Today would have been my Nana’s 88th birthday. She was an amazingly strong woman who survived on cigarettes and high fructose corn syrup. As a result, I suppose it’s no surprise to others that she passed a few weeks ago, but somehow it was, and still is, a surprise to me.
She worked in a factory making gas masks during World World II and opened a neighborhood beauty palor in the rec room of her suburban home. But you couldn’t ask her about raising a family in the 60’s or what it was like to be a woman in the 70’s because she’d always say, “I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, how the hell am I supposed to remember 1970?”. She had a point.
It’s hard and embarrassing to admit that I distanced myself from her in the last weeks of her life. I was afraid she was going to die and I didn’t know what to expect or how to act or what to say to her. In retrospect, I should have listened to her and validated her feelings about “wanting out”. Instead I told her how she was going to live and insisted she would be OK.
The night before her memorial, in a fortune cookie, I learned “nothing in life is to be feared, only understood.” Loosing her was my biggest fear, not hers. She had made peace with death and, in fact, had planned her funeral years before, providing us with production details for the service complete with musical soundtrack. I miss her. Especially when my phone vibrates, reminding me to call her at 11 pm every Sunday and Wednesday nights. But it was her life. I was just lucky enough to be a part of it for 26 years.