to see her when I found out she had died that morning.
My daughter's middle name Leone is Grammie's middle name. I am honored that I can pass that name on and look at my daughter and remember that wonderful woman who made such an impression on me and my life.
Love ya Grammie. Miss you.
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