Monday, February 01, 2010

A Similar Lesson on a MUCH Larger Scale

"I just want to tell you how much I love you and how much you've meant to all of us all these years." Those were the words that came to me today as I began what may have been the last conversation I will ever have with my grandmother Millie this side of Heaven.

I thank God that my long term memory is very sharp and that I can still so easily recall so many vivid images. Most of the photographs that document my childhood were destroyed in the various floods that filled the basement of my New York home time and time again. Very few were salvaged.The one to the left is nearly 3 decades old. It documents the birth of my younger sister, Michelle. And beside me, watching while I held my baby sister is my Grandma Millie (or Carmella, or Mimi, depending on who you ask). Other than this photo, the only other picture I have with her was taken while I was in first grade, at my sister Michelle's kindergarten graduation. When I looked at this picture today, it brought back so many memories of what it was like to be a child spending time with her... How she always wore stacks of gold bangle bracelets that clanked together every time she moved her hands. Her raspy Betty Davis voice and the catch phrases she fell back on time and time again while disciplining us for being bad. "I'm going to get out the board of education," was her favorite thing to say and she said it often as she searched for her ruler to smack us on the hands with. It never actually hurt. It only made us laugh, which only seemed to aggravate her further and caused her to make the face she made whenever we ran through the house with her stuffed black and white cat that we so frequently abused during our visits. We impersonated her so often in the way she said "disrespectful," that I can still hear her voice as though she was here with me right now. With that one word, she was able to speak volumes about her frustration regarding any given situation.

I can still picture her standing in the kitchen stirring sauce on the stove with one hand and smoking with the other. Frosting pound cake with heaping spoonfuls of fresh whipped cream before she'd freeze it, further removing the very little bit of taste it had. Coating bow tie pastries with fresh jelly and sugar while talking on the pale yellow phone with the long spiral cord twisted in knots. It's hard to believe I'll never have my grandmother's sauce again, always filled to the brim with braciole and sausage. It's been a lifetime since I've had it.

And How can I forget the endless hours I spent playing Black Jack and Red Dog with her and my sisters using the pennies she'd stored up in the heavy plastic containers she'd brought back from one of her many gambling trips to Atlantic City? Grandma taught me how to play cards; she taught me the primary colors and how to use them to make new ones; she taught me the names of the Great Lakes, which I sadly, twenty-something years later, don't remember.

These were the types of memories that came rushing back to me today as I spoke into the phone, wondering if she could hear me on the other end, hoping she could understand.

On Thursday, my Grandma Millie had a stroke. On Sunday, I was given the news that she had a DNR and that it was unlikely she would be alive for very long, as she'd refused a feeding tube. I called to talk to her today, knowing she would not be able to respond, and being unsure as to whether she would be able to understand anything I was saying. I wanted to talk to her about God and Heaven and tell her that I was praying for her -- and I did. I told her those things. But it was not long before the memories that came flooding back overwhelmed me so much that I had to share them with her. Memories of her endless supply of BINGO paper and all the games we played together on it when we weren't rattling the dice of our word game so loudly that my Grandpa would holler at us. Swinging from the bars of her staircase (pictured right) for so long that our palms were stained as black as our bare feet. How many times did we launch ourselves off between the bars and nearly knock over the dining room table covered from end to end in an array of boxes from Mei Mei's Chinese Restaurant?

I recalled how she always let me know how proud she was of me. How she told me every time we spoke that she was always watching Fox News expecting to see me one day everyday since I had moved to Washington. I told her I was sorry she never got that chance. Grandma was an avid Conservative who took great pride in knowing that I grew up to adopt the same views without any assistane from anyone else. She had helped me map out my education all the way up to getting my doctorate degree when I was just a little girl. I told her I was sorry that I hadn't graduated law school in time for her to see it. I told her I was sorry that she had to leave the world with Obama as our President, something that I know caused her great aggravation this past year. I told her that I couldn't imagine what life would be like without her and that I hoped she wasn't in any pain. What I told her was as disjointed in my speaking as it is now in my typing.

Mostly, I told her how much she meant to me. How she has been such a blessing to me for the 28 years I've been alive. I told her how happy I was that she lived to meet her greatgrandson (my sweet Noah) and how sorry I was that he wouldn't get the chance to know her better.

How many people can honestly say that they had the chance to tell someone they love just how much they meant to them before they died? I can say that now... though I could have went on for hours. After I got off the phone, I thought to myself that I could only hope to live 90 years and hear my child's child reveal her heart to me for one final time before I go...

For now, all I can do is wait and pray... pray that she feels peace and not fear, pray that in those quiet moments, she reaches out to God and pray that she will be re-uinited in Heaven with the two children she buried in her nearly 91 years life (my Uncle Michael, who I never met and my Uncle Sal, who passed away on my 16th birthday) and especially my grandfather, her "Nino." I hope he will be waiting for her too.

I wanted to share this with you today, not only to document what a wonderful life my grandmother had and what a light she was, or merely as a means of preserving the few memories I have retained, but as a reminder to all of you out there who have loved ones that don't fully know how much they are loved and who would really benefit from hearing it. I am fortunate to have gotten the chance to express that to my grandmother this afternoon...

Her life and her times are in His hands. I know how capable they are. Please keep her in your prayers...


Corry said...

There is no doubt in my mind that by telling your grandma all this, you were a great blessing to her.

You gave her the knowledge that her life had meaning and how she is and has been such a positive influence in your life.

Your grandma and all her loved ones are in our prayers!

God's Grace.

KayMac said...

Praying for you. What a powerful post.

Carole said...

I too lost my Grandma recently. And my Grandpa a few months after. The world hasn't felt right since. My heart goes out to you.

Tracy said...

Hi I was just hitting next blog and found this one. My Dad died 6 weeks ago and I know how you feel my kids were the same God Bless