Close quarters…

July 25, 2014 at 2:33 PM (Uncategorized)

I’m thinking of my other great grandmother…the one who was tiny and (I recently found out)  Irish, instead of a tall Swede…

When I was very very little she lived in a tiny apartment on East 96th…her daughter, my great aunt Virginia still lived nearby, on 84th, or 93rd and came and visited with, and took care of her every day…  On birthday’s or Christmas, many of us would sit against the walls of that apartment in a circle, and she, embarrassed by all that attention, but happy, would sit in the center,  and open presents, or laugh or smile at something someone else said.

She was a simple, quiet woman who missed her cottage and garden in Kirtland Ohio…but her osteoperosis was raging, and she could barely see from cataracts.  When she had breast cancer (in the 20’s or 30’s?) a radical double mastectomy had been the only solution.  She was amazing without the bravado of her grandsons….curls piled on top of her head, indiscriminate and interesting, not a carefully crafted “perm” as her daughter wore.

When they moved to an apartment in Mayfield Heights, an Eastside suburb, in the early 70’s, her room had a distinctive character…her scarves, perfumes, buttons, hankerchiefs, carefully laid on the bureau…and pictures, pictures, pictures, my favorite being one of her mother, a girl who had some French in her, named Jeanette.  Not to mention the occasional mint.

She was the kind of great grandma a talky little kid needed.   She was clear headed and paid attention to my little successes and failures in such a way that I felt she really wanted to know.  She also wanted to connect by touch and was a great hand holder, even when all other movement was labored.

She was lucky enough to have a peer on that side of  my family, my other great grandmother, tall, elegant.  I loved that aspect of familly gatherings after the  move to a bigger apartment. She and my other great grandmother would sit on the couch and reminisce quietly out of hearing of the younger folk.  I’d eavesdrop sometimes, to hear about things that sounded fascinating that happened fifty years ago that I knew nothing about.  All I truly remember was a scrap of a conversation about the end of WW!…how the cease fire happened on her birthday and she felt odd about that…….

Her daughter became gravely ill in 1974, and near the end of that, my great grandmother came to live with us for a bit.  I was asked to help her with some basic care, and tried to present a cheerful face to her when I did.
But inside, I was terrified I would do a wrong and get in trouble…so I was reluctant….I got better at it, and therefore more frequent and more willing…  I learned she had what they called then a “weak heart.” For that reason, when her daughter did pass away, it was decided not to tell her, at least not until after the funeral…
At the breakfast table one morning, she raised her voice.

“Children, I’m no fool.  You don’t have to say a thing, I know she’s gone.”

There was a little denial, mainly because we were stunned she knew because we had remained silent…we called around and made sure no one else had told her, and then…we comforted her…one of my parents and I stayed with her during the funeral I was not permitted to attend.  There was never an explanation about how she knew.

A week later, in the type of goodbye that was passing even then, peers, grandchildren and great grandchildren were around her bedside in that same kind of circle as she passed away.   She was 97.


I loved knowing someone who could be so sweet and bracing, even while sitting still.






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