[I gave this eulogy for my maternal grandmother at her funeral on the 13th of January, 2014, drafted in those few days between her passing and the celebration of her life. I found it amongst some papers and wanted to capture it digitally before it got lost. Five years later, I think the universe wanted to remind me of a few things.]
My childhood brain refused to imprint the ridiculous notion that my grandmother’s name was Anita. It was a fact, but around her those things were far less interesting and not as fun so I didn’t care for them. She was Nana Mickie. Like Mickey Mouse. But taller. And female. And white on top instead of black.
She [with Grampy] was the co-conspirator of silly fun – kites and hula hoops, beach days and water chairs, picnics and country fried breakfasts at camp, Christmas Eves and Easter Egg Hunts, Zeke the Shadow Man and the Jolly Green Giant’s silverware. I think the Giant must have given her a great green cookbook too, but green was your color, not the book’s. I loved my Nana dearly, but she was a horrible cook.
Let me share with you her recipe for lasagna: boil lasagna noodles until you had time to take them out. Al dente, floppy – folks like variety and distractions happen. Find the Ragu and shredded cheese. Mozzarella is best, but whatever you have. Make hamburger patties – thick and firm. But not round – those match buns. These have to match the noodles. Long rectangles. Layer it all and put it in the oven. Get the cheese melted. Crispy, gooey – again, variety! Call it Stuffed Sghetti and watch for the grateful looks from your family, at EVERY famly gathering.
For dessert get out the fancy icing tips and frost some Ritz crackers. That is only if you don’t have chocolate or ‘burnt ends’ to eat.
It is a shame it was that grey green and not the vibrant green of her ancestral home. Mickie was Irish through and through. A sharp wit, a voice that could rouse a pub or sing sweet hymns. She was a painter, artist, antiques lover, gardener, seamstress and fashion-accessory guru. She was an artistic jack-of-all-trades, well suited to inherit that character, and nickname, from her father.
She was the second to last draft of the mold for making Martha Stewart – that cooking thing being the glaring exception. I once heard Martha admonish her viewers to make the bed – every day. I thought to myself, Nana did it better. She didn’t even have to say it. Even now I find mornings where I shame myself into making the bed.
She taught by example, often not saying anything at all, or using a few carefully selected words. She taught herself the skills we think of most in regards to her, and that lifelong love of learning is one of her greatest gifts. She was feisty, enticing two fine men into marrying her. She made the best life with what was granted her. She appreciated the journey. A very rare thing indeed.
The next time you see a blackberry, think of her and the brandy she and my grandfather loved. Enjoy all of the fruit – the rich color, the funky texture, the pricks on the bush in the garden, and the sweet juice.
You will embody her.