My grandmother, my Mawga, passed away last week.
It really wasn't unexpected--she's been in a decline for years, although her mental skills were strong almost until the end. But she lingered and failed and rallied so many times, my sisters and I simply weren't sure when (or even if) the end would come. My grandmother was, as Middle Sister put it,
"a bookie's nightmare." Or, as Eldest Sister said last year, possibly a vampire robot.
But last Wednesday, her oxygen tank went quiet, and her heart finally stopped beating, and the woman who raised me left this world. Her gossip magazines are now piled up, no longer read. The lipsticks we bought her just before Christmas (she loved to look pretty) no longer used. The junk food she gobbled down--the Cheetoes, the Fritoes, the chips--no longer eaten. Even just looking over those words, it occurs to me--my Mawga lived life and enjoyed it until so very close to the end. In the last few years of her life especially, she was surrounded by people who loved her, and who were a reflection of the love she gave out.
She raised me--my earliest memories are of her. All through my childhood, I was her shadow. Until I was an adolescent, I had no friends but her. My mother, for reasons that I didn't question then and don't really understand now, sent me to live with Mawga and Boppa when I was 10, and these grandparents, who should have been enjoying their retirement, instead took me in. I was their youngest granddaughter, a strangeling, awkward thing, and they simply accepted me, loved me, gave me a home.
Boppa passed away during my annus horribilis in 2015, and Mawga soldiered on for almost another two years. In all honesty, that woman was as tough as fucking nails.
Mawga was a remarkable woman, not just for having lived almost 100 years. She was the only daughter in a household filled with boys, in a family that desperately tried to keep body and soul together in Depression-Era Indiana. She got pregnant before she was married, but she and my grandfather did marry, in 1942, and she outlived all of her children. She hated Christmas and all of its attendant work and expectations and disappointments, but that didn't stop her from working hard to give us a magical holiday each year. She was prone to streaks of melancholy and negativity, and that left its mark on me. As Eldest has pointed out, depression doesn't exist in a vaccuum--and apples don't fall far from the tree, or tears don't fall far from the eye, or something. All of the women in my family have a melancholic streak as wide as our hips, and I think our Mawga was Ground Zero for that sorrow. She loved to have a Beefeater Gin and Tonic, and quite often more than one. We watched Golden Girls together every Saturday night when I was younger, and when I was older, we enjoyed many an episode of South Park in each other's company. Every time she would bring me some treat--some new poster paints or drawing paper, or a library book that she thought would appeal to me--she would present it with an impish, generous smile of anticipatory pleasure. She took such a keen interest in people, both celebrities on TV and common folk that she met every day. She was nosy and curious, and never seemed to be particularly scandalized by the various questionable life decisions and highly unsuitable men my sisters and I would hitch our wagons to over our young adult years. She never seemed to pass judgement on us for our dumbass mistakes, and while I'm sure I haven't mastered this, I do try.
It seemed like, as much as she liked folks, she was perfectly content on her own, reading through a huge stack of books, munching on the junk food she loved, and sometimes gazing out the window and thinking hundreds of thoughts that she probably never shared, and now never will.
"You are deep in the ages, now, deep in the ages
You whom the world could not break, nor the years tame."