Yesterday, Fathers' Day, while Cappy was sleeping out on his boat, I got a phone call that his beloved Grandmother, on his Dad's side, passed away. She was 92, (I believe), going on 29. Cappy will get off the boat this Wednesday and we will join his family to attend her funeral. I've only been a part of this family for six years, but knowing how precious each member's life means to them as individuals; how joy and love is wrung out of every minute of their existance, no matter the circumstances, the day of her burial will be one of deep sorrow because of their profound loss, but also, because of her nature will be more like a temporary Going Away party, celebrating her life.
As I talked with Cappy this afternoon, he talked about MawMaw's life, knowing I was going to post a blog in her honor. As he talked, I became more impressed. I will let him relate more of this whenever he desires. I'd hate to get any of it wrong. All I really know of her is first-hand experience, which made me love her dearly, despite the fact I didn't get to see her enough.
Cappy lovingly referred to MawMaw, her sister "Aunt Helen", and her daughter "Aunt Gussie" as the ol' chickens. He loves them to pieces. One thing I do remember him telling me was an hilarious story of him driving them on road trips. A single young man, bouncing along with a carload of his darling, noisy, elder ladies, one of them with a vice-grip on the rosary.
I know she loved getting out and being social. Most anytime there was a family gathering, one could be sure MawMaw would be there. Barbeques, weddings, Mardis Gras, etc. Personally, I've never had anyone in my family circle in NYS live into their 90's, so, even on pretty warm days I was shocked to turn around and see MawMaw there, enjoying the goings ons. But thrilled. She was a Spring chicken, even if she was 90 something.
While visiting with her, I could always see her, in my mind's eye, standing tall along a bayou bank somewhere, casting a fishing line. I asked Cappy about that, and he said "Oh, indeed, she loved fishing". And...I know she loved shrimp. When we went to visit, we liked taking her a little something. One time I told her I'd forgotten to bring the shrimp I had set out on the cupboard for her at home. Time after time, I'd forget to take shrimp...HOW could I forget? But she never forgot. She'd always ask if I brought it. One time, a year or two ago, the family was summoned to the hospital because the situation looked pretty grim. When it was our turn to be ushered in to see her, I was so sad to see how badly she looked; wires hanging everywhere, tubes coming out of her arms, and from under her blankets. She looked gray. Her eyes were closed, her mouth was agape and her tongue looked dry. Aunt Gussie whispered to her, "Mama, Ray and Peggy are here to see you". Poor MawMaw. Her tongue waggled a little bit, and from somewhere far away her voice, thin, cracked, more like a squeak breathed, "...did they bring my shrimp?" Right after that she got wind of the fact that we'd brought Aunt Gussie some fresh boudin, and insisted on having some. As Aunt Gussie put a couple bites into MawMaw's mouth, I knew we were about to see her strangle and die, there on the spot. At the same time, I thought that it was so nice that her daughter loved her so much, and would give in to her mother's last request, as she gingerly placed the food into her dying mother's mouth, softly coached her to chew, and then swallow. MawMaw, squeaked, "...oh...that's soooo good." Then it was time for us to leave.
We went home dreading the inevitable phone call. A couple of days later, while talking to one of the cousins, they off-handedly remarked about a group of the family having gone to a River Casino, for one thing or another. And MawMaw had gone. What??? From her seeming death bed to a party? What a gal. She loved going to the casino. I've never gone with her, so I don't know too much about that, but how cool was it, that she loved having her birthday parties at them?
Her mind was as sharp as a tack. At one party we attended at her nursing home, we all played Bingo. The prizes were things like bananas, or pocket tissues, small bottles of mouthwash...useful, practical things for the residents. Two of MawMaw's younger neices were discussing who had attended some particular function, who had driven, and who had ridden with whom. They got a little confused, so MawMaw intervened, reminding them, whereupon, they both said, "Oh yeah", then asked her more details to get the story straight in their minds, nodding, and saying, "Oh yeah, that's right, now I remember", all the while she was raking in the 'goodies' from winning a couple of rounds of Bingo. I think they were oblivious of the fact that I was just sitting there in awe, smiling and admiring her.
I've often told Cappy that I just think MawMaw is the sweetest lady. He'd cackle, "SWEET! Haa! She's a fiesty ol' broad and I love her with all my heart". Well, that kinda hurt my feelings. I don't know why he said that; to me she was so tender-hearted. One time when there was a special dinner for her, and we had, as usual, shown up late. When I hugged her, she clung onto me tightly, crying. I was puzzled. She continued to wipe her eyes and cry, then said, "I didn't think you were going to make it...I'm so glad you are here". Well, that made me cry and love her all the more. I guessed Cappy didn't know his grandmother as well as he thought he had. I didn't want to miss a word she said to me, so, I liked to keep my head close whenever she was talking to me. A year or so later, there was a large gathering of friends at one of her son's homes for a fifty-year high school reunion. I didn't know anyone, of course, so walked around being polite, enjoying the party, but also visiting with, I'm sure, the oldest guest there, that being MawMaw, the esteemed mother of the host. I kept passing by to make sure she had whatever she might need, but of course, Aunt Gussie made sure she had everything. Such a sweet, grande dame, I was thinking, as I made a sweep by her. Just then I saw her lean over and whisper something to her daughter...did she need anything, I wondered? I leaned in, too, to hear her say, "...Hmph! Did you see 'so and so' over there?? Just LOOK at what she's wearing!"
Oh yeah, that's about right. How could ya not love a lady so full of the zest of life? And she had her sorrows, too. She lost her oldest son, Cappy's father on Christmas Day 2005.
Yesterday, before he got the news of MawMaw's passing, he had been thinking about his father; it being Fathers' Day. Later in the evening he said, "My Dad got the best Fathers' Day gift ever today...he gets to see his Mom".