Tuesday, February 23, 2010
My Nana had 9 children, 31 grandchildren and now has 19 great-grandchildren, and every single one of them thinks they were her favorite. Is there a better legacy for a grandmother than that?
She was a woman who just exuded love from every pore of her body. When she'd see one of her grandchildren, she'd literally shake with excitement as she pulled each one in for one of her trademark hugs. She was only about five feet tall but those hugs were full-body affairs. There was never a doubt in my mind that Nana loved me unconditionally.
Nobody bragged about her grandchildren quite like Nana. All 31 of us can tell stories about how we got sick of hearing about how great the rest of us were. On the day of my high school graduation, I had to take the SAT II test (is that even still around??) out in the suburbs. The plan was to pick Nana up and take her directly to the ceremony after the test. Well, I was running late and I ended up driving down the expressway in my 15 year old car, swerving in and out of traffic and doing at least 90 miles an hour. I was late for my graduation, walking in after the faculty, and I also forgot my shoes so I was wearing fake Birkenstocks, much to my mom's eternal chagrin. For weeks afterwards, Nana told everyone who would listen what a great driver I was and how well I handled stress. She was great at tilting a story slightly to make the people she loved look even better.
Nana struggled with her weight throughout her life. Apparently she joined some weight loss club where everyone in the room would point at the person who gained the most weight that week and sing, "You are so big, you are a pig." Not sure that would fly in 2010, and it upset her when she was the pig of the week. She lost a ton of weight when she got older but I will always remember her as comfortably plump. She loved to eat and nobody pushed windmill cookies, ice cream and ginger snaps on a person quite as well as Nana.
I always thought she was amazing, but the last years of her life she really showed her strength. Her husband struggled with Alzheimer's for ten years before dying in January of 2000. We were all sad, but after watching hum suffer for ten years, we knew it was his time to go. In December of 2000, her 45 year old son died suddenly after getting an infection in his heart after dental surgery. He left behind a wife and five little kids, the oldest 8 and the youngest just a year. My family was absolutely devastated. I remember just wishing we could fast forward to get through it. Nana, however, was a pillar of strength. The picture above of her on the drums was taken on Christmas of 2000, just 5 days after she lost her son. She was determined to be strong for the rest of us, telling my mom that she did her crying at night. She really held our family together after that tragedy and I'll never forget the selflessness she showed during that time.
She died 8 years ago today. I'm so happy to have had her in my life for 23 years. I'm even luckier because I see her good qualities in my mom, my sisters and so many of my aunts, uncles and cousins. She was a great matriarch, a great example of feminine strength and the quintessential grandmother, the best of all time. I'll never forget her or her full-body hugs.
Posted by Taryn at 7:14 AM