On this Memorial Day I am remembering my grandmother, Nana. I'm not sure exactly what her role was, but she was in the Merchant Marines during WWII.
As far as my grandmothers go, she was never the "fun" one, but she showed her love in her own way. For example, one day when I was about 15 I was dropped off to help her around her house. After I was finished, I had to wait for my ride to pick me up again. Not being much else to do, I read one of the many Reader's Digest laying around. She was so impressed that I read the entire thing that the next time I talked to her, she had a bag full of Reader's Digests ready for me to take home. She thought I enjoyed them and saved them all up for me.
She had two children, my dad and uncle. My grandfather passed away when my dad was about 10, so I never knew him, and my dad didn't really either. Both of her sons had their first kids at the same time, two girls born one month apart. I came along 2 years later. For 6 years we were the only grandkids. We each had our own special cup that we used at her house. Each had an animal on it and the tail curled around for the handle. Mine was a cat.
She is very short. Very very short. We called her Nana Smurf. She actually shrank as she got older. It was a point of honor when we kids got tall enough where we could rest our elbow on her head. That was a lot of fun.
My parents were divorced and she lived just a few minutes from where we lived with my mom. She would take me and my sister and mom out to eat every month. At the Spaghetti Factory. That was our special place.
She was also a remarkable woman. She volunteered for JFK campaign when he first ran for the senate. She met every president from JFK through Clinton. Her battle with Alzheimer's precluded her from meeting GWB or Obama. She was a teacher and education was important. She wrote curriculum books called "Amanda Panda". Although teaching has long relied on women, schools used to not allow married women to be teachers. Once women married, they were supposed to be home taking care of the house. Rather than fire her, her position was turned into a long-term substitute position so she could still teach but not be a teacher. Eventually this situation no longer made sense and Boston Public Schools changed their policy about married women teaching. Because she was a vet, they made her one of the first married women hired as a regular teacher.
I was the first of her children/grandchildren to graduate from college. Probably the only one she is aware of who graduated. One sad thing about her disease is that she lost awareness of what was happening. And she forgot who we were or what we were doing. First it was gradual. She knew I was in college, but couldn't remember where. She was so proud and told all her relatives and friends that her granddaughter went to Harvard. I actually went to Stanford, but the sentiment was the same. She was from Boston, so Harvard was the best to her. Later, as the disease progressed, she stopped recognizing us completely.
She's been living with my uncle for the past several years. My dad called last night and said she had respiratory distress and probably wouldn't last through the night.
**Update: Nana passed away this afternoon. Fortunately my dad was able to fly out there to see her before she passed. She will be missed. I hope she has finally found some peace.
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