My grandma died last night. It’s seems somehow stupid to feel such a painful loss when for 10 years we've been saying, “Well, she could go any time, you know. She’s 90… she’s 96… she’s 101.”
101 years of life for a spectacular woman. It makes me so proud to be her granddaughter. A woman who “did it all” long before feminism even existed and she did it without all the fuss and fanfare. She was educated, refined, dignified. She was a teacher, a mother, a wife. She married a farmer and had 5 sons, 2 of which she outlived.
She flawlessly, in this admiring granddaughter’s eyes, combined career and family. Artist, teacher and beloved matriarch. 5 sons, 18 or so grandchildren and 20 or 30 great-grandchildren in her lifetime, with more on the way.
I remember my father telling me that he never once heard his mother yell. 5 boys and no yelling? She was a saint. I had the good fortune of growing up next door to her. My grandparents were our only neighbors.
We’d sneak in and watch her teach art lessons, breathing in the delicious smell of oil paints and varnish. Nicking a butterscotch candy – permission granted by the gorgeous twinkle that rarely left her eyes.
Her rosy cheeks were always lifted with a happy smile. Indeed, she had one of the brightest spirits I've ever known. Strong, rarely cross, always with a sunny attitude and a positive outlook. Her laugh, a glittering cackle, infectious.
I wish I knew more of her story. Wish I had listened harder; written it all down. Wish I had made more time to spend with her this summer when I still had the chance. Wish I had gotten around to interviewing her so I could write her biography. There are enough friends, students and family to fill in the gaps, but…
But, I’ll never get to sit with her again. To visit. Long, heartwarming conversations with comfortable, quiet lulls. Pats on the hand full of grandmotherly love.
And I won’t get to be there to say goodbye. Too far, too broke to get across the ocean to pay my deep respects and to comfort my family, my father, and to reminisce. The tears, the laughter, the joys and sorrows that go along with saying goodbye to a loved one somehow provide solace and closure. I don’t get to be a part of that and it makes me angry.
Then, I think, if it were my mother or father, sister or one of my brothers, I’d move mountains to be there. Nothing could stop me. But not for my grandmother? That makes me angry too.
In the end, at the end, I know she understood what she means to me. I took every opportunity to tell her so. To let her know what a phenomenal woman I think she is… was. How much I loved her. That knowledge brings peace to my heart. And though the last couple of weeks were sad and strange, with her signature clarity traded for incoherence as she approached her end, she died as she lived: with grace.
In loving memory.
Marion Carey Zoner
October 24, 1911 – April 8, 2013