Anna was my grandmother. If I had to describe her in one word that word would be sweet. She died when she was 72 years old and I was 13 or 14. She had heart trouble for a number of years. Me and my sister Carol would have to go sit with her, while my grandfather was at work, because she was afraid to be alone. I will tell you that it seemed that it was mostly me who went, and Carol will probably tell you it was mostly her, but don’t believe her. In the 60’s and 70’s medical advances were not as prevalent as they are now. My grandmother received a heart pace-maker back then, and it was a long surgery with many days in the hospital and many more weeks of recovery. If my grandmother had become sick while I was sitting with her, I would not have known what to do. There was no 911 back then. I was not medically savvy and I was there only to get a trip to Sam’s.
I can remember sitting with Grandma and she would watch her stories. Those are Soap Operas to all of us today. I can remember The Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow were two of her favorites, and they were on for 15 minutes only. One thing I remember about those stories is my grandma’s reaction when a person would die on one soap,then suddenly appear on another. She would tell my grandfather that, so-and-so is not really dead, they were on what ever soap they appeared on. “I knew they weren’t dead,” she’d say. I knew back then what was going on and didn’t have the heart to tell her.
I really did hate going down there and sitting with her, but would always feel bad when she would give me money to go to Sam’s, the corner grocery to get me some lunch. I can’t tell you how many times there were that I bought a Bath-Tub cake and a Crème Soda.
I don’t remember much about what I did all day when I had to sit. I asked Carol and she said that grandma would have her scrub her chairs. I don’t remember scrubbing any chairs but I do remember washing her plastic flowers. She showed me how the first time.. She would fill the sink up with soapy water, and then take the plastic flowers and swish them around in the soapy water. I was amazed at how clean they would become. I still use that method today on anything plastic that I have around the house.
My grandmother was hard of hearing and wore a hearing aid. This was so different. The hearing aid had a box type thing that she pinned to her clothes. When she talked on the phone, she would hold the part of the phone that goes to the ear, up to the box pinned to her clothes.
My grandmother’s physical appearance as I look back was best described as beautiful. She had silver white hair, spoke with a soft tone and wore nice clothes. When I sat with her, she would be mostly in a house dress, but they were always nice. When she was dressed up she would wear pearls and things. She and my grandfather were definitely in love. He would not get up from the dinner table without first kissing her. He would call her from work several times a day to see how she was doing. If there were problems there, I was not aware of them. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary shortly before she died.
Her passing affected me, but not how you might think. I felt the guilt for NOT wanting to sit with her. I had not seen my grandfather cry, ever until she passed away. He had a big white handkerchief and he held it in both hands with the handkerchief to his face and sobbed like a baby. That really moved me. I can’t remember attending her funeral, but you can bet it was at St. Cecilia’s church. I do remember going back to her house afterwards and it was there that it hit me. I saw her shoes. They were white, and sort of looked like nursing shoes, but they were orthopedic I’m sure. It was when I saw those shoes that the pain of missing her became real and apparent. It was my first experience with pain associated with a loss, and it took shoes to bring it on. As you will find out later, when someone I love passes, it’s the shoes that get to me the most - maybe because those shoes can never be filled.