Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I love this photo of my grandma holding me. This is so 1970s. So small-town Missouri. This is so Grandma.
I thought it appropriate to take a moment to introduce you to her. Meet Louise. Well, that wasn’t her “real” name, which I only discovered a few short years ago. Her real name was Marjorie, but she never liked that. This is the woman for whom I was given my middle name…no, not Marjorie, but Louise of course. And fittingly, this is the woman at whose house I first watched the classic movie “Thelma and Louise.”
I am not her only namesake. Her daughter, Jennifer, is also a Louise, and Jennifer’s daughter, Justine, is a Louise as well. Three women named for one. That’s quite a feat in my book.
She gave birth to my dad at age 19. Barely an adult. I can only imagine what emotions surged through her heart when she realized she was pregnant so young in 1947.
She was a marrying woman, married three times in fact. But the third time, she was cautious, dating for seven years before she would even consider the “m” word. She ran off to Reno and came back Mrs. Howery, married to a trucker, a veteran. I would never do that. But I love it that she did. And boy did he love her.
She had guts. She also had strength. Strength I think beyond even what she realized as she was dealt punch after punch. She lived with diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and through breast cancer. She inherited her mother’s dementia. In the past year, she would forget that I had children or that my sister was married, but she never forgot us. A blessing that we never got to that point. She could re-tell the story of when I was born like it happened yesterday. And she did. Recounting every detail of that blustery January whenever we talked, and I could always hear the smile in her voice. I’d heard it a million times and the smile was always there.
She was also a working woman – impressive for her generation. She ran a restaurant, then worked in a law office. I always imagined her working as a secretary alongside the likes of Dolly Parton in “9 to 5.” As you can tell, her big hair would’ve helped her fit right in.
She followed Hulk Hogan and friends at the prime of 1980s WWF. She called the sport “wrastling.” We didn’t watch it at home, only at Grandma’s.
She gave me my first television. I was dying to have one in my pre-teen bedroom and she obliged with a tiny black and white hand-me-down with massive bunny ears once after a trip to her house. My mother must have been so livid. But she did it anyway. I watched my three fuzzy black and white channels and thought of her.
Last year, when I was pregnant with baby no. 2, we visited her house for the first time in a long time. It smelled the same as I remembered. Graham played with an old push toy he found in one of the bedrooms as we chatted, and watching him, I imagined myself playing in the same way, in the same place, as a toddler. It was strange, and it was nice.
While we were there, Grandma and Clayton announced they had chosen their headstone and even had a mock-up of the design. “Wanna see it?” she asked. As morbid as it seemed to us young ones, I obliged while joking that of course she was never going to die.
But on Sunday, she proved me wrong.
As with any loss, it’s hard to face the definitive. I will never again see or speak to my grandma. I will never have the chance to tell her that I knew she was strong, and smart, and loved. I will never have the chance to make up for my lag between phone calls or visits. But at the same time, she will never break another bone, or face another hospital telling her they have no room and she’ll have to wait for the treatment she needs now. She will never have to live in a nursing home, her husband demoted to “visitor.” She will never again wonder in frustration why her son doesn’t call.
Though my lifestyle and goals are different, I can only hope that I, too, will be as stubbornly determined, as cared about by my devoted husband, as satisfied in the simple things, like getting my hair done or going out to dinner. We should all be so lucky.
Thanks, Grandma, for the reminder. I love you.