Thursday, July 11, 2013

on my grandmother.

this past sunday, my 90-year-old grandmother had a massive stroke and passed away the next day. whenever a grandparent passes away i always have mixed emotions – i’m sad, i worry about my parents, but they lived long, wonderful, full lives focused on family, friends, and making the most of each day. you can’t ask for much more. but i’m honestly a little more upset for my grandmother – she was in fine health, no big problems, and was really looking forward to my wedding. and, as the first grandchild to marry, i was really excited that she would be there and that she would get to see it. so it’s quite sad coming to peace with the fact that she won’t be there after all our plans. and yet, i feel so silly and selfish for saying that. she was 90 years old for goodness sake! she had lived such a wonderful, wonderful life. but i suppose it’s a testament to that – even at 90 she had more she wanted to do, and see, and experience. she never said “oh ok, that’s enough, i’ve had my fill.” she continued to embrace life and all it had to offer, and take joy in it. i hope i can follow her example as much as possible.
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when people say a post is for them, i really mean it on this one. i’m just going to write tidbits and stories she has told me so i always remember them – it may not flow and it will be rambling, but I’d like to have a record of them. it’s only a few, but they’re my fondest ones.
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my grandmother got married in the late 40’s and cut her honeymoon short because she had to get back and take finals for her masters degree in mathematics. she went on to teach mathematics at the local middle school for 60 years. i can’t even explain how much i love this, and how much i look up to this. even at a young age, i understood that it was a really big deal for a woman to get this far in the 40’s, to work this hard, to refuse to let society tell her what she should do and what she should be. and she did it with few complaints – she just worked hard and got it done. a lesson to myself and, i think, every other woman out there who is figuring it out in today’s world.
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she met my pop-pop at a horse show in the park avenue armory in nyc. he was in his navy uniform, she was in a pretty dress. in typical girl fashion, my heart swoons over this. can you even imagine?
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i would always ask my grandmother about her jewelry as I got older. i find the best way to hear stories and memories of other women is to ask them about what jewelry they’re wearing. it doesn’t have to be fancy or nice jewelry, but often there’s a little story behind it, or a memory. one bracelet she got when she was in italy with my pop-pop, except she pronounced italy the way a true girl raised in Brooklyn would: “it-lee”. my grandmother was a very proper, well-spoken woman, and i loved that she said it this way. it always made me smile. when i told her i would be moving to brooklyn she seemed over-joyed: "you're moving back to where it all began!", she exclaimed. my family roots run deep in this city.
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out of all my grandparents, i related to my grandmother the best. no doubt some of this was due to the fact that she was around the most as I got older, and able to keep her wits and health to the end. but i see her in myself a lot – we’re both women who enjoyed studying math and science, i want to be a working mother if i become a mother, just like her, and, well…there’s this.
during wedding planning this story came up and brian and i nearly died over the similarity, a similarity that neither my grandmother nor i would have known or could have known. as brian and i moved forward with our relationship, and even today, geographically we never know where we might end up. we have places we love and are kept on a running list, for sure, but who knows when a great opportunity in iowa may arise! and i’ve always said to Brian – nordstrom.com delivers anywhere, i’ll survive, no matter where we end up. well, i was discussing moving and thoughts and ideas with my aunt, and she said when she was younger one of her friends had to move to St. Louis. a little distraught, apparently my Grandmother told her “well, saks delivers anywhere”. i can’t even begin to tell you how much this made me laugh – generations apart but one in the same, my grandmother and i definitely thought the same way. and for that, i am eternally grateful.

9 comments:

  1. This was such a sweet, heartfelt post. I'm sorry about your grandmother, Colleen. It is always hard to lose someone close to you, even if she was 90! I would be sad about her not being at your wedding too - that has got to be so hard. Keep revisiting these memories, and talk about her, with Brian and with your family. It's good for the soul to keep her memory alive.

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    1. thank you Laura - I'm hopin to hear a lot more stories over the past few days I can keep in my memory.

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  2. I'm so sorry about your grandmother. It just breaks my heart, but you're so right: she lives a long, full life. You are so lucky to have known her. All the love, girl!

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    1. thank you Alex! much appreciated.

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  3. I love, love, love stories about grandparents and this one was truly wonderful! Your grandmother sounds like a fantastic lady, you are a lucky gal to have known her as well as you did. xoxo

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  4. Oh Colleen, what a beautiful, beautiful remembrance. So sorry for your loss, but this is a lovely way to remember her. Those stories are really, really fantastic.

    And, I know it sounds cheesy, but I really do think that in whatever way you can imagine, those special people will be there for all your big days that lie ahead.

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  5. Love to you, friend.

    What a beautiful post. Your grandmother sounds wonderful. Love how she was a teacher. And from the way you describe her personality (her wit and her work ethic) she reminds me a lot of you! Your salut to her here is perfect.

    xo.

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  6. I love this collection of memories! It is still hard to say goodbye to grandparents, though, no matter how long and full a life they have led. My grandmother passed away in December, and I still regularly have moments where I get really sad thinking fondly on the times we had. I'll always miss her! Your grandmother sounds like a really special woman-- that really is amazing that she got a masters in mathematics back in the 40's! And obviously, she passed her good taste along to you... that Nordstrom/Saks story is too good!

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  7. Colleen I'm so sorry about your grandmother! This was a beautiful post, remembering her and sharing stories of her life and her personality. I love that she went to college and worked - how rare that was for those days, and how admirable! The story at the end was my absolute favorite: you and your grandmother were kindred spirits! Keep sharing the stories and things you remember about your grandmother. Losing someone you love is so, so hard but talking about them with others who loved them is one of the best things you can do. Hugs to you!

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