Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Whispered Presence

December 3rd is my maternal grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 95. When I close my eyes I still hear her voice, although she has been gone for 34 years. I was blessed with two lovely grandmothers but I often write about my father’s mother. This grandmother was dear too but in different ways.

Soft spoken and quiet, she loved us unconditionally and expected very little from us in the way of good behavior. Because of that we sometimes ran roughshod over her as children will do. But she took it all in stride and spoiled us and I think she enjoyed it.

As far as the woman goes, she was petite with pretty green eyes, the only ones in a family of browns. Always ladylike, she was well-dressed and told me once buying new clothes gave her “a lift”. She was talking about a lift in spirits because I do think she was sad at times.

With a husband in a TB sanatorium, she had to work during the war. Her only child, my mother, said that because my grandmother did war work full time, she was the original latch key kid. But my grandmother taught her to fend for herself and when she was home from work, she was a great mother who loved her daughter.

She was first generation and at a young age, her father died suddenly, and as was the custom in the old country, her uncle, my great grandfather’s brother, stepped up to the plate and married his sister-in-law. So the last five children in the family had a different father than my grandmother’s. Still, she remained very close to her sisters, all gentle and sweet women like my grandmother.

My grandmother spent several weeks in the summer with us and helped out any way she could. If I went looking for her, she would be in the basement folding clothes and ironing or doing other tasks for my mother. Those weeks were precious to me because no matter what happened in our boisterous household, my grandmother was a leveling influence. She broke up fights, rubbed backs and soothed bruised feelings. She told us over and over that someday we would all be best friends and today we are.

Recently, I found a letter in a box of her old photographs that I wrote to her in 1966. I thanked her for spending her "strike" with us, a bonus month off when her company shut down. She saved every letter and card we ever sent as if they were treasured documents. The real treasure, however, was her. She was never cross or demanding. Just a lovely creature who believed in the good in all of us and did what she could to make us more comfortable. I often think of her as one of life's innocents, a beautiful whispered and wistful presence on the edge of our lives.  She only wanted to help.  Happy Birthday Nana Millie! I think of you with love still…

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