Monday, October 11, 2010
Nana passed away early this evening surrounded throughout the day, and the last months, by her family. The cancer took over her entire body.
It seems much to early to be the end of her life. She was a young grandma. She had 5 children by the time she was 22. I was born when she was only 36. It seems crazy to think of myself being a grandma now, at this age.
She was an unconventional, but loving grandma. She was always reading when I was young, and I remember that the first book she gave me as a kid (at least that I remember) was Dr. Wayne Dyer's Your Erroneous Zones. I think I read it twice, and I had to have been about 12-years-old. The biggest thing it helped me with growing up as a born-again Christian was guilt. I recently saw it and read it again.
There were so many things like that with her - quiet nudges to prevent us from living painful lives.
She was always beautiful and very smart. I remember hearing my sister Andee's boyfriend, who is in his twenties, remark recently that she was a "damned sexy lady." It was always like that with her.
She taught me a lot about owning my own sexuality as a woman, and never letting society's double standards take hold over me. There was never any nonsense with her, about anything. She never beat around the bush, and I appreciated that about her. That being said, she did not have an unkind bone in her body. I never saw her do anything malicious or mean. If she didn't like something or someone, she was direct about it.
She didn't just praise you just because you were hers - if she did give praise it was sincere and measured. I started making my own body-oils a few years ago, and made a special batch for her for Mother's Day last year. She asked me about the ingredients and such and then just said, "Humph!". A week later she called to tell me that she had put mine on one arm and hers on the other for a week to test which one was really better. She asked her manicurist and a few other people. She was very excited and proud to tell me mine really was better!
What I will miss most about Nana is to be able to call her with any cooking question. Neither one of us liked to talk on the phone, but that was one thing we really connected on. She knew the answer to everything. She saved many recipes for me.
A few months ago, I had sat out in the sun for too long and then proceeded to try to make 2 new (and very complicated) appetizers for my friend Bill's birthday party. I was so ditsy she asked me, Are you drunk? We laughed for a good long time about that and I told her that I had not only sat out too long but then proceeded to cut up and empty out 20 jalapeno peppers with my bare hands and every part of me seemed to be on fire. She always had the answer for everything - and both recipes turned out great.
She was never very emotional or a smothering grandma, but she always made sure you knew how much she loved you. The last months we were together, we almost always sat out on her back deck, until the very end. She always hugged me and told me she really loved me. She and my uncle were almost always laughing, even when things were pretty bad for her.
She often surprised me with her thoughtfulness, whether it was calling to check on how a recipe had turned out or worrying about our dog getting trimmed after she became ill.
She loved all of her children so very much, and that was really what stuck out to me the most in our last visits together. She was always so concerned about everyone else. When I showed her a wig I had worn at a recent party, she told me she had a perfect bag to go with it and told me to go and get it so I could use it for my Halloween costume.
She, like my other grandparents, always came to all my parties I threw throughout my 20's and 30's - and there were some crazy ones! She would always join right in and drink whatever we were drinking.
She taught me a lot about taking care of myself and getting lots of exercise. She was moderate in everything and so self-sufficient. She believed you had to find your own happiness, and she found hers just being at home, whether cooking or working in her beautiful yard. She was steadfastly not religious and I do not believe she ever feared death. The last few days she talked about going to a better place to be with her brother. She never doubted her right to exist in heaven, and neither did I.
We talked many, many times about my marriage and my life. There were a lot of things we related very well on there. She never told me what to do, but her own life served as an answer for me on many things. In many ways, she had a hard life. But she always seemed content. I will miss her so very much.
I have always felt, when times were hard, that at least I had my family, who is so very dear to me. My grandparents in particular have always been a rock for me. Although Nano and Pappa are gone now, I often forget that they are not here. I still feel them very much around me and inside me, and they still buoy me when I would otherwise sink.
I hope that, in time, I will feel this way about Nana too. For now, there is just emptiness and great sadness.
It seems fitting to end with this quote from the book she gave me 23 years ago. It was something that I completely forgot and that I hope to finally learn. She seemed to know it so well.
"If the world were so organized that everything had to be fair, no living creature could survive for a day. The birds would be forbidden to eat worms, and everyone's self interest would have to be served."
I hope Nana is happy and at peace, hopefully eating well in a beautiful garden.