Sad to report my grandmother (mom’s mom) just passed away.
She’d been fading for a few weeks but after 99 years she’s ready to go raise hell in heaven. Mom’s side lasts forever – I think it is the TB and polio that strengthened and thinned the herd.
Grandma was famous for her tri-tone prod of disapproval – no need to berate you – just a well-placed descending chromatic hum let you know that you may have done something she didn’t approve of but there was no need to be as gauche as to verbalize it.
A self-described ‘simple country girl from N’Albany,’ she got married in the middle of the Depression (they came home from the honeymoon and all the banks had closed) and started a luxury business in the middle of it all (jewelry – now run by Uncle George).
Agnes was the original bad ass matriarch. She may have stayed at home to raise kids but she had her pulse on the family business and was always ready for dancing and drinks at the K of C. And she sacrificed for her family. I think of her huge family, childhood homes burning down, being raised by nuns, siblings dying of TB… all of those things. She was titanium wrapped in a Oil of Olay and rose petals shell.
And the work ethic. When Heather and I would spend the weekend at their house we’d be reading a book and laying on the bed. Andy are you sleepy do you need to take a nap? (Because why would anyone ever sit on a bed if they weren’t intending to sleep?) Same for taking a nap on the couch. (Couches aren’t for sleeping. They are for sitting.)
Grandma’s birthday was the day before mine and we always got to blow out the candles on the cake together. Well cakes. She liked coconut on her cake. I liked chocolate on mine. I was the youngest of 17 grandkids.
I always remember her and grandpa dancing on the ballroom floor during their 50th anniversary party. Simplicity and elegance and they may have fought like crazy sometimes but they were so in love – for better – for worse – the whole shebang.
And I swear she had a white phone in that back room because when she prayed, stuff happened. Never ever make light of Novenas – that stuff is Christ-craft.
Towards the later years when she was still verbal we always challenged her with a goodbye ‘I love you.’ For years she could only bring herself to say, ‘Well you know the feeling’s mutual.’ But finally she gave in to the warm fuzzies and would say, ‘Well I love you too.’
I had a minor cry last night – mostly worried for mom and dad. I know this can be very draining for them.
Oh and she cleaned windows and the glass cases of the family jewelry business with pure ammonia. Because Windex is for wusses.
Not to mention the can of lard next to the sink. Though she liked her toast brown – her husband liked it blackened – encased in carbonite. And we won’t even talk about the gravy ladle.
Oh and she always voted Democrat. Unlike her husband who always voted Republican. Except for Kennedy I think. She did like Nancy Reagan and had the Kitty Kelley book as well as the Jackie O biography on the table next to her. JFK’s picture was on the wall next to a picture of Jesus, a cross and palms from the most recent Palm Sunday knotted into a cross.
Unshakable faith. The only time I saw her cry was when her husband was first brought to a long term care center and we hugged her out in the hallway as we heard him shout ‘I don’t want another needle,’ in the room nearby.
But make no mistake. Mom’s side does funerals up right (everyone has pre-arrangements and jokes that It is too bad you won’t be around to see how it’ll turn out). If there’s anything they do better than a wedding is a funeral. We’re talking Coppola, folks. Without the pasta.
More memories are coming to me – one our favorite phrases she’d use would be when she’d see the news or hear of some gross injustice or malfeasance and she’d turn the TV off in disgust and declare ‘You gotta have watchdogs!’