Awesome Nana

I have been wanting to post something meaningful about Nana as a tribute to the great person she was. I’ve been kind of putting it off because I don’t want to wallow. She wouldn’t want that. I know that because she told me so. She said, “You’ll be alright Coleen.” And she’s right. I am, for the most part. Well, to clarify, I am NOT alright living in a world where Nana is intangible but I am a realist and a person who faces ugly truths so I HAVE to be okay. And just because Nana has moved to a place where I can’t ring her physical doorbell, doesn’t mean she’s out of my reach.

All that said, here are a few of the many reasons why Nana was a seriously awesome person:

1) She was very, very kind. She welcomed everyone into her home and never made anyone feel like a bother. She was great at making sure people felt welcome.

2) She was HILARIOUS. Nana is my “comedy stylings” hero. She had such a WEIRD sense of humor. Very quick. Very subtle. My mother has very much the same sense of humor, though a little more overt. Nana barely said anything that wasn’t funny. Even when she’s angry, she’s saying funny stuff. She can’t help it. One of the things I will always miss most is that bizarre, gentle sense of humor. She even had me laughing during the very last conversation I had with her. And I was saying goodbye to her. Because she was dying and we both knew it. I was crying and laughing and resting my head on her chest. It was a perfect way to remember her and it makes me cry with gratefulness to think of it. (In fact, I just did haha.)

3) She was really smart. Nana grew up in an era where women weren’t really totally in charge of their “careers”. Well, no that’s not necessarily true. It just wasn’t as common is more what I’m trying to say. A few months before she passed, Nana told me that she used to work for IBM and that she used to want to work for the FBI. I did not know that. She would’ve been GREAT at it because that woman had a mind like a well-timed clock. To our benefit, instead she turned that mind around and focused on raising her family and then her grandkids. It’s fun to imagine the kinds of things she could have also done with a mind like hers. (I’m glad we got her full attention instead of having to split it with IBM and the FBI but that’s my selfishness haha.)

4) Nana was always there for everyone. She always said prayers for people and always was a calming presence to those who loved her. She was stable and steady, always there with a hug, a joke, a cookie and some good stories. She made you feel better when she was around, I just hope that I was able to do the same for her. (Although I know sometimes I made her crazy haha.)

Anyway, I can’t say anymore because it’s making me upset. The reason I started writing this was because I thought I was finally at a point where it wouldn’t make me tear up. I was wrong haha.

So here are some pictures instead.

This was taken at either my 3rd, 4th or 5th birthday party. That’s Nana, PopPop, me (on the left) and my sister (on the right):

This is a picture I’ve used on this blog to illustrate “white people”.  It is also, both sides of my family gathered on the steps of St. Cecelia’s Church for my Christening.  Nana is on the top row to the right.  Peep the big red hair:

This is I guess when I was first born.  I think I am the nugget being passed.  The woman holding the nugget is my Aunt Rose (Grandpa Barr’s sister), that’s Nana in the middle and Nanny (my Dad’s Grandma) on the left:

Here is Nana again.  I have no idea whose birthday this is but I also spy a Christmas stocking up behind Nana’s head.  That’s my cousin Marianne on the left, me (the wee one) in the middle and my other cousin Kelly on the right.

This is a picture that I really love and just found.  Nana is on the left, I am the lassie, Gram (my Mom’s Grandma) and my Mom on the right.

Here is a picture of Nana and my sister Christine in our old kitchen on Woodland Ave.  That wallpaper always reminded me of the wallpaper from Willy Wonka. “SNOZBERRIES!”

Here is a blurry photo of my Mom’s graduation day from Nursing School.  From right to left, it’s Gram, Mom, Uncle Danny (bringing up the rear), Nana and PopPop.

Here is a much clearer picture.  I promise Nana smiled A LOT.  She just didn’t like having her picture taken and always kind of stayed stern-looking haha.  I don’t know why she thought she looked better grimacing but you can’t speak reason to people regarding pictures can you?  Haha.

This picture was taken outside the house on Stuyvesant.  I wasn’t even a glimmer in my Mother’s eye at this time.  This is my Uncle Danny, Nana and Mom.  It might be Easter judging my my Mother’s hat.

I don’t know where this picture was taken but it’s my Mom, Nana and *I think* Uncle Jimmy.

Here is a picture they took on the day of someone’s wedding though I’m not sure whose.  This is my Aunt Pat on the left, a woman whose identity I’m not sure of, Nana and another woman whose identity I’m not sure of.  No one hurt me.

Here is my Mom, lady, Nana, lady. 

And here is a bonus picture of me and Gram.  I grew up living with her and miss her a lot too. Gram was PopPop’s Mom and also a really good person.  I’m lucky to have so many good people in my life.  You don’t even know how lucky I feel.

Something else about grief

I re-read my post about grief last night and realized that a lot of it was very self-centered. I wrote it from a place of honesty, how I was feeling at that very second. Very self-pitying. Like I’m sorry for my own loss. And that IS how I feel right now. It made me think about the nature of grief and how weird it is. I mean there are so many types. When I’ve had someone close to me die this is young or unexpected, I have a tendency not to look at how their death will impact my life but how it is stopping their life. I feel almost embarrassed for the person (not really embarrassed but that’s the closest thing to the emotion I feel) because they were likely intending to do some mundane thing in the near future that will not happen now. They still had goals and ambitions. Laundry to do, groceries to buy, baby showers to attend. All of it is gone and I am left wondering why that is.

With Nana though, I don’t feel sorry for her. Nana went sooner than we wanted her to, probably sooner than she’d planned but she died at 81. Nana had a full life and a lot of people who loved her. She lived a successful life and was a pillar of our family. She was very funny, very calm, very active and very smart. She loved us well and we loved her right back. She always sent a card and she always made us meals and she always showed up. My regrets with Nana are that there are times I focused on silly things like friends or my job, things and people that no longer exist in my life. Nana was still there and there were times I COULD have had with her that I didn’t because other things seemed more important. But I am not a person who likes to live with regret. I feel like when there are times you behave in a way that you are not proud of, you have to learn the lesson from it, not do it again and push forward. I have seen emotions like “regret” and “guilt” destroy a person’s life in front of my eyes and I won’t do it to myself nor would she want me to. It doesn’t stop me from wishing I had a little more time though and kicking myself for wasting some of the time I did have.

So with Nana’s passing, I moreso feel sorry for myself and for my family. Nana wasn’t afraid to die because she had faith that she would be going to paradise. She had faith that she’d rejoin her loved ones in Heaven and then meet us there some day. And I know that’s exactly what happened. There is no way that a person’s faith can be as strong as hers was and NOT be what ends up happening. For her. I’m not making claims on what is right or wrong in regards to religion but I can definitely say that Nana is in Heaven and she is making me feel that every day. I know she’s in a better place.

So all there is is for me to feel sorry for myself. Because I am still here and she is not, at least not tangibly. I made a joke the other day about how I’m worried that now that she’s gone, who will say prayers for me. My cousin told me to say my own damn prayers. And she’s right, and I actually do. I grew up saying my prayers before I went to sleep (almost) every night. When I fell away from the church, I had a hard time with prayers because it felt disingenuous to pray to a God I wasn’t sure I believed in using Catholic prayers that I didn’t know how I felt about. A few years ago though, I realized that prayer is, at the very least, meditation and sending good thoughts out into the universe for people. However you choose to get into that mindset is your own personal way into making time for those kinds of thoughts. Some people put out a ceremonial rug and kneel on it. Some people make the sign of the cross and say some the Our Father and Hail Mary as a way to “get into” the headspace of saying your prayers. This is what I do. I am not a “good Catholic”. I don’t even really identify as “Catholic” anymore except by way of heritage and family ties. So I started saying my prayers again a few years ago and now I don’t necessarily need to “find a way in”. I just say prayers all day long whenever I think of someone. And Nana has been in my prayers all day long every single day for a very long time. So I’ve done a lot of thinking about Nana and her situation. I’ve done a lot of praying for her return to health and then for her return to Heaven.

But now it’s time for me to grieve. The loss is now mine. Nana is done with her earthly pain. And now I miss having a cup of tea and a piece of cake with her. I miss the smell of her house on Thanksgiving. I miss taking a tour of her house to see what she’s got up for the current holiday. I miss the way she accepted people as they came. I miss her love of Turner Classic Movies. I miss the way she had a set routine and nothing or no one would break her of it. She had a way about her that was independent, clear-thinking, loving and perfunctory. She was neat and tidy in appearance, in mind, spirit and home. No chaos about Nana at all. She handled everything in her life the right way. No crying or carrying on with her. She was a very calming person and actually a very good friend. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her as a friend AND as my Grandma.

I’m sorry if all of this is like WAY TOO MUCH. I just need to kind of take some of this stuff off of my shoulders. I think I might post this as a private entry in this blog. I don’t know. Anyway, if I don’t thanks for reading. More blahblahblah later.

P.S. I don’t want anyone to worry about me. I am actually okay, I just like to deal with stuff NOW. I hate to deal with stuff later. So when stuff like this happens, I like to really take it on and feel what I’m feeling and take a little time to wallow in it and sort out my feelings. I WILL be okay, I just need to process this grief as it comes and in whatever form it comes. No stiff upper lip here.

P.S. #2 I just want to say that I hope I can be as awesome as either of my Grandmas someday. Man am I blessed with awesome Grandmas haha.

One thing I forgot to tell you…

Is that yesterday was actually was Nana and PopPop’s wedding anniversary. (My Aunt Pat posted that on FB.) There are a lot of funny coincidences to the timing of Nana’s death and ALL of them make me chuckle. But Nana actually passed away in enough time to have her first Wedding Anniversary in Heaven! So punctual!

Happy “Nanaversary” Nana and PopPop!

Grief is a very weird thing.

That's Nana on the left and her sister (my Aunt) Rosemary on the left (who passed six months to the day before Nana did).

When I first heard that Nana passed, relief washed over me. When we went to see her in early April, I’d had to do a lot of heavy grieving because I knew that I’d never see her again. Everything I was doing with her was the last time I’d do it with her. During the day and by all appearances, I was fine. The visit was kind of strange because it was like being at a living wake, with all of us paying what we knew would be our last visits to her BUT SHE WAS THERE TOO. So we kept it light and jocular. Cracking jokes and teasing each other, looking at my Uncle and Aunt’s travel photos and talking about old times. It was a lot of fun. But at night, when everyone left and Mom and Nana went to bed, I cried my eyes out. Alone in Nana’s home, the weight of the day and of the occasion, finally fell off my shoulders for a while and I was able to mourn. On the night before I was to leave, I went around taking pictures of things as a remembrance. It was all happening too fast and I wasn’t ready for it. In the morning I got up, got ready and had breakfast like I always did when I visited Nana. We spent the morning chatting, me, Nana and Mom. But, too quickly, it was time to go. I was lucky enough to lay my head on her chest and tell her everything I wanted to say. And she, not being an emotional person, was kind enough to sit there and let me, because she knew I needed to. I cried my eyes out in the car on the way to Newark Airport. I cried my eyes out in the airport. I cried my eyes out on the plane. I cried my eyes out when I got home and for a week afterward. Continue reading