I have been lucky in my life in so many ways: one is to have grown up knowing all of my grandparents and two of my great-grandparents. Both of my grandfathers are deceased, and sadly my Mom’s mom passed away yesterday at the age of 93, peacefully. My grandmother had had a roller coaster of a year health-wise, with a few scares and hurried trips to visit her, so this was not unexpected. But it’s still hard, you know? It doesn’t matter I can say, “She lived until the ripe old age of 93” or that she told us she was “ready” many months ago.
My grandmother spent the last few years in a nursing home, losing mobility but never losing her presence of mind; only recently did she start to confuse things and only on occasion. My parents visited regularly from out of state, the last time about a month ago, and my mom spoke to her daily. The kids and I visited her this summer, and I saw her on two other visits to Michigan this year. She participated in bingo at her residence and classes here and there, but she lived a fairly isolated existence in her room watching TV. She always liked TV — you knew never to call during her soaps! I will remember her in other ways, too:
- a woman who, in her 50’s, went back for her high school diploma because she left school to work as a typist/secretary to earn money during the Great Depression
- a woman brought up in an Italian household in Detroit, who loved and relied on her family for support and as her social network throughout her years
- a wife who single-handedly took care of her husband, my grandfather, at home after he had a stroke that left him wheelchair bound and paralyzed on one side; she cared for him until about 10 years later when he had to be hospitalized and then died of colon cancer
- a mother to four children, nine grandchildren and (I think)
seveneight great-grandchildren, raising them with music (she played the piano so well and could play by ear… she even had a song published back in the day!), homemade pasta and sauce, I’m sure some stern words at times, and love
That’s how I’d like to remember her, and I’m glad that even if I didn’t call this week when I planned to (always planning, always regrets, I’ll talk to her on Christmas…), I spoke to her on Thanksgiving and told her I loved her.
Even The Ex emailed me the words he couldn’t tell me (for whatever reasons) when each of my grandfathers died — one while we were dating, one while we were divorced:
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he wrote. And then, “I liked Norma.”
I liked Norma, too. I loved her.