Grandma Molly passed away three days ago on Monday, September 5, 2011; on Labor Day, 25 days before her 93rd birthday and six days before the 10-year anniversary of September 11th.
The timing doesn’t surprise me. Other than any human being (besides Mom and Dad), Grandma Molly has had the most profound impact on my life. Other than any incident or event, September 11th has had the most profound impact on my life. These two monumental losses are the only things on my mind, and both are equally, albeit uniquely, traumatic.
After 92 (almost 93) years of life, my little grandma’s frail body – and strong, tough, hardheaded mind – decided that they were tired. Tired of living, tired of fighting and ready to leave with peace and with dignity. That she did. Although Grandma’s health started declining last April, she transitioned out of this world as a strong, independent and feisty lady.
In fact, Grandma’s last brag was that she Skyped from Florida with me and her grand-dog, Pippin (from Chicago!) last week. How very modern of her! I’m not sure she even realized that we were talking in real-time and that the television screen was not some pre-recorded 8 MM video mailed to her assisted living facility. Although I doubt her relatively annoying hearing deficit (only annoying because she refused to fix it) allowed her to truly hear our conversation, we (the dog and I) continued to wave and smile, and it was a wholly beautiful example of two generations communicating via above-our-heads technology. Our contemporary Skype session was the last conversation I ever had with Grandma Molly. If I had known that it would be the last time I talked to or saw her, I would have waved a little harder or screamed – yes, screamed – “I love you” a little louder. Or, perhaps, I would have thanked her for the 27 years worth of passion, knowledge, wisdom, history, inspiration, reverence, story and love she engrained in me. However, a simple “thank you” would have never sufficed.
The truth is… they just don’t make grandmas like Molly anymore. The knitting, home-cooking, apron-wearing, radio-listening grandmother is a dying breed. She, amongst very few others, is the last of its kind. Despite her throwback to the majestic, dramatic 1920s and ‘30s of her youth, Grandma was very “with it.” Although knitting – her absolute favorite pastime besides kicking ass at bridge – wouldn’t necessarily suggest her being “with it,” she absolutely was. And in the tag of every sweater, blanket, afghan and hat that she knit with perfect precision for me and my sister was a plain tag that read: “Made with tender, loving care – Grandma Molly.” Ironic that a simple tag was also the tagline of her life. Everything she touched, did and said was intentionally executed with tender, loving care.
If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you’ve read about Maniac Molly, the bravest fighter I’ve ever known. I could not be more proud of who she was and what she’s done in the past six months. She fought her way through illness and injury, she never complained and she always had a smile on her face, that prettiest of faces. I have been back and forth to Florida all summer long to soak in the Molly rays for as long as I could. Part of me believes that I’ve learned more about Grandma in the past six months than I have in 27 years. For that, I have no regret. And although I can’t say our loss is completely unexpected (I did think she’d stick around until my wedding), it is still shocking, surprising and severely unmanageable.
My consolation is derived from the fact that Grandma spent the last few months of her life in a beautiful, brand new, state-of-the-art, respectful assisted living facility called NuVista, five minutes from the house I grew up in and the house my parents still inhabit. When Grandma entered their doors for the first time, after knockin’ em dead at rehab, she was greeted by an entire staff cheering, clapping and waving tambourines. She was their very first patient. Their very first. And the modest, humble woman I call my grandmother could not believe that the fanfare was for her. From the nurses and doctors and therapists, to the chefs and cleaning crew, from the receptionist to the CEO, they unconditionally loved Grandma Molly, more than they could possibly say. They didn’t just make her last months bearable, they made them lovely. The staff of NuVista, many of whom made it to the funeral or shiva call, was just as touched by the powerhouse that is Grandma Molly as I, my sister, her son, her daughter-in-law, nieces and nephews have been. My dad-the-doctor said it best: you can teach anyone how to inject an IV, administer medicine or help someone eat, but you cannot teach them heart. Unfortunately, she was the first to arrive at NuVista… and the first to go. That is her legacy.
On this very profound, traumatic and touching week in my life, I choose to look back with gratitude, appreciation and love. I choose to remember not the woman I lost, but the woman I loved for 27 years. The woman who will remain in my memory each and every day. The woman who on her wedding day looked more like an MGM moviestar than any Vogue cover model. The quick-witted woman who everyone wanted to befriend. The woman who loved her family more than is even normal. The homecook whose recipes I’ll share with my children. The woman who loved noodle pudding, ravioli, hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries and absolutely refused any soy, tofu or vegetable substitution for the above. The woman who loved a man so strongly and so completely that the happiness I find in her passing is that she is with him. I choose to remember a woman that I will love infinitely and the country that she loved longer than I have, but will continue to love in her absence, even stronger because it’s for the two of us. I choose to remember Grandma as the angel and the matriarch she became and for the woman she always was. A woman my mom claims she sees in me. And that is the only thing in life I could ever wish for.
In loving memory of Grandma Molly…