My grandmother passed away recently. This wasn’t shocking news to anyone. She was 94 years old, and her health had been failing, which is often the case when you reach 94. I’ve said it before, and I’ll tell you now: We are born, we die. Enjoy the in-between.
No one lives forever. That’s common knowledge, but with some people, you wonder. My grandmother, “Grammy”, who went on to become known as “Great-Grammy G” when the next generation made its appearance, was the stuff you read about and see in movies. Grammy raised 11 children. My dad was the oldest. I think my aunt, the youngest, was in elementary school when Grammy’s husband, “Bud” passed away.
My house has five, sometimes six kids. I think a basketball team in my house is a hassle. I can just imagine what a football team could have been like. Grammy took care of them all. She took care of them while working full-time. I was grateful for all the aunt and uncles I had, especially when Christmas came along and there were no other children. My brother, sister, and I had a great racket going until said aunts and uncles ruined it by having kids of their own.
It wasn’t easy for her, but she never complained, and she never quit. She woke up every morning and did her thing. She read. She did puzzles. On Sundays she went to church like all good Irish Catholics. She was there for anyone and everyone through thick and thin. I remember her taking care of my uncle after a car accident. Another uncle, her son-in-law, died in the beginning of 2005. I don’t doubt she was there for my aunt offering whatever support was needed. Another aunt, her daughter, died in 2006. My grandmother was with her at the hospital making her as comfortable as she could. After the memorial service, I mentioned being concerned about Grammy after burying her daughter. My dad said, “Grammy’s a tough old bird.” So, she was.
Grammy, for the most part, stayed in Lynn, Mass, where she raised her family, worked, then retired. I was one of the first people who found out about her retirement. At least I think I was. I was riding my bike one evening in the summer of 1993 when I decided on a whim to visit. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking Lipton Iced Tea, a drink I always associated with her, when she told me she was retiring. That fall, Grammy, her children and grandchildren got together to celebrate her retirement. As usual, it was a raucous, fun-filled event that was packed to the rafters with relatives, friends and other well-wishers. It was always an exciting time when my family got together.
It was exciting with the family or just with her. All of the grandchildren remember the day they became taller than Grammy. That meant lunch at the now-defunct Porthole restaurant. A rite-of-passage that celebrated our literal growing up. Years ago, she took my brother and me to a Christmas party hosted by her boss. I don’t remember if my sister had been born, yet. I forgot her name, but I remember her boss walking around the house with a light-up Santa hat, greeting visitors and talking to guests. The house was small, and the crowd was big. It was hot that night in that house.
Speaking of Christmas, I had the honor of narrating the Christmas pageant in kindergarten. Thirty-five years later, Grammy still talked about the day I narrated the Christmas pageant. There was a part where shepherds and wise men weren’t where they were supposed to be. They were probably following the wrong star. I was reminding them where they needed to be, totally oblivious to the hot mike in front of me. My grandmother always made sure to mention that part, too. I told people if I wrote a best seller or won a major award, someone, Barbara Walters, Lester Holt, anyone would find her and interview her. She would tell them about the time her grandson narrated the Christmas pageant and directed people to their right place.
Luckily, we had our chance to say our good-byes. People at one time or another visited, said hello, and said good-bye. We thought we were going to lose her during the height of Coronapalooza. She beat that, too. Like I said: No one lives forever, but sometimes you wonder.
So, that’s it. Grammy has left us. She’s left the mortal coil to see “Bud”, Wayne, and Patty. She’ll say hello to Charlie and Janice and scores of other friends and relatives she hasn’t seen in years or decades. Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren will come together again and again Grammy will be the central reason for us coming together, just like we did on all those Sunday afternoons to celebrate her birthday. Just like we did on those Christmas evenings. I now leave you with the words written by Norma to everyone and anyone who ever saw her or received a card from her at any time in their life:
Love and Prayers, Forever and Always.
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