I love this picture. This is my Grandma and Grandpa at the Grand Opening of Disneyland's Tomorrowland, July 2, 1967. I chose to share this picture with you today since, first of all, it is Halloween~and who doesn't love a picture of some wicked cool spacesuits on Halloween?? Secondly, it captures the fun and sense of adventure that characterized my grandparent's marriage. They were married for 43 years, travelled all over the world, lived all over the United States, drank many a martini, and were completely devoted to one another in a very midwestern, "no public displays of affection, please" way that made many scratch their heads, but nonetheless had a whole bunch of love behind it.
My grandfather passed away in 1977, when I was just 5 years old. Even though I was so young, I remember this joyful, hilarious man who loved to read to me and cradle me in his lap.
Shortly after his death, I remember my mother bending down and whispering in my ear:
"Grandma is very sad. Why don't you go give her a hug?"
I looked into our living room and saw my grandmother quietly crying as she sat by herself. I crossed the room, came to the side of the chair and reached my arms around her. She looked embarrassed to have been found overcome with emotion (did I mention the whole midwestern, stoic thing yet??) but gratefully accepted my hug, and so began our relationship, at least in my mind, which included rides to music lessons, picking me up from school when I was sick, letting me "run away" and stay with her for a week when I was filled with adolescent angst, and enduring a gut-wrenching, sucker punch of an illness that took my mother, her daughter, in just a few brutal months.
We shared that profound, earth-shattering grief....not that we really talked about it. We both just schlogged through our lives side by side, our heads cloudy, confused. I was an eighteen year old who had lost both of her parents within a span of seven months, and she was a seventy-four year old woman who had buried her beloved daughter. In the year following my mother's death, she told me she awakened each morning around 4am filled with a feeling of dread, a feeling that something was terribly wrong. Indeed something was.
While she didn't bake cookies, or even cook very well, she could play a mean violin. Even though she wasn't a gushy, kissy-kissy, affectionate grandparent, she added a sense of stability and foundation-building love to my life. She could be crabby, compulsive, particular--but she was a bright and talented woman who had worked hard to become an accomplished musician in an era when women didn't often do that sort of thing. She continued to play and pursue her passion after becoming a wife, after giving birth to two children, after becoming a grandmother to three little girls, after growing old and very weak. It is funny how a woman who so rarely showed emotion could teach me so much about how to live with passion.
I have taken care of her for the past six years, as she has declined and needed more and more assistance. Just this past week, I had to make the decision to place her in hospice care. Ninety-four years is an amazingly long time to live, and I know Grandma has filled those years with rich experiences. I am very grateful to have been her granddaughter.
Thank you for listening--I wanted to write and explain why I have been so quiet here on the blog. The doctor tells me she will pass on within the next month, and during that time I don't know how much I will be here. I will be there, spending time with her, hopefully helping her to make a smooth and peaceful transition to the best kind of Tomorrowland there is.