My step-grandmother passed away last week after a very long battle with Alzheimer's. The truth of the matter is that I really didn't know her all that well. By the time she came into my life, I was a teenager ('nuff said) followed by being away for college and finally moving out on my own. I knew her, of course, but after the small service where her youngest daughter delivered a eulogy that chronicled "Nana Kay's" life, I found I knew very little. And about 4 notecards in, I realized that I missed out on an interesting and surprising package of a person.
Divorce brings a lot of heartache in its wake, but sometimes the bigger family that you are dealt in that second hand, turns out to be a diamond in the rough. I'm lucky on both sides to have gained great family as my parents remarried, but it was only really after her death, that I find myself wishing I had hung out with this cool woman and had some of her strength rub off on me.
Here's what I learned about this tour de force :
- She had style and grace coming out of her pores...
- ...but she knew how to shoot water through her teeth to get someone's attention at a party.
- She wasn't always handed an easy deck, but she carried heavy burdens with class.
- Kay married "the one that got away" (her high school sweetheart) 45 years after he asked her to marry him the first and second time.
- She didn't let anyone tell her something couldn't be done. In fact, when someone said to her that it was "just so hard to get a job" (right before WWII), she went out that day and got 7 jobs just to prove it could be done.
- Her children's friends referred to her as "Auntie Mame".
- She weathered Alzheimer's in a way that touched everyone who came in contact with her, and continued to be the consummate host even in the most advanced stages of her disease.
- Often, when asked how she was doing, esp. later in life, she'd reply, "Cukoo as ever!"
So, if she were my peer, and I was whining about not having time or energy to write (as I have been lately), she would probably go write three screenplays and a book just to prove it could be done! Her stories have inspired me to live life a little fuller, encouraged me to stay strong when the turkeys come knocking, and remember that you can have an elegant package on the outside that's filled with spunk on the inside. ...And well-timed peeks at the spunk are the memories that you leave behind.