I just got a message from my dad that my grandmother passed away last night. Pnuemonia, just like my grandfather years before her.

She and I hadn’t spoken in several years. My soon to be ex has a large extended family, and friends from south Florida that though he hadn’t spoken to in years, “would be very upset if they are not invited”. Since we couldn’t afford to have a huge wedding, he decided we would each invite our best friend, and either we did it that way, or we wouldn’t get married at all. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I gave in. Once my grandmother got hold of this, she called me and cussed me out for not inviting the family. She wouldn’t have been able to make the trip herself due to health issues, but that didn’t stop her from giving me a piece of her mind on the issue. I was later told she had started doing this to everyone; they said she was starting to become confused and was having angry outbursts.

A year or two later I got a card from her letting me know she ‘forgave’ me for the wedding blowup, and that she loved me. I heard through others in the family her health went pretty rapidly downhill after that, and from what I gather she spent a lot of time not completely aware of what was going on around her. I never talked to her after that phone call about the wedding. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and the thought of talking to her and her not knowing who I was freaked me out in a way I can’t describe.

I don’t know all the stories, but I know her relationships with my aunts and uncles were usually on the rocky side. She had a habit of trying to tell people how they should handle their lives, and I quite clearly remember the term ‘cantankerous old bitch’ being applied to her at more than one family gathering. I think that now and laugh. She was as stubborn as they come.

As annoying as she could be, you had to respect her. She was devoutly Catholic, and went to church as long as her health would allow. She and my grandfather, who she took care of till he passed away, raised 11 children together. She was a nurse, then an English teacher, (which explains why she corrected my grammar constantly when we were together). In her retirement years she volunteered with an adult literacy program, worked as an aid to an Alzheimer patient, and took in foster kids, the teenagers that were usually hard to place because of their age.

She loved going to the movies, and took me often as a child. Her place was a refuge when things got bad with my mom, and I loved spending the weekend with her. She took me to church, and to the opera, and her apartment was where I started sneaking out from as a teenager. She encouraged my reading habits, never making a fuss if I spent most of the weekend with her with my nose in a book. She loved my best friend like she was family.

We grew apart as I got older, and I guess to some degree that’s natural. I wish I had made more of an effort to keep contact, and I wish she hadn’t been so damn stubborn herself. I’m sure she had a lot of her own regrets, but I hope she was at peace with them when she passed.

My grandmother was a tough old bird who touched a lot of lives, and I hope she knows she was one of my biggest heroes.