Luck, love and loss

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) seven eight 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.

Grandparents, sis and meGrandma, me and Drama Girl

grandma and me

12 thoughts on “Luck, love and loss

  1. lanipai says:

    I still have one grandma with me and she is the icon for our family, as I am sure Norma is for yours. Take care and remember Norma often and well.

  2. curt says:

    susan — I’m really sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. she really sounded like quite a woman and it sounds like she had a great impact on you. I see a lot of you in her, from your description above.

    I just lost an old high school classmate over a week ago from a car accident. I had just seen him the day after thanksgiving with some of my other classmates at a local bar — we hadn’t seen him in years. you just never know.

    it’s tough when these things happen anytime, but especially before the holidays.

    my sincerest condolences to you and your family. if you need anything, you know how to find me.

  3. Aw! I know how that is. Isn’t it amazing the chutzpah these old ladies have? My grandmother is still kicking and she just turned 94. My grandfather just turned 91. They still live together in a trailer down on a lake. They play cards all day and bitch at each other but I don’t think they’d want it any other way.

    Sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you’re enjoying family time anyway. Family… now that’s the real meaning of Christmas.


  4. MinivanBohemian says:

    I wish I could email you a nice casserole.
    I am sorry.
    I know just how this feels.
    I hope you still talked to her on Christmas. I still talk to my Grandma. She’s just not so swift with the answers now. (And I have to be still to hear them.) It sounds like Norma really help to shape your life. How nice that that part of her can live on in you.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. When I lost someone once, someone said to me “Don’t be sad. She’s in a better place.” and I said “I’m not sad for her. I’m sad for me.” I know you’ll miss her. But it sounds like you have some good memories.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hi Susan —

    it’s really nice to read your post about Grandma. i was more close to my father’s side of the family where me and my bro were the only grandchildren. i’m not used to sharing family with other family. and i saw all you guys so rarely i’m almost not used to having an extended family. it’s just kinda neat to hear about Grandma from someone who isn’t my mother. šŸ™‚

    i visited with my folks this christmas and we pulled out grandma’s song that she wrote. my brother managed to capture some of it on video. i was only sightreading it so it’s not very good. and there’s some good shots of my son, isaac, parading and jumping around.

    to grandma!

    love, Sarah

  7. Everyone: Thanks so much for your kind comments. My family and I appreciated them very much.

    Sarah: the song brought back memories of when I played Grandma’s song as a teenager, but your sightreading is MUCH better than mine!

    We got through the funeral ok and are glad to be back in town again with many good memories of her.

  8. Susan – I am so sorry about your grandma! It sounds like she was a great woman.

    My grandmother is 86 and has lead a wonderful life, but I don’t think that I’ll ever be ready to let her go. It breaks my heart just thinking about it…

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