As I'm sure most who care enough to read this blog already know, my grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. Much like I did when my grandfather passed, I wanted to pay tribute to her likely in the one way I know how, by devoting a blog post to her memory. I had the honor of performing her eulogy and, for once, I think I said it best the first time. The following is a loose translation of the words I spoke for her largely off the cuff. I thank my friends and family for their support and once again it was my privilege to speak on behalf of the memory of Evelyn Policastro.
My grandparents had always been people of routine. That is to say that even when I was very young my grandparents always seemed old(er) in their actions and lifestyle. A great deal of their life hinged upon shopping at various stores like Caldor and Kohl's, where my grandfather would alternate between waiting for my grandmother in the car and waiting for her in the store where he would chat up most any salesgirl who would listen in his own "youthful" way. My grandparents went to bed at eight and woke as early as four in the morning. They would eat their meals at the same set times everyday and unless they were on vacation, had a doctor's appointment, or were visiting the family, they never strayed from this routine.
I've always felt that this routine spoke volumes about their character and their relationship with one another. The fact that they could relive such repetition each day and still find joy in life and each other is something I can't help but be envious of in a strange way. As kids (speaking for Noelle and myself) we never grew weary of our grandparents' monotony and always considered it a real treat and almost vacation to be with them. Again, I feel that speaks volumes about the special dynamic my grandparents had and the warm atmosphere they built around themselves.
Anyway, I bring this up in order to set the stage for what will always be my favorite memory of my grandmother. As the preceding paragraphs dictate, I'm sure, my grandparents were never, even in my youth, very physically active people. With the exception of what I would only call "flashes" of memories of playing ping pong with my grandfather back before I even started school, and admittedly frequent walks around the Manorville area, my grandparents were largely, albeit pleasantly, sedentary people. Until one fine summer's day when we found a bird laying in the street.
There I was, no more than 10 years old in the back seat of my grandfather's car, likely en route to another shopping session when my grandfather noticed a bird laying right in the middle of the street. Somehow I was elected the vehicle resident orthologist and was told to go see if it was alright. Now, even at 10, I was no idiot and said there was no way I was touching that thing with my bare hands. As if she'd been prepping for this moment her whole life, my grandmother swoops in with a glove from the front seat (this being the only car I know of where the term "glove box" was taken literally) and now it seems I have nowhere else to store my short straw and have to bite the bullet and check on the bird. My grandfather was kind enough to step out of the car with me, but didn't go much further as I approached the bird cautiously, with my only intent to move it out of the road and harms way. After much stalling and what I'm sure was less minutes than my imagination would have me believe, I reached out and touched the bird. My touch was apparently quite healing as the now mended fowl sprung to life and flew out of my reach like a shot.
What should have been a fitting end to an uplifting, underwhelming story took a strange turn indeed when the bird flew directly into the open car window and fluttered about the automobile with my grandmother now flailing wildly inside it. Moments ticked by with the bird not leaving and at last in was my grandmother who flew the coop, opening the car door and sprinting down the street faster than I had ever seen her move. This sudden burst of passionate athleticism was enough to send my grandfather and I into stitches and I can't think of a time where he's ever laughed harder. The incident left such an impact on me that I recall it wasn't until the next day when it registered how bizarre it was the bird flew in the car at all. I was more focused on my grandmother's aftermath for quite some time.
Beyond that my memories of my grandmother were, while no less meaningful, largely stereotypical, I guess. The spoilings of great food at all times, being slipped two bucks for no reason at all every two or three visits and a friendly face, heart, and ear of love and support, and so on. My grandmother was always one who put her family before herself. This characteristic combined with her intense interest in things in my life that I considered pretty mundane is something I will always admire. Many of our phone conversations consisted of her asking what I was up to and me casually replying that I was going to play basketball or to rehearsal or something, and by the end of our talk a always was left feeling pretty amped about what I considered so pedestrial just minutes before. Yeah, I am going to play basketball/rehearse and it should be a lot of fun. She was, in a sense, an instrument of perspective that helped keep life's simple pleasures in scope. For that I couldn't be more grateful.
Being a victim of dementia, it was tough to watch her mind decline over the weeks and months, especially as the end grew closer. Further elaboration on that would do nothing but dreg up the wrong kind of emotions and tarnish the legacy I'm trying to honor, but I will say that I take great comfort in that even as her health declined, she never lost her childlike wonder for life and intense love for her family. I can't help but consider that a blessing of some sort and I'm relieved she's no longer in pain.
My family faces many changes going forward as a whole and as individuals. I have mixed feelings about these changes, which I think is okay. I'll always take solace in the fact that even if it was only for a little while, my grandmother brought out the best in my family and brought out the best in me. I thank her and love her for that.
Song of the Day: I Can't Quit Her-Blood Sweat and Tears
Jazz Song of the Day: Mexican Hip Dance-Horace Silver