Monday, July 29, 2013

Good-bye, Granny

And so she came to pass. As she had met the many troubles in her life, my mother-in-law greeted death with minimal fuss. She went to sleep one night, stayed asleep the next day and quietly passed into the great hereafter overnight. I wish I knew how she did it so I could do the same when I’m 94—or 90, because that’s when her quality of life began to deteriorate with dementia. 

And now begins the paperwork. The great snarls of red tape, the Rubik’s Cubes of catch-22s, the mountains of documents in triplicate—poor Other has barely finished putting his late sister’s estate to rest and now another volcano of bureautrash has spewed forth. 

The heaps of legal requirements, the fees for filing this and that, the barriers to getting things done, diminish the person who has died. There’s little time or brainspace to reflect on the life that has ended. 

But I do know my kids have lost the one person who never, not even for a moment, took anything but pleasure in them. She was the ultimate spoiler, the one who comforted them with ice cream when I had scolded them, who rented seaside vacation homes to lure them—and their friends—to visit, who tried to give them all the good things, who never tried to teach them a lesson. They were so lucky to have her! And so was I.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Good old Granny

Is it just me, or is world wobbling on its axis? First the heat wave, which made everything surreal. Then phone calls: A friend with a cancer recurrence—her fourth episode. A parent with depression. Friends with addicted children and degenerative disease. And now the nursing home with news that my mother-in-law didn’t fully wake up this morning and seems to be wafting in and out of consciousness. 

The news about my mother-in-law is unsettling. It’s not that she’s at death’s door; we don’t know what’s wrong with her. And it’s not that it would be a tragedy if she died; she’s 94. It’s that she could die, and then this woman who has been a symbol of resilience will no longer exist, her absence making the world feel a little less steady.

My mother-in-law is an ordinary woman—an old-fashioned housewife with no special talents or accomplishments, save one: a sturdy, down-to-earth cheerfulness in the face of terrible tragedies. She lost two brothers in World War II, three of her four children, her husband, one of her legs—and righted herself like a bop-bag clown after every blow. 

When I asked her late husband what had made him fall in love with her, he replied, “She knew how to have a good time.” 

Of all the genetic qualities I’d wish upon my children, my mother-in-law’s gift for having a good time is foremost. I care less that they learn from their mistakes than that they not be undone by them, less that they have great adventures than that they take pleasure in daily life, less that they fulfill their potential than that they not be driven by fear. Good old Granny was a wonderful model for living a good life.

Iggy's mug shot