My last grandparent died this past Saturday. It was my Grandma (Marie) McDermott, wife of Frances, the man who’s name I took when I initiated. They were dear to me.
I have many memories of her. They were the people that introduced me to coffee – anyone who knows me knows that it is a sacred drink to me. We used to ride the Forth Street Elevator in Dubuque at least once a week. It was a major thrill for me and only cost between a dime and a quarter when I was little. We had each Christmas Day at their house, in their basement – a beautiful cozy room with wood paneling, carpet and a huge dining table. Each Christmas filled with cousins, family and one of those silver tinsel Christmas trees with a rotating color wheel that would make it change colors from silver to red, blue, green – I hear that those vintage trees are worth a fortune these days.
They would spend weekends with us on the boat. We would boat, swim, eat food, drink soda and play euchre. They, with my other grandma and aunts, uncles and cousins taught me everything I know about the game. I was really good. Sometimes they played bridge and I would watch. (Never stepped up to that game level.)
Every time we went to the boat, to her house or they would come to ours, I had a distinct memory. My dad would ask her what she would want to drink, and she would meekly, almost embarrassingly answer, “I’ll have … a beer.” And she would.
She was Irish-American after all.
She just turned 95 right before she died. I would visit her when I went home. It couldn’t be a quick visit – it would take her 45 minutes to recognize and remember me, but when she did it made the whole trip worth it.
I can barely remember her ever being anything other than happy. She was a happy soul. I learned what a happy marriage and love meant from their [her and my grandfather’s] example. They taught me what love could be and showed me how joyful life is.
They would also embarrass me. I started driving (steering actually) on my grandfather’s lap before I could reach the pedals. Both of them would give me advice. There was I time – I can almost remember – when my grandfather was instructing me and I said, “Pay no attention to the old man,” an obvious reference to the wizard in The Wizard of Oz, at least that how I remembered it. They would tease me about it in my later years.
It’s hard to recall and recount how these people have shaped my life. To say I learned love, marriage and love of coffee from them doesn’t do them justice. To say they helped shape me to who I am today doesn’t go far enough. My own memory fails me. But where my memory fails, my emotions and feelings pick up. I loved these people. I did with every part of me. And I miss them.
I will always miss them. That isn’t to say I don’t understand that death is a doorway to behind the veil. I know this is a part of life. The missing is selfish. The death, necessary.
We all go on. The only part of growing older that really sucks, is your family and friends dying.
I love growing older. I just wish people didn’t have to leave. I understand it’s all part of the cycle, that they are still showing us how to live, how to die, and how to go on. Some things I could wait to learn until a little later.
On Friday, I will put my grandma in the ground, if past funerals are any example. I will do it with my family. Later that night, I will don my priestly robes and hold a private ceremony for her, letting her go in my way.
This post is for you, grandma. You will be missed.