My grandmother died on my birthday last year.
I remember half smiling when I got the news. Not only had she passed away before my parents could get to the nursing home to be with her, but I swear she went when she did as revenge for me not shaving my beard.
Marie Ford was New York through and through. She told me stories about how she and her friends would bar hop in the city, which in those days meant they jumped from hotel bar to hotel bar. She was never more animated or happy as when I would tell her what I was up to in the city that she had grown up in. Whenever I’m out on the town, she’s never far from my mind.
Digging through some old files, I found the following story that I wrote for a college class. It made me miss all those mornings I went to breakfast with her and my father—whom she called her “Ken-Ken“—and calling her to talk about how well (or badly) our beloved New York Yankees were playing. Thanksgivings haven’t been the same without her and I being the first ones to sit down at the table and started devouring our food.
She was a special woman and this blog post is long overdue. I know she’ll find some way to get me back for going on like this, but I’ll hold her to the last words she said to me.
“I love you too Daniel.”
|Long Island 1952|
(Left to right) Uncle Stephen, my grandmother, Aunt Kathy
My dad is on the bike.
She was ready.
Her coat was buttoned all the way, her white hair was perfect, and she had her cane in hand.
“Hello love,” she said, opening the door before I had a chance to knock on it. “How are you sweetie?”
I tell her I’m fine, more concerned with trying to help her down the slippery driveway.
“Oh let go of me, I can do it myself,” my grandmother says.
I ignore her. I can feel her balance swaying and know that today isn’t one of her good days. At least she’s pretending to use the cane these days.
It had snowed the night before. hadn’t driven in months, but I was determined to help my grandmother today. She wanted to vote.
“So who are you voting for,” I asked, already knowing the answer.
My grandmother was a smart lady and had seen it all in her 85 years. However, she was lending her support to good ol’ George and I had been trying to convince her to change her mind for weeks.
“I just don’t think we should change leaders when we’re at war,” she said, patting my hand. “Not to mention, John Kerry doesn’t do anything for me; I don’t think he would do any better.”
This was my first presidential election and I must admit that I was being quite the geek about it. While most teenagers are excited to learn they can buy cigarettes and lotto tickets when they turn 18, all I cared about was being able to vote in this election. I was proudly wearing my “I just voted” sticker and had watched all the pre-election shows the night before. I had survived another long train ride and was looking at an even longer one tonight, but at least I had done my part in trying to remove our Fool-In-Chief.
“Right here dear,” my grandmother said patiently.
It had been a short drive to the elementary school where she was registered. Bright red, white, and blue banners were everywhere, people hurried in and out of the side entrance, and patriotic songs spewed out of the speakers of the decorated Winnebago. My grandmother eagerly gets out of the car on without my assistance and I have to hurry to catch up to her.
The school cafeteria is alive with activity. It is organized chaos.
Volunteers wear big smiles and try to engage you in conversation as you wait your turn. My grandmother did some bragging about me—some deserved and some not so much. I was just there to make sure she didn’t fall and just politely nodded and let my grandmother do all the bragging she wanted.
“You can help your grandmother walk up if you’d like,” a volunteer told me when we had reached the front of the line.
“You stay right where you are young man,” my grandmother said handing me her purse and walking up on her own.
I waited patiently.
She came out seconds later and received her sticker. We walked out the door into the cold November air to once again be regaled by “God Bless America” and eager local politicians greeting the next batch of voters.
“So how is the love life,” my grandmother asked on the way home.
I had my ear fixed on the talk radio station and gave her a short answer. Ok, maybe the reason my answer was short had more to do with the fact that I don’t have much of a love life than the radio, but whatever.
“You don’t have to walk me up the sidewalk,” she said when we had arrived back at her house. “You have things to do and I’ve already taken up too much of your time.”
I could see the sidewalk still hadn’t been sanded properly and once again ignored my grandmother’s directions.
“Now you take this,” she said, thrusting a ten-dollar bill into my hand.
I quickly refused it and she reluctantly took it back. I told her I loved her and I would see her soon.
“Can you just unlock my door for me?” My grandmother asked innocently. “I just want to check the mailbox.”
I did as she asked. I handed her keys when she was inside.
“Bye hun!” She said slamming the door in my face.
I put my hands in my pockets, finding the ten-dollar bill.
|My grandmother with her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren on her 90th birthday.|