Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Call me Paulie....

My middle name is Pauline. So named for my Grandmother, Pauline Dey Vandemortel. Known to me as Grammie. She was admitted to the hospital today, no one knows when, or if, she'll ever come back out. She had her third stroke.

The entire family has taken a collective inhale.

My Grammie helped raise me. My parents, like so many of our generation, were divorced when I was a little girl. My mother was left struggling and my grandparents stepped in to support her. Grammie took the WATS (Wayne Area Transportation Service) bus to our house most everyday to take care of my brother and I. She hung the clothes on the line, took us for walks to see our mom at work and washed the floors with a rag. Once she even sprained her wrist doing it.

From the time I was little her hair was always red, I didn't know until much later that she dyed it. She was our family's Lucille Ball. I remember once she came shopping with us to help me find some back to school clothes, I was starting the 6th grade that fall. In the dressing room she got a hanger all twisted up into her ring and just couldn't get it out. We laughed so hard, and all any of us could think was this was our private episode of "I love Lucy."

I spent many summer's with her and my grandpa. Every night Grandpa had his beer and peanuts, I had mine with soda and we would sit on the front porch. I remember trying to hide my pajamas so I could wear one of her pretty nightgowns.

Around the age of 10 I developed a plan. I wanted any kids I had to know my Grandparents and so I had a plan so that that could happen. I'm sure it included getting married long before now. Probably by age 20 or something, so I could have kids by 23. I went off that path along time ago.

Her slow decline has kept me trapped in denial. Only today have I begun to allow myself to believe what's really happening, we're losing her. In the last 2 years she's declined so fast. No longer the woman who walked faster than me, would talk to absolutely anyone, and used to say "Blastoff!" when we pulled the car out of the driveway. Now when I see her she sits quietly in her chair, her hair now grey, and just sort of stares into the distance.

I've separated myself from it. I don't visit as often and I should and I didn't realize until today, why. I don't want to believe that the woman in that chair is really my Grammie.

My Grammie was one of the funniest, kindest most amazing women I have ever known. She taught me to love libraries and little potatoes; gardens and garage sales. I'm thankful that I've had the privilege of calling her my family.

I love you Grammie.


karen said...

lizz, i know what you're going through, and it's hard. these infallible beings in our lives can't possibly be fragile, yet, they are.
it sounds as if you have wonderful memories of her and the warmth of the word 'grammie' really seeps through as you write about her.
you carry her on in so many more ways than her name.

Peter said...

hey Lizz, we're meeting tonight (wednesday) at Solera at 7:30 if you want to come hang out :] we might be stapling together some zines or just sketching and chatterboxing. Maybe we'll see you later!


joAnn said...

lizz, what a wonderful homage you have paid your her. i love that your middle name is pauline (beautiful!) and i love the idea of you hiding your p.j.'s so you could wear hers. so sweet.
i know she knows how much you love her.
wishing you peace,

[.L.] said...

thanks guys-- its so good to have people like you to tell about these things.

i saw her today and it was so hard. she looks so small and i just want to fold myself around her to keep her from harm forever and ever.

the people we love live on in stories and memory- my grammie will for many many many years to come.

thanks for listening.

cris said...

we all know the dreams in our heads we have often remain just that. Although this is hard you will be ok.
The lessons you learned have made you the wonderful Lizz I fell in love with at first sight! Those quiet memories you cherish will forever be a part of your tapestry. Each one like the yarn you use to create something from your inspirations. Your Grammie has given you the strength to be ok (even knock down sculpture in sandals!) and the sense of humor to look back and laugh at it all.
So curl yourself up in the memories, say the I love you's out loud and find peace in the comfort of friends and family and still say "Blastoff" as you take off in your car!
thinking of you!