However we came home to some sad news: my grandmother passed away on Friday. This is my father's mother, also my last living grandparent. She was 96 I think, and she has been fading for several years. Significant dementia, and forgetting most everything... but she was still my Grandma, and I will miss her.
She lived in New Jersey all my life, although she and my grandfather moved quite a lot as my dad was growing up. My grandpa passed away when I was just a baby, so although I have photos of me with him, I do not remember him. We used to visit her every Christmas holiday - generally we would spend Dec 26th through 31st in New Jersey with her and other family members. After I graduated college I didn't make it out to NJ as often for Christmas, but I tried to make a habit of visiting in the Spring or Summer.
Last year I got married, and instead of my traditional NJ trip, most of the family came to Michigan. Unfortunately she was not well enough at that point to travel. That was one of the downsides of meeting M later in life: Grandma didn't make it to my wedding. On the plus side though, he and I did travel to NJ together two summers ago and he got to meet her. (On another down side, he didn't get to meet my "real" grandma, the vibrant one before she started fading.)
I keep thinking of memories to share here, but finding it challenging to summarize 40 years worth of trips to Grandma's house, not to mention her trips to Michigan, in a simple blog post. She had a basset hound named Cleo when I was a kid. He loved to have his belly rubbed. I would take him for walks, and I would crawl through his doggie door after him.
Her youngest daughter has cerebral palsy, so Grandma spent decades of her life caring for her. Grandma learned to use a computer before most people even considered buying one for their homes, so she could help Laura learn language. Eventually she found a really nice group home for Laura, but still brought her home most weekends. She was active in the "parents with disabled children" community. Through this community, she met a man with a disabled son. The man's name was John, and when I was sixteen and she was about 70, she married him. My father walked her down the aisle.
Grandma and John had ten years together, and I remember visiting them from college. They had a nightly ritual in which he would pour them each a Manhattan, they would clink their glasses, kiss, then sip their drinks together. She had a photo of him from his twenties in the living room. She had never known him in his twenties, but when I remarked on how attractive he'd been, she arched her eyebrows at me, smiled, and agreed.
John passed away when she was around 80. I remember asking her how she was doing, and she told me, "I had ten unexpected and wonderful years with John, and I'm grateful." I often think of that attitude when faced with losing people or things. Remembering to be grateful for unexpected pleasures.
A couple of years after she lost John, I lost my first fiance S (12 years ago). Grandma called me several nights in those first few weeks, just seeing if I could sleep, letting me know she was thinking of me and loved me.
When my dad turned 60, we had a surprise birthday party for him in Michigan, secretly convincing all of his sisters, their husbands, and his mother to fly to Michigan and surprise him. I took this photo on time-delay, so I could run into the picture and we could have Dad's whole family in the picture at once.
2001, the whole family:
2002, a cousin's wedding reception:
At some point Cleo passed on, I can't remember when. But then she got a new dog, a pug. She allowed her daughter Laura to name the dog, so Laura named it after her favorite bus driver, Bill. Here she is with two of her great-grandchildren, and Bill, in 2007.
2005, a pic from her 90th birthday party:
Four generations of Wasielewskis in one picture:
This was taken in 2003, when my grandmother was still a young thing in her late eighties. She passed away on Friday, leaving behind the marvelous family she built, and a wonderful legacy.
Rest in Peace Grandma, I will always remember you.