January 06, 2011

Searching My Heart

The boys had Scouts today and since my second son is Assistant Patrol Leader, he had to be there an hour early. I drove him as I had errands to run.

We were in the car and out of the blue he said, "Mom, how did Mimie's Mom die, your grandmother?"

I was taken aback as my kids have never really asked about relation they have not met. My children didn't know my maternal grandmother, her having died when they were so young.

She died of gross malpractice. Essentially, a doctor killed her. She was 74.

I explained to him what happened and his being science minded, he had a lot of questions. I... just... wanted him to understand how young she was. So I decided to put it in perspective for him.

Me: Mim is 69. She will be 70 this summer. When you think of her... do you think of a number?

Mr. T: No. Not at all.

Me: What do you think of?

Mr. T: Well... she's young.

Me: So you don't think of her as old?

Mr. T, a bit wide eyed: No. Absolutely not. There is nothing old about her.

Me: Yeah, her Mom was like that too. Nana was big energy. Nana died when she was 74. That would be like Mim dying in four years. What do you think about that?

Mr. T: Mom, that's way too soon... she's way too young.

Me: Yeah, exactly. And that's how I felt when my Nana died. Cheated. She was too young when that guy killed her. She was big energy. She wasn't old at all. It sucked.

We talked about it in greater depth as we made our way down the darkening roads. I'd never really talked about her to them. I think... sometimes... it is still too painful.

He asked me what she was like, and I laughed and told him about how she baked cookies for us, and how she always laughed and had fun with us. That she'd buy little things for us, even if she couldn't really afford it. She didn't have a lot of money and lived on a tight budget that she managed to the penny.

We never thought of her as not having money. She always seemed rich.

I told him about how she was a widow at age 52 and how she grieved for my grandfather every day until she died. He was 55 when he died of cancer. It was a work related cancer. Tragic.

I'm realizing that I need to sit down with them now, all of them, and talk about her love of football and cards. How she loved to play euchre and she liked vodka on the rocks, but would pass it off as a glass of ice water. How her feet smelled for some reason and how she'd try to con one of her grandchildren into smelling her feet. How much she loved children, playing with them and making them laugh. How she could go out and shovel snow in shorts and a sleeveless shirt and never get cold. Her hair was as white as snow and I hope if I gray, I go white like she was. She grayed early. Her legs were amazing. She and my Dad would make bets on football and then find weird ways to pay each other back... so you had to work to get your money. They bet a dollar. I think once we received a bunch of pennies in a cup of yogurt... that obviously went bad. How she had arthritis so badly in her hands and all her remedies and how now I wonder if my hands will go the way of hers. How when my hands swell up, they look like hers. And how she wore the tiniest shoes... she wore a size 5. She was shorter than me. And she loved old black and white movies and I used to stay up and watch them with her. She loved Burt Reynolds.

I loved my grandmother and had never really spoken of her. It's time.

I said to T, "Nana would have loved you kids. She'd have thought you brilliant, would have loved Ringo's music and guitar playing, and would have thought Bones was the funniest pain in the ass she'd ever been around. She would have loved you..."

And it made me so sad inside. I wondered... what made him ask this TODAY?

And then I realized, today it has been 11 years since my mother in law died. It has been 13 and a few days since Nana died.

Two women who would have loved him to pieces... having missed out on so much... how my children missed out on knowing two wonderful women, very different women, but still very loving and wonderful.

Every year on this day I post on my mother in law. Today I'd forgotten what day it was... until T asked about my grandmother.

I don't believe in coincidences.

But today... I miss them both terribly.

There is a question that has been rattling around in my head lately. If you die and nobody misses you, did you really live?

Posted by Boudicca at January 6, 2011 10:44 PM

I miss my dad. I so get it. *hugs*

Posted by: vw bug at January 7, 2011 05:35 AM

So many of your posts elicit tears, but this one just kills me. And I don't believe in coincidences, either.

Posted by: pam at January 7, 2011 08:21 AM

.... I'm with Pam, Bou.... and yes, like VW, I miss my Dad too......

.... beautifully written and from the heart..... most excellent....

Posted by: Eric at January 7, 2011 09:06 AM

It's been a funny thing answering more these questions of my son, today. Interesting... his perspective and in some ways, seeing some of her traits eek out into my own kids. She lives... through them. Both of them do.

Posted by: Bou at January 7, 2011 03:04 PM

I miss my dad too. If he were still around today he too would be 74.

Posted by: diamond dave at January 7, 2011 10:50 PM

If someone asked me why I was reading your blog, this post is it in a nutshell. It reminds me of all the things I missed out on at different stages of my life. Grandma trying to get the grandkids to smell her feet is priceless. Little things like that.

Posted by: Spockgirl at January 8, 2011 02:28 PM

"If you die and nobody misses you, did you really live?"

Yes you did; and the life you lead was likely filled with unkindness and pain.

Which, Bou, won't ever be you.

And I miss my dad too. The 26th of this month marks the 16th anniversary of his death; one week after that he would have turned 80.

It sucks.

Posted by: Kris, in New England at January 8, 2011 04:19 PM

I knew only one set of my granparents, my mother's parents. I love the stories I know about them and pass them along all the time. I inherited some things from my grandma. There's one story about my Dad's mom that makes me feel good. It was always said that if you were passing by and stopped at her house, you left with a bag of food. She died when my Dad was 7 years old, so he didn't know her. I'm proud to be named for her.

Posted by: tina at January 9, 2011 11:49 AM