It's been a long, draining week.
As some of you who follow me on social media may have noticed, my grandmother passed away this Monday. To her other numerous grandchildren and grandnieces, she was Juju, but she's always been Grandma Junie to me.
I've always tried to keep this blog "angst-free" with a low personal threshold - I talk about my habits and quirks, but I don't think (as a general rule) people want to read the latest saga of my life. When it comes to my Grandma Junie, though, I wouldn't feel right without a few words.
The family asked me to write the obituary; it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. I didn't want to gush or use the same trite words seen in every obit. How to encapsulate what a wonderful, nurturing woman meant to her family with brevity and clarity? I thought about what I remembered most - both from my own experiences and stories I had heard. She really gave all of us what we needed, and that's what I wrote. I'm not an overly demonstrative person; I went for simplicity and truth.
My Papa Tony (her late husband) preceded her in death by several years; you couldn't have imagined a more loving couple. They both adored the people around them. Papa Tony started a local tradition at the drive-thru of buying coffee for the person behind you. Grandma Junie continued to visit the Dunkin Donuts up the street for years simply to keep in touch with the young women who worked there.
And they were wonderful to us grandkids. For a long time, I was the only grandchild who lived out of town, but they went out of their way to make me feel special and included. While looking through my grandmother's things, my mother found some very heartfelt thank-you notes I'd written them when they came to visit us in Ohio, along with some very puzzling nonsequitors that definitely refer to events I can no longer remember ...
One of the things I remember about Grandma Junie, both from my personal experience and tales from other relatives, is that she was always willing to stir our imaginations and join in our games. One of the activities we shared when I was younger was painting rocks. Can't remember how many hours we spent. But I probably owe a bit of my creativity to her.
As I grew older, I learned about a few other traits that we share, including a slight tendency to be obsessive-compulsive about the little things. She's the source of my Welsh heritage.
When she moved out of her house into an assisted living facility, she gave away a lot of her things. I was asked if I wanted anything, and I had an immediate answer: the crane plate. After my mother was born in Bermuda, the family moved to Japan. There, my grandmother acquired a golden plate covered with a latticework of cranes flying in all directions. The Thousand Crane Plate is hand-painted, and no one crane flies in the same direction; it's considered good luck. Some people might call it gaudy, but I had always been fascinated by it; and more importantly, it made me think of her house and of her. The plate sits in a place of honor on top of my music cabinet.
Alzheimer's is a terrifying illness. To think of losing those pieces of yourself fills me with dread. I hate losing my grandmother and I will miss her, but I'm also happy she's whole again. And maybe looking after and loving people still in her next phase of existence.