The baby girl in a family of three. She was born to Croatian immigrants.
Grandma eloped at 18 to marry Johnny Allen, a Greek man who drove the bus on her route.
They were madly in love.
Married 15 years, Johnny died two weeks after bringing home their third baby girl –on the eve of her ceremonial first bath.
Grandma buried her parents, her brothers, her two husbands and eventually one of her daughter’s.
I come from a family of strong, brave women.
Grandma was the leader of our tribe.
I Remember Her
When mom died I was introduced as, “This is Joanne, Mary Lou’s oldest daughter. My daughter who passed away.”
Grandma was a people-person with a
bad habit gift of sharing her life story (and ours) –to grocery clerks, strangers at the mall, and every waitress who stopped to take her order.
Her phone calls were a daily occurrence as a child and her presence in my life as natural as breathing.
She’s been gone a year.
And missing her doesn’t go away.
Grief Is Like This
If you’ve never suffered grief, you might believe there’s certain days on the calendar that hurt the worst; days like their birthday or holidays like Christmas…or the day God brings them home.
That’s not always true.
It’s not the expected days that hurt most — because they’re expected.
It’s the unexpected.
Hearing a song.
Smelling vanilla candles.
Trips to public restrooms, like last week. “Your grandma is just lovely.” I say and smile at the granddaughter pushing her grandmother and probably her biggest fan around in a wheelchair.
Opening up a drawer to discover a card with a shaky signature or a picture that transports me back to a moment together.
Hearing the score of a baseball game and knowing Grandma’s love of the Oakland A’s.
Missing our calls on Sunday afternoons, “It’s my hardest day of the week.” she’d say.
Birthdays, holidays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.
I miss her then, too.
She’s Been Gone A Year
Grandma has been gone a year now.
Grief is personal for me. I’m one of the most talkative women you’ll ever know.
But, when it comes to the handful of people I draw close to, I only share those things with them.
I’m a hoarder when it comes to love.
I collect memories and stuff them in drawers and closets, then run them over and over in my mind until my heart trips over the tiniest thing and tears spill.
A mother and grandmother who loves well leaves a sun-sized hole in a child’s heart — no matter how old that child is.
Grandma lived her last years in a room surrounded by framed photos of what she held most dear — all of us.
The truth is, she was the joy that fueled our family.
She was the thread that tied our hearts together.
It was her all along.
And I miss her terribly.