She kept boxes of books in her upstairs guest room, the room I used when I stayed with her for weeks each summer. It was where I read the Dark Shadows series. I made friends with Agatha Christie, Alexandre Dumas and Mark Twain. I travelled to Narnia, colonial England, and the Valley of the Dolls. I found the Hounds of the Baskervilles and solved the Mystery of the Old Clock.
She never drove. Instead she told me which streets ran north and south and which buses ran on even numbered streets. She taught me so well that I can be placed in the middle of Philadelphia and I would still find my way back to her house. She taught me about trolleys, subways and buses, a lesson I needed frequently during my high school years and beyond.
She could make a hell of a roast, with potatoes that were nearly crispy outside and soft on the inside. And her Jewish apple cake was to die for.
She was active in her church, taking time from her evenings to clean the altar, prepare the prayerbooks and vestments. It was her faith that she passed on her daughters and grandkids. They now serve communion and attend rosary nights.
She had friends who never went out without makeup and drank tea, and others who smoked, drank beer and swore like their dockworker husbands. She loved bingo, pinochle, and crocheting. She was always busy with crafts of some kind until she was betrayed by her eyes, fingers and finally her mind.
She told me about my grandfather’s family. They are stories that much later, I shared with my cousins only to learn that I was the only one ever told! But then, she had shared with them stories that I had never known.
This week, my Mom-Mom passed away. All last week, I was angry and wanted so badly to lash at someone, anyone. I wanted to hit-no, HURT- someone so that they would hurt as badly as I did. I couldn’t put my finger on what was behind such aggression. When I got the phone call from my mom that Mom-Mom had died, it was like a magic wand had been waved. The anger disappeared to be replaced by relief and sadness. I finally realized that the anger had come just when I heard that Mom-Mom wasn’t doing well and had been placed on morphine for her comfort. I knew that morphine meant that the end was near. I was angry that she was being taken from me.
This week with Logan, I held him and sang to him a song my Mom-Mom used to sing to me. I held him on my lap and read to him. I imagine my own grandmother did the same with me. Now I am a grandmother. I wonder if I will live long enough to see Logan’s grandson.
Less than five years short of a century is quite a lifetime.
Mom-Mom, I’m sorry for all the things left unsaid, all the time wasted. I loved you always, and I’ll miss you terribly.