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In Loving Memory
Written on 12.03.03, at 2:16 am
Two weeks ago, we buried my Grandmother on Friday, November 21st.

She was born on Tuesday, April 24th, 1923, and passed away on Tuesday, November 18th, 2003.

Her name was Mary.

She lived for 80 years.

She lived through 15 Presidents.

She lived through The Great Depression.

She lived through World War II, while her future husband flew fighter planes over Japan.

She was married for 57 years.

She voted Democrat. Always.

She had one son.

She loved M&M’s. There was always a full jar next to her couch. In her last year, she’d complain that she couldn’t eat M&M’s anymore because the smell made her nauseous. This was a side-effect to her chemotherapy. She didn’t mind that she had lost over 50 pounds, or that her hair was falling out. She was just sad that she could no longer eat her M&M’s.

She’d freeze my Snickers bars, and cut them into bite-sized pieces for me, years before it would become shtick on Seinfeld.

She watched ‘Days of Our Lives’ religiously. Every day, for decades.

She had curly grey hair.

She’d take me to Mass, and we’d sneak out after Communion – to beat the rush.

She’d go to BINGO, and always brought back donuts for me.

She read. More than anyone I’ve ever known. She’d go to the library and take out 5-6 books at a time, finish them all in a few days, and do it all over again. She made me want to read, taking me to the library with the fountain in the lobby, and letting me pick out any book(s) I wanted.

She had dentures, and I always loved watching her take them out, because she looked so funny without them.

She drank whiskey sours.

She let me stay up as late as I wanted.

She typed everything. Even into 2003, when typewriters were antiquated relics, she could be found seated at her typewriter, clicking away, thumbing her nose at the computer in the den.

She loved roses, and had bushes in front of her house.

She made awful cookies, which she’d send to me at Christmas time.

She had no patience for Republicans. She and I would gang up on my father when it came to politics.

She cared for her mother for twenty years, until she passed away in 1999.

She’d save labels, UPC symbols, proof-of-purchase’s, and get all the cheesy promotional items the company’s offer when you send those in.

She loved Christmas, and she loved decorating her tree.

She collected Campbell’s Soup ornaments. She had every one for at least the past twenty years.

She was patient with me.

She did crossword puzzles.

She drank coffee and ate bacon and didn’t care about ‘diets.’

She liked Klondike bars.

She respected the sanctity of Lunch, and insisted that it be a sit-down meal with as many dining options as there were meats in her fridge.

She made me squeegee-dry the shower doors after I used it.

She liked figurines of birds.

She fed me corned beef and hash.

She’d laugh a lot, and loudly. Her laugh was unmistakable.

She had breast cancer which had metastasized to her lungs.

I didn’t cry at the viewing, or the funeral. Not one tear. This was because I was happy for her. I was happy that she was at peace now, that she was still, that there were no more tubes, or pills, or biopsies. She was laying there with her hands folded, eyes closed, just like she’d look when she would nap.

When I did cry was the last time that I saw her alive. It was in the intensive care unit of St. Anthony’s hospital about two months ago. She was strapped down to the bed because the pain was causing her to writhe around so much. She wasn’t at all cognitive because of all the medication she was on, and she had feeding tubes, IV’s, a ventilator, and at least half a dozen other tubes taking things to and from her body. Her eyes would open and close, occasionally fixing their gaze on something, but when I saw them, there was no recognition. I cried because I’d never seen her like that. She was weak, frail, and dying. My whole life she’d been a big, loud, larger-than-life personality who I’d looked up to. I was sobbing, and remember feeling ashamed because my Grandfather was standing there with me, where he’d been since she went into the hospital. He was calm and serene, looking at her with the same loving expression he probably had on their wedding day. He’d rub her legs and kept the tubes out of her way, and smile at her, the same way he smiled at her when they closed the casket. It made me hurt badly to see this dynamic between them. I cried for my lack of comprehension. To see more than fifty-seven years of love in action, and to not be able to connect with it. I realized at that time that I had absolutely no idea as to the concept of what love is. Those are the parts that people don’t ponder much, are they? We know how to say “I love you”, and how to act upon the feeling of love, but who thinks about the end? What does it take to look at someone you’ve built your life with for sixty years, and watch as they leave you? What does that take from you? Where do you get the strength? It’s from this undefined, mythical level of love. The kind that only those who have it understand. An absolute, unwavering connection of two souls who were custom-tailored for one another right from the beginning of time, and I believe in it, because I saw it. Next time you see a pair of eightysomethings sitting on a bench somewhere, holding hands, and staring at nothing, watch them for a while.

You’ll see it too.

-JOHN-


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