I recently learned that a member of my extended family died in mid-September. This post could dovetail into all the reasons why you should share this type of information regardless of circumstances (unless it causes harm.) But instead I want to tell you about the reasons I loved her.
If you are into genealogy, you have that one person in your own extended family whom you would LOVE to find a familial tie. An in-law, a great aunt, or even the honorary uncle who comes to Christmas dinner. She was such a person for me. She was easily my favorite person in the family.
She was 91 when she died. If you do the math, you quickly realize she was born in depression era rural very rural Western Pennsylvania County. We spent a lot of holiday gatherings talking about her life experiences. She adored her grandparents. She did not adore moving around so often, but in later life appreciated the perspective. At one point her parents temporarily moved to the Hill District. Then back to Greene County. She told me stories of poverty and sacrifice without any hint of nobility or martydom. She knew her young life shouldn’t have been so hard, but ‘blame’ went a long way around the family and the national economy.
She loved her grandkids with a fierce passion. She babysat often and was complicit in their endless games and ideas. One year at Christmas, she agreed to play a “pie in your face” game that covered her in whipped cream. It was ludicrous, but also a core memory that I hope are overflowing for her grandchildren. She wasn’t concerned about her hair or makeup or dignity – she was concerned with the lives of her grandchildren and the world around us. She wanted to share joy with them.
Another thing she and I had in common was our fondness for The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, If we clicked it on the tv, it was one of the few times she told the kids “not right now” because she found the program and all of the MSNBC lineup a source of hope.
I tried to listen to her. So many woman in particular have these somewhat quiet lives, touched by repeated traumas that were just to be endured.. She turned the trope of a senior adult being hooked on FOX News on its head. She was current on the news, understood the issues, and ‘got it’ about the need to pay attention.
I remember her often shaking her head and saying “why don’t they use common sense?” She truly believed in progressive values. When she was a bit younger, she interacted a lot with other elders in her community – she learned how to use ACCESS to escort people to their medical appointments. She shook her head that people were treated so poorly in their final years.
She was kind and giving and willing to go along with most things. Her mind was inquisitive and curious about the world. She had a heart of compassion. And that heart was tied to her generous spirit.
One year she mentioned needing to buy herself more anti-slip socks. I went a little nuts on Amazon and we gifted her a whole bag. Another time, I found countless socks with her beloved Corgis. And one year, a Rachel Maddow book, cup, and shirt. She could have bought all of those things, but I wanted her to know that I heard her. That her comfort, safety, and knowledge changed at least my life.
Obviously, I wasn’t listening closely enough to learn that she died. Not saying goodbye is among my greatest regrets. She was one of the best people I’ve ever known and I will miss her forever.
I am writing this without identifying details as a courtesy. Still, I want to express my regard and respect for her. She must be remembered as a formative influence in this blog.
Rest in power.
May your memory be a revolution.
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