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Monday, January 28, 2013

My Grandma Lucy......

was a one of a kind lady. There will never be another human being quite like her. She had real "personality"; indeed, she won an award for the best personality in High School. That was back when she was part of "The Dizzy Seniors", her school clique that was commemorated in her year book by a photograph of them brandishing fencing swords. "See my pinky, see my thumb, see my fist.....you'd better run!" Yes, that was Grandma. Sweetness and spiciness wrapped up in a classy exterior. She was always meticulous about her appearance, as long as her mental faculties remained in tact. From blouses and skirts in her younger years, to turtlenecks and slacks, a pocketbook slung over her shoulder as she reached "the golden years", she was fashionable and well-kept. 

     I remember vividly the times I spent with her on family trips to New Jersey over the years, and I fondly reminice on all the adventures we had together. There is no way to chronicle them all in one small article. There was the time the lights went out, and she and I descended into her musty cellar to see what had gone amiss. There, in the infamous "cement closet", the terror of youths for generations, I dutifully held aloft a flashlight for her to see as she rummaged about to figure out what had gone wrong. It was eventually discovered that the power failure was  not just at the house, nor just along the street, but across part of the the eastern seaboard! As a result, Fort Lee residents one and all emerged from their homes to eat dinner on their porches by candlelight. As darkness fell, everyone continued to loiter outside, enjoying the familiar sense of community and good conversation.

    I remember traveling to Aunt Kay's in New York State with my parents and Grandma, annoying her to death with trivia and eating too many sticks of bubble gum; I remember visiting her friend Rose and all the adjacent NJ towns; I remember how we would take her to church on Sunday and then come home to a lunch of cold-cuts and noodle salad; I remember sitting alongside her on her living room couch in the evening, watching "Antiques Road Show" or "Sanford and Son", eating Dixie ice cream cups. I also remember the "pick-up" dinners from Boston Chicken and Hiram's Hotdogs, the instant sweetened oatmeal for breakfast, the buttered muffins, the glasses of NJ tap water, and the way she would call up the stairs at 7 A.M.: "Are you people ever getting up???" She always was punctual, and a painfully early riser!

      I remember the visits from relatives, the way Grandma and Mom would clean up the house, and Dad and I would go out to the local stores, A&P and others, to buy packages of pastries and tea. I remember how I would help her hang her laundry on the clothes line stretching across her flower garden and how I would build "fairy houses" out by her yard gnomes and blue glass ball on a pedestal. I would take pictures on everything in sight with my little pink camera, paste them in a notebook, and surround them with stickers. I would also draw pictures galore with my handy-dandy art kit. Grandma always commented on how artistic I was. I remember how we would "spy" on her neighbors together through her front curtains, how she would read the newspaper, watch the news, and keep track of things going on in the world around her. I remember showing her the contents of my backpack, all of my treasures, and her marvelous laugh and sparkling blue eyes.

     There's so much to remember. So many things that hurt to think back on. Going to Fort Lee, NJ, for Grandma's funeral last Friday left a burning ache in my heart. She's gone from this world, and Fort Lee, for me at least, seems to have lost it's soul. Almost everything I saw reminded me of her, but she was nowhere to be found. And even years before she died, her "memory bank had broke", as she so aptly put it. She suffered from advanced Dementia, stopped being able to take care of her appearence by herself, and became paranoid to be alone. She had a hard time remembering people, even those who were closest to her, and would sometimes lash out at those trying to care for her or those who she percieved as invading her privacy. But she could still clearly remember old time songs as well as ever, and we got her to sing with us over the phone when we made our weekly calls. She’d ask me repeatedly, "How old are you now?" "Where do you live?", and then would teasingly inquire, "Got any boyfriends?" That was before she caught Pneumonia. Complications ensued. She drifted off into ther own world for the last several weeks. And then.....

    Gazing at the skyline of New York City, the colossal buildings, trucks and traffic, and castle-like smoke-spewing factories with red lights made me feel like I had entered the fantasy world of J. R. R. Tolkien. I thought of my farmland home in Maryland and thought of the hobbits leaving the Shire, facing the darkness pervading the outside world. I felt in bear down on me heavily, as I tasted the distinct taste of tap-water and thought of Grandma, when we explored a great empty pink house on the bluffs about the be demolished and gazed on the great city from across the G. W. Bridge together. Oh, Grandma, where are you? May God bring us together again, someday, in a place where nothing can separate us....let me hear your laugh and your wonderful singing voice, let me see your smile and your beautiful blue eyes.....let the darkness of the night give way to the dawn...


"Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread,
Through shadow, to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight,
Mist and shadow, cloud and shade,
All shall fade, all shall fade....."

"Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
And let your perpetual light shine upon her,
May the soul of Lucy
Through the mercy of God
Rest in Peace,
Amen."


P.S.  I'm so thankful to all those family members and friends who extended their love to her, through visits, cards, calls, and care over the years.....my parents, Uncle Bobby, Uncle Donny, Uncle Louie, Cousin Nicky, Dean, Aunt Lori, Aunt Jacqui, Nancy, Jessica, Maryana, the doctors, Fr. Carrie, etc. Thank you also to all those who prayed for her and our family during this difficult time, sent kind messages, lent support, etc. We are deeply grateful.
   

We Love You, Grandma.....




12 comments:

  1. As I write this comment, my eyes are still stinging. This is a very beautiful and poignant article. I admire you for handling her departure from this life with such maturity. and I find your comparisons to Lord of the Rings wonderfully apt--I'm so glad Tolkien's words comfort you in this sad time.

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  2. A happy remembrance indeed. Thank you for sharing Lucy and Lucy-ness!

    "...and make perpetual Light to shine upon her."

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  3. Such a beautiful tribute to your late Grandma, Pearl...thank you for sharing your precious memories of her with us. All I can say is that I'm truly sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful lady, and I now wish that I had had the opportunity to meet your Grandma Lucy in person.

    Thank you again, Pearl! I continue to keep you and your family in my thoughts.

    Your friend,
    Meredith

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  4. Dear Loving Readers,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. They really touched my heart and made me feel so grateful to have friends like you.

    @Carolyn: While Tolkien's rather dreary depiction of trudging towards the "Edge of Night" is not exactly....umm....the most uplifting thing I've ever heard, I must say it fit quite well with my emotional state in the aftermath of the funeral. Thank God for the light of hope He gives us in our faith. Tolkien knew that too....that's why he actually managed to give his exceedingly grim trilogy a (somewhat) happy ending!

    @Mack: "Lucy-ness" is well-coined; it should be promptly installed in my Microsoft automatic dictionary :-)

    @Meredith: You also have a wonderful grandmother, who I am so pleased to have met. She even helped connect you and I through her Christian Book Store! I would very much appreciate her prayers for my family at this time.

    God Bless,
    Pearl

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  5. Dear Pearl,
    Yes, I love visiting my Grandmother at her store as well!She is a wonderful Grandma to my siblings and I. And I think that she really enjoys seeing you and your father when you drop by:-)

    Actually, at my mom's suggestion, I forwarded the e-mail that you sent out concerning your Grandma Lucy to my own Grandma several days ago-I've not heard back, but I'm sure that she received it.

    Love,
    Your friend,
    ~Meredith

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  6. I also feel tears pricking my eyes . . . I'm deeply sorry for the loss of your grandma, Pearl. Thank you for sharing all your happy memories in such a vividly descriptive way - I now feel almost like I did know your grandma myself. Your love for her, permeating every sentence of this article, is so beautiful. I'm glad that you have such fond memories of her to treasure the rest of your life - what a blessing! I have two grandparents still living, but they're nothing like your grandma. When they're gone, I'm going to have nothing left.

    Like Carolyn, I find your references to Tolkien especially apt, and I mean that with all sincerity. Did you read my article "Light and High Beauty" in the magazine? It's about how "Lord of the Rings" can inspire and comfort us when we're tempted to succumb to despair. I'm glad you've discovered that for yourself.

    You're always in my thoughts and prayers. Hang in there.


    - Ellen

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  7. Dear Pearl,

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It sounds as if she lived a full, beautiful life... I wish there was something of more comfort that I could say, but I know too well from experience that it's impossible to really "get over" losing someone you love. You get used to it, you are happy again... but you never forget.

    I'm encouraged to hear that you are finding some encouragement in LOTR, even if rather than comfort it's a feeling of... well, you supply the word - understanding of suffering? (By the way, there are other songs in LOTR that are more.. well, hopeful, than "Edge of Night," which was originally intended as a lighthearted adventure song and refabricated for a different context in the films.) But I think that you are right - Tolkien knew there is always hope from God, but he also knew that we never get a perfectly happy ending - in this life, anyway. But it will come.

    I believe my great aunt, who was also a Catholic and who suffered from dementia, and who passed away just a few days ago, might very well be getting acquainted with your grandmother this minute! Maybe they're talking about us! : )

    I wanted to share one thing with you. I "discovered" this passage when my own grandmother was dying. It helped get me through a lot of hard times and I want it read at my own funeral. So, if you are interested in looking it up, (too long to quote here), I would like to share the message of Romans 8:18-39 with you.

    "I believe that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared with the glory that is to be revealed for us..."

    I feel for you, and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Love,
    Katherine



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  8. So sweet that you've done this for your Grandma. My family and I send our condolences. Hope you and family are coping ok. x

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  9. Hello, everyone,

    @Meredith: Thank you and thank your mom for forwarding the message about my Grandma to your Grandma. Also, I'm so glad you hear she enjoys our occasional visits to the shop :-) I do wish you were still in the area so we could meet up in person more often :-(

    @Ellen: I appreciate your compliments on my testimonial article. Indeed, Grandma Lucy is the only grandparent I ever knew, so she was especially dear to me. I hope your relations improve a bit with your remaining grandparents. Sometimes older people (like younger people!)can be extremely hard to deal with, even though we love them deep down inside.

    @Katherine: Thank you for your kindness and prayers. I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your great-aunt. She and your faimly are in my prayers. And yes, I love the idea that maybe our deceased relatives may be meeting up and talking about us right now! Do you have any special memories about your aunt?

    That's interesting how "Edge of Night" was originally a light-hearted adventure song - the movie certainly didn't portray it that way! Nonetheless, the song was hauntingly beautiful and fit the tragic scene perfectly.

    @Rae-Rae: My thanks to your and your family to the condolences. We're getting through things better now that the funeral is over. Of course, it still hurts to think back on the happy memories, but it's a bitter-sweet emotion.

    God Bless,
    Pearl

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    1. Yeah, I do, though not as many as of my grandparents, since she moved to Michigan when I was about ten and I've only seen her twice since then. She wrote me letters for a little awhile - always closing with "I promise I will never forget you." Good to think of, knowing how much she couldn't help forgetting in those last years... I want a cure for Alzheimer's and dementia more than anything else, don't you?

      You're welcome for the prayers, and let me know if there is anything I can do.

      - Katherine

      P.S. I'll spare you a detailed description of the origins of "Edge of Night," since the purpose of this comment, for once, is NOT to tease you about liking LOTR. : ) But near the end of the book Frodo does quote the song, changing the lyrics slightly in a sad-der way. But on its original introduction, that verse runs:

      "Home is behind, the world ahead,
      And there are many paths to tread
      Through shadows to the edge of night,
      Until the stars are all alight.
      Then world behind and home ahead,
      We'll wander back to home and bed.
      Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
      Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
      Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
      And then to bed! And then to bed!"

      Tolkien adds that Pippin liked to change that last line to "And NOW to bed! And NOW to bed!" :D

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  10. I'm very sorry for your loss--your description of your grandmother does her great justice, I'm sure.

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  11. This was a beautiful tribute to your grandmother Pearl.

    She sounds like a wonderful woman!

    I am sure you make her proud.

    I hope you and your family are doing OK at this time.

    Take care
    GWright

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