Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Memory-Keeper

*I am having trouble with the margins on this post.  I will try again tomorrow to fix the issue.  It is possible that the problem is with Blogger because I haven't seen this happen before.  Thanks for your

I came across a well-worn Ziploc bag filled with memories a couple of moons ago, and the interesting thing about it is that they were not my memories, but the memories of my beloved grandmother.  The memories of someone who passed away six years ago.  The memories of those who have come before and yet, still linger around me like a distant, slowly dissipating perfume, quietly awakened on the wisp of an unexpected breeze. A stack of love letters written by my very smitten grandfather as he wooed his future wife until she just had to say yes.  He often addressed her as "Kid" in those early writings.    Funny.  Newspaper clippings, yellowed with decades and decades of time, paper as delicate as butterfly wings.  Wisps of almost nothing, and yet, oh so much.  An amethyst rock lifted from some national park by my grandparents as they vacationed with friends.  I used to pick up this fine specimen with my tiny hands when I was a small child visiting my grandparents house in the Bronx, marveling at its incredible beauty while often begging to take it home.  My grandmother did not give it to me until much, much later in my life when the memories became more important than the object which held them.  

There were other things my grandmother gave me.   Photos, trinkets, table clothes and a very lovely diamond ring that she wanted me to have while she was still alive to watch me enjoy it.  She wanted to make sure that these things, these treasured memories and valued objects, would end up in the right hands.(Or on the right hand, as the diamond ring is so lovingly worn!)  My grandmother impacted my life in a way that is difficult to describe yet, so easy to recall.  She was a strong woman with an incredibly hearty laugh.  She loved to laugh, especially at the inadvertent(sometimes, inappropriate) jokes my father would make to entertain and amuse her.  Her friends used to tell me that I have her easy laugh and I love that, even now.  I am proud of it.  Very, very proud of it.  She adored my dad and was so apparently proud of him.  No matter how old she got, she was still like a Mother Bear to him.  In her eyes, he was perfect.  My grandma was extremely intelligent and kept up on all of the current events.  She had an opinion!  Oh boy, did she have an opinion, but she was kind-hearted, generous and loyal to a fault.  She loved my husband, fiercely.  She introduced him as her grandson, never, ever her grandson-in-law.  I would sometimes have to explain to people that I was her granddaughter and that he was my husband, but none of that mattered to her.  Mark was her grandson.  There were times when I thought that she doted much more lovingly on my husband than she did upon me, but that was always okay with me.  He loved her, too.
My grandmother spent most of her life in the Bronx, New York until my dad and I agreed that she could not live that far away, anymore.  We were her only family and it was becoming increasingly harder for my dad to fly back and forth between coasts when she needed someone to advocate for her health.  It was then that we decided to move her out to CA.  I cannot say that she was happy about it, at first.  She had her friends, her life, her entire history on the east coast.  But, the people who cared about her most in the world lived an entire country away from her, and so, somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to change coasts.  At first, she would not admit how much she enjoyed living out here, comparing everything to its counterpart in NY.  But slowly, she began to admit how much she really enjoyed being close to her son, her granddaughter and her grandsons(My brother, too) and all of her great-granddaughters.  For the last twelve or so years of her life, she lived only several minutes away from me.  I became much more than her granddaughter.  I honestly think she almost believed that I was more like a daughter to her.  And as she became more dependent upon the care of others, Mark and I and my dad(He lives a couple of hours away from us), would tend to her in ways that only loving, caring, compassionate family members would do.  
And when the end of her life so sadly came, Mark, my father, his wife and I, all sat down together and lovingly discussed the options and allowed her to slip away with as much dignity, compassion and love as we could gift to her.  When we decided that her transition from this world to whatever lies beyond was immanent, I allowed my dad to leave the hospital, and I crawled into bed with her and gently told her that she had done good.  That her life was one well-lived and that she would be missed terribly, but that it was okay for her to close her eyes and fly.  At 91 years of age, she deserved not to be in pain anymore.  We let her go and she let go...

So now, I am the memory-keeper.  I lovingly share my grandmother's memories, stories, trinkets, photos, and eventually, the diamond that I wear on my right hand, with my own children and God willing, someday my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  When the time comes for me to release the objects which tell so many parts of the story, I will pass them openly and willingly on to my own daughters and grandchildren.  By then the stories will be so much a part of who I am, that they will fill every single cell within my body, like the DNA that we all share.  Like the love that we all share.  Because in the end, that is all that really matters.  


LauraX said...

So tender Debbie. I had a similar experience crawling into be with my Great Aunt the night before she passed...gently holding an oxygen mask over her face and singing a song i had written in her honor into her ears. I've been thinking about you a lot this week...have you felt my love from far away???

deb colarossi said...


you just floor me.

I am in awe.

Catherine Holman said...

Beautifully written about a beautiful lady. Oh that we could all have others feel this way about us someday.

Tracy said...

This was very poignant and what a tender way to refer to yourself...that is so true! Great write Lady and I love the photos.
thank you for sharing some of your fondest memories.

Kathleen Botsford said...

Beautiful. Your grandmother looked alot like mine. She was lucky to have you and your wonderful brood in her life. We all are.

Angella Lister said...

You made your grandmother's final years so surrounded by family and love. That picture of her with you and your daughters is just wonderful. You can see how happy she is, how connected to life flowing around her. She is blessed to have had you. When she was our age, she probably had no idea that it would be her beloved granddaughter who would gently and lovingly usher her out of her life well lived. There is something so tender and exquisite about that.

On another note, you're such a beauty!

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