My Nana died two years ago Tuesday. It was kind of strange. I live in New England so we are used to the weather being erratic but the day before was beautiful and the day after was even more beautiful but on the anniversary of her death, it was misty, rainy, cold, and miserable. Exactly like the day she died.
I visited her and my grandfather at the cemetery before work, effectively balling my eyes out while my hair curled and frizzed out from under my scarf I had thrown over my head to protect it from the mist. I was alone, thankfully, except for the groundskeepers who were busy doing whatever it is that needed keeping. I must have looked like a loon, standing alone in the rain, crying, and talking to myself. I didn’t care, I was with my grandparents.
Throughout the day, I had spontaneous memories of my Nana. She was a very warm woman. She loved life, her family, God, and the Red Sox. She would watch every game they played on her TV, blasting the volume so that she could hear it. She was nearly deaf and always forgot that most everyone else wasn’t. I’m sure her neighbors knew the score of the game a block away. She loved Big Papi, or Ort-iz as she called him (iz as in is not eeez).
She loved to dance. She danced in the kitchen cooking dinner, she danced walking around her house. My sister and I used to dance all growing up and put on shows for her. She would then dance with us and sing us songs from when she was young.
She had the memory of an elephant. She remembered everything. She remembered people’s names, where they lived, who they were related to, what they said… Everything. She even could sing the song about the Atlantic Parachute Company, where she worked during WWII.She would tell me stories. Oh-the stories. She could sit for hours and tell me about the “Olden days”. Her friends, how her mother died, her family from Canada, how they were poor, how her father died, how she met my grandfather, how she worked in the parachute factory… How she had to walk to school in “snow up to he’ah, up hill, both ways”.
My Nana was one of the most loving people you could ever meet. One of my favorite values she had instilled in me was to open my home to everyone. “The more the merrier!” For family dinners and special holidays, we always had some sort of “misfit” join us-whether it was someone’s roommate or a friend, or a friend of a friend-I remember one Thanksgiving we even had her stockbroker’s son over for dinner because he didn’t have a place to go. Including whoever from wherever in our lives really just makes the memories that much better and life just that much sweeter.
My Nana basically raised my sister and I. Princess Number 1 and Princess Number 2 (I was Number 1 of course. I say it is because I was the favorite, but I guess it is just because I was older). However, when asked, she would never admit she had favorites. I said once, more recently, “Nana, am I your favorite?” and she said “No, I don’t have favorites. I just love you more.” SCORE!
Now, I’m sure everyone talks about their grandparents and how great they were. The images that initially pop into my head are little old people, senile with age, and unsteadily making their way around in walkers. Sorry, but it is what I think of. My Nana wasn’t like this. She was 89 when she died, living alone and taking care of herself. Her house was modern and clean and she always smelled nice. She died suddenly of an aneurism they just couldn’t fix. She wasn’t ready to go. She never really aged in her mind. Sure, she had an old body, but her mind was sharp and full of life. She was really only like 30 in her head.
My Nana was my best friend and taught me more than I could ever imagine. Together with my grandfather, I was taught was love is. My husband and I have a great relationship and knowing what I learned from them, we will last forever, too. My Grandpa sent her letters during the war, sometimes including poems. They had destroyed most of the letters written, but some of the poems still survived. My favorite poem “A Time for Love” is actually tattooed on my back. I picked a couple of my favorite lines and asked her to write them out for a project I had. She had beautiful handwriting. She obliged and copied the text. She died two weeks later.
So, I beg of you. I know you, the reader, never met her, I’m sure. But please, please, just love. Love everyone and everything and be happy. Do what makes you happy and do nice things for other people to make them happy. Dance and sing and laugh and enjoy your life. I feel like she has given me the key to happiness and I am forever grateful.