This lady right here turned 95 in October. I am, personally, lucky enough to call her Grandma. I utterly adore her. I didn’t get to call her and wish her “Happy Birthday” until close to 7pm that night, but she picked up and the first thing she said was, “I knew I’d hear from you.” Next to my nieces and nephews, Grandma Lucy is my world. One of my reasons of focus for maintaining wellness.
I didn’t get to have this ready to post on her birthday as I had hoped. Anxiety doesn’t care about you having plans. I am determined, however, to recognize her- even if it is two months late.
I spent at least 80% of my childhood at Grandma’s house. She watched my sisters and I 2-3 days a week while my parents worked. Sundays were pasta suppers at her house with my aunt, cousins, and my great-great Uncle Tony (until he passed away when I was 7 or so). Days were spent playing outside with the grandkids of her neighbor across the street and with the girl next door, painting ceramics, or baking. My mom would take her to Alesci’s and us kids would always get REAL Italian Ice. The good stuff. Not the stuff you see in the grocery store. My sisters and I would go over and help bake Christmas Cookies. We made sure to be there on the days she was making our personal favorites. Mine? Russian Teacakes.
We always had fun together at her house. Some of my favorite times, however, were when I got her to myself. Unless I had a softball game, most of my weekends were spent having sleepovers with her. Every weekend, just about, included French toast for breakfast. They ALL included “The Sound of Music,” “Annie,” and “Heidi.” I was the only one my age, that I knew, who had “The Sound of Music” memorized (and that had a crush on Christopher Plummer). More on that in a minute. We’d watch the NBC Saturday night lineup- “The Golden Girls,” “Empty Nest,” “Nurses” and, when they were on, “Café Americana” and/or “Mommies.” When I was in high school and those show were no longer on, it switched to “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman,” “Touched by An Angel,” and “Walker Texas Ranger” on CBS. We’d do plastic canvas projects, bake, read… sometimes we would just sit outside in her driveway and enjoy the sunshine.
Back to “Sound of Music.” So, when I was 9, the musical came to Cleveland. Grandma loves telling me the story. I called her every morning before I left for school to remind her it was coming to town. She would say, “I know.” She took my mom, my aunt (my dad’s sister), and I to see it! She said I was heartbroken because Julie Andrews wasn’t there. I was 9, ha ha, and didn’t understand that at that point she would be playing the Reverend Mother… not Maria.
Grandma sold her house and moved into an independent living senior apartment when I was 19. The apartment was on the campus with another apartment building, senior condos, and a nursing home. Grandma Lucy started volunteering with the ceramics class at the nursing home. She called me to ask if I could come up and help. They needed someone that could assist with some of the detail work such as the eyes on pieces. Her hands weren’t always steady enough for it. So, I started going up to volunteer with Grandma twice a week for ceramics class. We’d have lunch in Sister Rose’s Café with one or two of the nuns that were there (it’s a Catholic facility) or with one of my sisters if they came up.
I took a break from volunteering when I had my first serious mania. When I went back, it was to the gift shop. It was quieter and easier to handle. I was there in the afternoon, so I would go early so we could still have lunch. On the days she wasn’t volunteering, I’d stop at her apartment before or after I was finished. If she needed me to do something, she’d call and offer to make me cabbage and noodles. I would have done it anyway, but I never turn down cabbage and noodles.
Tyler loved going to Granny’s. He’d volunteer with me but would ask to go to her apartment when he got bored. He’d walk in and ask her two things: what were they baking and if she would make him an eggy sandwich (that’s what he called French toast when he was little). I was babysitting him and Liam one day and he wanted to go to Granny’s. We took the bus over to her apartment, we walk in, and are there no more than 20 minutes when he informs me, he wants to have a sleepover at Granny’s house. So… we did. He told Granny they were going to stay up and watch movies. Both he and Liam were asleep a half hour into their sleepover.
I was devastated when she moved farther away. I had spent my entire life seeing her at least two and three days a week. All the sudden… If I saw her once a month, I was lucky. Most of time it’s more like once every other month or more. My haven was no longer there.
I try not to talk to Grandma when the anxiety is high or when I’m manic. She worries. A lot. The stuttering makes her upset. The mania not any better. I don’t want to worry her. I don’t want to upset her. She doesn’t know about the self-injury and I never plan on her finding out about that. I simply have my dad or aunt tell her I’m not feeling well, but I’ll call her when I feel better. When the episode passes, and I call her, the first words out of her mouth are, “I wish I still had my house. I’d have you come live with me and I’d take care of you.”
The best parts of the past few years have been when I was able to make her day! The first was when my friend, Diana, and I surprised her by throwing a tea party for her and a few of the other ladies at her nursing home. I made pizzelles with my OWN iron and Diana bought her kolachky. She had no idea but was totally thrilled to see both Diana and me.
One of the things Grandma always tells me that she misses the most about home is baking. Having her hands in the dough. So… I spoke with her activities coordinator and booked the community room. My dad drove me out and went to get her while I set everything up. Grandma Lucy and I… made pizzelles. Anise ones, of course. She was beyond happy. I didn’t premeasure or anything. I held the hand mixer, but that was it. Gram did the rest. Her face was all smiles… and I got GRANDMA’S PIZZELLES.
Then, Christine and I picked her up and took her to Huntington Beach with the boys. They have wheelchairs with wheels that make it possible for her to go right up to the water. We had fun in the sun and then enjoyed ice cream. I don’t know who was happier about the outing- her or the boys. Tyler and Liam adore their granny.
I didn’t know where I wanted to go with this post. I rode out with my dad and his girlfriend to see Grandma earlier today. Friday was my birthday. Normally, Grandma would be the first one I heard from in the morning. I didn’t. She didn’t call on Saturday; and I couldn’t reach her when I called to let her know about my ankle (I fractured it). Today, again, she said nothing. I didn’t remind her because she would have been devastated at forgetting. She started talking about Christmas songs; and she couldn’t remember the melody for “Adeste Fideles (Oh Come All Ye Faithful).” I got into Apple Music and asked if she wanted me to find it. She told me a different song, so I found it and had her put my phone to her ear. I played that one and then “Adeste Fideles.” She remembers Tyler’s birthday coming up, she remembers his age, and remembers him telling her that when he gets his license that he is coming to see her all the time. I told her about my friend Sarah’s passing. I hadn’t wanted to tell her over the phone. Her response, when remembering that Sarah was Catholic, was to find out if she is buried at All Saints Cemetery- she wants to take flowers to her.
This lady right here. I utterly adore her. I won’t have her here with me forever. I know that. I’m crying as I think about it. I cherish every day spent with her. Every conversation. I remember the green sweater she crocheted for me in preschool. She even made my Cabbage Patch Kid a matching one. I love cuddling under the afghan she made me when I went to college. Grandma’s house was always the one place I could go where it was completely okay not to be like everyone else. Where I didn’t have to pretend to function in a way that everyone else seemed to, but that I couldn’t. Grandma has always been my refuge.
I don’t know what else to say other than: La amo completamente; e la terrò nel mio cuore e anima fino al mio ultimo respiro (translation: I love her completely; and I will hold her in my heart and soul until my last breath).