Saturday, October 2, 2010

R.I.P. Naughty Dottie

Today, we spread my grandmother's ashes.

Ok, ok, not really, that's against NH state law. But we did have a small gathering around her headstone, said a few words, and her ashes were buried after we left.

She passed away in May, after diagnosed as terminally ill last fall. I knew what this meant logically, of course, but she was the first person close to me I've lost, so I wasn't prepared for what that really meant.

I visited often in her last 6 months, and a week or so before she passed away, on my last visit up north, it hit me. We knew she was slipping, and she was very frail and weak. As it was time for me to go, she engaged me in conversation which she was barely able to do for the day or so prior. She lifted her arms on her own—another feat—to hug me good-bye and said, "I'll miss you," which is exactly when I lost it.

The following weeks were difficult, as I got together with my family, each dealing with grief differently. But also, it would hit me at random times and I would start welling up.

Today, I hadn't expected more of the same exactly. My sister spoke first, and I think I was choking up before she began. She gave a lovely little speech about how fun our grandmother was. Then it was my turn; I could barely get out the few things I wanted to say. Such a delicate flower.

My grandmother was a remarkable lady. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her mother remarried, but passed away just a few years later. Her step-father didn't think it worth the hassle to send a girl to school, so my grandmother waited tables and cared for the cafe owners' daughter for room and board to support herself through high school. The war broke out, and she was off to DC to work for the War Department, typing a general's letters in triplicate in the Pentagon. She was actually retained after the war ended, when most girls were sent home. She married my grandfather and moved to his family farm, where they struggled to keep it going while she worked various jobs. My grandfather passed away 2 months before I was born, and she began a new life as a young widow.

But throughout the hardships, she loved to laugh. When I started sketching her, looking at old photos, it's almost impossible to find any where she isn't laughing. She used to regale me and my sister with her stories of cheating on algebra exams, outrunning a police cruiser, and other probably exaggerated-for-us behavior. And I'll never forget a wedding we were all attending where John Denver was a guest and sang a few songs. My grandmother forced her way up on the stage to sing backup for him. She was a can-do lady (albeit a bit "country") who could make anything happen—and yet she never seemed pushy.

She was sweet, and funny, and loved to have a good time. I think I was too serious for her as I grew older. But when I came out, she was supportive of me, at the expense of some other close relationships she had. She wouldn't have wanted me to go on to her about it, about how much it meant to me, so I never did. I know she knew.

I wasn't sure what memory to sketch of her, so I went with her off to DC. It's her intrepid spirit, and tenacity that has inspired me most in my life. Next, I'll try to laugh like she did.

I'll miss her.


Aman Chaudhary said...

She sounds like a great lady! Sorry for your loss, Tim. ::hugs::

Anonymous said...

Tim, thank you for sharing your memories. I, too, am sorry for your loss. Do take care. patrick

Tim Fish said...

Thank you both!