Goodbye Grandma

Jude and I just recently returned from an unplanned trip to the US. Just over a month ago my Grandma got pretty sick. Her kidneys began to fail and then everything else. She eventually passed away on the evening of Thursday, October 3rd. We arrived in Ohio on the day she passed, getting to see her one last time that afternoon.

Her funeral was held on the following Monday. My sisters, Jude, and I gathered with my Mom, Dad, and other close family members and friends to remember Grandma. During the church service I gave a eulogy and have copied it below in memory of my dear Grandma.

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Good morning. As probably most of you know, I am Melanie, one of Vincetta’s three granddaughters, and I wanted to say a few words today in memory of my Grandma and on behalf of my family.

Vincetta, Vinnie, V, Aunt V, Grandma, or Mom. We all knew her by something different but one thing is for certain she had an impact on all of our lives. And for me and my sisters being granddaughters meant our relationship with Grandma was based purely on love and on having fun.

When Jenny, Natalie, and myself were little we spent a lot of time with Grandma and Uncle Frank. Our parents used to drop us off at their apartment in Euclid where we would spend the night. I remember looking forward to these sleepovers knowing how much fun we would have. A sleepover at Grandmas almost always included a fashion show. After watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the Lottery, she would let each us dress up in one of her very fancy ball gowns, put on make-up, jewellery, powder, lipstick, and even a wig. We’d then parade around the living room pretending to be Vana White. Sleepovers also meant lots of good food. Grandma was an amazing cook and baker. Her signature dishes included rigatoni, fried cakes, and buns. For dessert her and Uncle Frank would always have individually wrapped apple pie from Convenient for each of us, they were loaded with and caked in sugar. In the morning Grandma would make each of us a cup of instant coffee. She justified it as okay to give children coffee by adding lots of milk and guess what? More sugar.

Later on Grandma and Uncle Frank moved to a condo in Mentor. They were closer to us so we got to see them more. My sisters and I have a lot of memories from this time. One thing that sticks with us all is the plastic yellow baseball bat they owned. The bat, most likely purchased from the dollar store, was meant to be used for protection. I can remember them hearing sirens drive by and they would both get all wide-eyed and Grandma would shout over to Uncle Frank to grab the bat and get ready. Grandma would instruct us all to stay quiet as Uncle Frank stood behind the door grasping the bat. Of course, nothing would come out of the event but we always stayed up a bit later and didn’t quite sleep as well on these occasions.

We especially remember driving around with them in Frank’s little red Ford Fiesta. Grandma in the front seat shouting instructions to Frank as he drove. Us three in the back, with the plastic yellow bat. We drove to a little store on Mentor Avenue where they stocked up on lottery tickets and candy bars.

Grandma was a great story-teller. During these visits my sisters and I would press Grandma to tell us one of her many stories over and over again. One of our favorites was about the man with three-legs who rode his bicycle around Euclid. The way she would tell these stories, with such conviction, made it seem as if she really, truly, believed what she would tell us.

We have so many great memories with Grandma and Uncle Frank when they lived in Mentor. They certainly weren’t your typical Grandparent figures but we loved their cooky and chaotic ways.

There was a terribly sad and confusing time Grandma went through after Uncle Frank died. He was her everything and I believe she felt absolutely helpless and lost without him.

So we stepped in and tried to fill that gap that was missing in her life without Frank. It was difficult and most of the burden fell on my parents. After Uncle Frank, they helped Grandma moved to and from various apartments in search of the perfect place. She always felt lonely and had a hard time being on her own, (a favorite quote of hers being, ‘get me out of this place’). So as a result she spend a lot of time at our house. We tried to keep the fun going with her by playing tricks on her, videotaping her as she read lyrics to rap songs, and even getting her to buy us and our underage friends beer when our parents were out-of-town. We knew we could trust Grandma with such a task as for those of you that knew her well knew she was a great liar.

After we moved out and onto college, the dependence Grandma had on my parents, especially my Mom increased. Grandma began calling my Mom over and over all day long and became obsessed with knowing where she was at all times of the day, as well as knowing when she was going to see her next. It’s hard to explain to anyone that doesn’t know just how many times she would call and how many messages she would leave. But a message wasn’t always enough to satisfy Grandma as she had a phone book and knew that if my Mom wasn’t home, she would be somewhere else around town. So she would call work and if she wasn’t at work she would start calling other places, like the mall. I distinctly remember being with my mom in K-Mart one afternoon when we heard over the loudspeaker, ‘Nancy Stokes, please report to customer service’.

Speaking of the mall, no speech about Grandma would be complete with out mentioning it, as she loved going there for the day to sit in the food court. She made many friends there, including with the cleaning lady, fast food workers, and other mall-goers. She continued to ask my Mom to take her up until weeks before she died.

Grandma was also a great animal lover. She especially loved our dog, Odie. After her daughter, Odie was always the second thing she would ask about when she called. ‘Where’s Odie, how’s Odie’? And she always, always had a bag of shredded chicken in her purse ready to feed Odie and our cats whenever she came over.

Despite her love of animals she wasn’t all that fond of babies but there was one, my son Jude, she couldn’t resist. She got to meet her great-grandson in July when we also celebrated her 92nd birthday.

Grandma was a determined person, which could sometimes be interpreted as stubborn. One great example of this is how she insisted on getting her driver’s license, even into her 90s, despite the fact she never, ever drove.

Before I end I want to talk for a minute about my Mom as she has been so incredibly amazing. As the years passed and Grandma’s demands grew. My Mom continued to meet them even if it meant having to sacrifice her own life. We would often encourage Mom to not to worry about Grandma or to skip a visit but she would never listen to us. She always always was there for Grandma and cared for her and helped her like only a loving daughter could. I truly admire my Mom for this. And I know that it will take time for my Mom to heal from this but I encourage her to remember that Grandma has a long, and very full life. She certainly lived longer than than I expected especially given the facts that she loved fast food, never exercised, was overweight, and has several serious health problems (including major back and brain surgery in the same year) and was never one to turn down a high-ball. Mom, Jen, and Nat, let’s hope these longevity genes were passed onto us.

Grandma may not have had all her fingers, nor all of her marbles at times, but that didn’t matter as she had a big generous heart toward her family and friends. I know she will miss us just as much as we miss her.

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One response

  1. That’s a really nice eulogy about your grandma, Mel! I definitely have a lot of memories of her, too, and I think you captured her spirit so well!

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