I wrote this about a year and a half ago when my grandmother passed away. Today she’s all over my mind, and I thought I’d share a little bit o’ my heritage through the memory of her.
She was Irish-born in Ireland Irish. She came to America on a boat when she was just 13. She couldn’t swim. She settled in northern Ohio with her brother and sister in an Irish Catholic Community. She attended Catholic Schools. Once, she skipped school and took the train to New York City for the day. The nuns were none too happy upon her return. She joined The Service as a young woman because she felt called to serve This Country in a time of war. She prayed everyday. She married and became a mother. Two boys and a girl. One of those boys was my dad. She called him Danny. Danny Boy. She would sing it to him as a baby, and as an adult. She worried constantly about him being a fighter pilot. “You be careful on those planes Danny.” She drank hot tea. Only hot tea. She drank hot tea in August at the Fort Worth Stockyards. She drank hot tea at Disneyland. She drank hot tea in our home. She taught me to crochet when I was 11 years old. We picked out needles and yarn, and cussed at scissors that “wouldn’t cut butter.” I made my dad a scarf, a very long, uneven scarf. I’m pretty sure he still has it. She took me to work with her in downtown Columbus. We ate lunch at Lazarus. We even rode the bus. To me, it was so fancy and sophisticated. We saw E.T.’s phone. Once, on a visit my sister commented that “all the trees had leaves back home in our country.” Ohio seemed like that-another country. I always wished our lives could be more intertwined. I always longed for our visits to be endless. There were already so many goodbyes etched in my mind…
She would bake sugar cookies and send them in the mail to us for holidays. She always had jello pudding pops. I must have watched The Wizard of Oz 500 times on her huge disc player. They had a pet swan named Charlie. He lived in their garage in the winter. I think he was mean. She took me to church with her. She always went to huge Cathedral Churches. I thought they were beautiful. She sang so loud, and already knew all the words. She was always looking for a sale, and always knew the best places to find one. She had to alter all her own clothes because she was only 5 feet tall. She had purses and shoes to match every outfit. She loved jewelry-especially home shopping jewelry. She gave me her Claudaugh. They always had pets. Molly, Ricky and Simon (dog, dog and cat). When Simon had used his 9th life she called, “So that’s the end of pets then.” She was “tell it like it is woman.” We coined that phrase once and it stuck. In 8th grade, she and Grandpa came to Corpus Christi while my parents searched for a new home in Fort Worth. I broke my leg on a trampoline. I can still see the worry on her face. She always bought Texas souvenirs for people in Ohio. Truly Texas Souvenirs too-things with boots and armadillos plastered on every surface. She always talked about how “steamin” it was down here. “How could we stand it?”
She and Grandpa visited me while I was interning in Washington, DC. We ate at every Bob Evans restaurant in the area, and toured the Basilica of the National Shrine to the Immaculate Conception. I convinced them to ride the Metro out there, and laughed at their mistrust of the entire transportation situation. Grandma drank in every inch of the Church. She bought a rosary. She knelt in prayer. I took them back to their hotel every night, after dinner at Bob Evans of course. It was the only time it was just me and them. They thought I was a grown up, and were so proud of me. We celebrated at Bob Evans.
She was here for my confirmation, my high school graduation, my college graduation, and she met each of my children. She loved pacifiers. She sent a bear that sang “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” to me when my daughter was born. She talked of how she made her own formula, used cloth diapers, put the babies to bed, cleaned the house, and made dinner in the pressure cooker. How could anyone survive without a pressure cooker? I don’t even know what one is, but I’m not sure how I’m surviving. She hated bugs. She always sat straight up in a chair or on a couch. Her feet didn’t reach the floor. She rode on the passenger side of the car with a pillow against her chest because she felt she wasn’t quite tall enough to meet the safety requirements. She always slept really hard, but teased grandpa for “sleeping with one eye open.” She watched soaps everyday, but “could miss them anytime.” She loved sweets, especially with her hot tea. She said I made beautiful babies and that I should hold them tight.
She cooked ham and cabbage, and loved it. She hated spicy food, but we would always try to get her to eat a jalapeno-just to see her reaction and to hear her protest. She carried tea bags and sweet-n-low in her purse. “Just in Case.” She told it like it was. It was so funny. She was so funny. So unique. Her name was Maureen, and she was my grandma.
It’s been almost a year since I had to say goodbye, but in reality I had to say goodbye long before that. It’s with a heavy heart that I’m desperately pulling for these precious memories. Memories before Azlheimer’s. I want to close my eyes and remember all those days and moments, and I want my children to know them. To know her. I want to remember her for those years and know she’s still with me because of them. Somehow, I know she is.