Today is my Meemo’s Birthday.
She is 84 years VERY young today.
She is as sharp as a tack. Always has been. (Though she will tell you she isn’t but I think this is for convenience and not really true)
She is, bar none, the wisest, most compassionate woman I have ever met.
She was raised in extreme poverty and had five siblings.
She survived polio when she was very young. She once told me she remembers crying when her mother had to leave her in a crib, all alone, in some kind of facility that kids with polio were required to live in back-in-the-day. She was there for quite a while – until she was polio-free.
She met my amazing grandfather, Grandjack. (There will be a post on him coming up soon…) They fell in love, married, had four children, and a wonderful life until he passed away three years ago. We still miss him terribly. They almost made it to 60 years of marriage.
She was told she was going to die when she was 29. She had colon cancer and it was severe. The doctors told her to get her affairs in order and they took my mother, their oldest child, on a “last vacation.” As a mother, I cannot even fathom what this trip could have been like. How very sad it must have been and so heartbreaking to try to have fun on a trip in which you thought was going to be your last-ever vacation with your child. Yet she did it for the memory it would have provided my mother.
Speaking of trips, she always says that when someone dies they “took the big trip.” For some reason, this always makes me giggle.
She almost took the “big trip” back then when she was 29. Obviously, the doctors underestimated the tenacity of this woman and her desire to be here on earth with her family. She is still here. She experienced many more family vacations (of which the details would have to be a separate post because they are too funny – she once said that when they took a cross country trip, station wagon and all, the only thing she saw were the laundromats.) and added one more child. Her son. Her only son.
She delights in her grandchildren.
She sometimes stuffs money in her bra but she would deny this if you ever called her on it.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She had a double mastectomy. She fought it. She won again. She didn’t take the “big trip.” Thank God.
She needs to have Beyonce’s “I’m a Survivor” or Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” be her theme song because really…is she ever a survivor. She has currently outlived many of her loved ones and she was supposed to die at 29. Hope.
She makes me laugh like no one else can.
She has an uncanny ability to go right back to when her four children, spaced one right after the other just like my own, were young and can remember what she did and how she did it. She once told me she remembers running to her bedroom in excitement when it was naptime and her Good Housekeeping magazine had arrived that day. This is exactly how I feel when my People magazine arrives. So many mamas forget what it was like when their children were young. She so very much remembers.
She loves my children as much (maybe even more?) as she loves me and I remember feeling that love when I was a little girl in so many ways. I am delighted when I see my own daughter, who is old enough to form lasting memories of her great-grandmother, being loved by her because I know how wonderful it feels.
She has dispensed advice that has stuck with me since I started to grow into maturity. Particularly the one of “Natalie, not everyone is going to like you,” and “You’ll feel better if you put some lipstick on.” My personal favorite is when she holds up her hand and simply says “Boundaries!” when someone is asking too many questions usually my mother.. Her voice yells that word in my head as soon as someone has asked me something that is a little too personal for my taste. I love it.
Happy 84th Birthday to my treasured and loved Meemo. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t grown up without you in it.
Yes, we think she looks like Barbara Bush, too.
Please do me a HUGE favor and leave a “happy birthday” comment for my Meemo today. I promise I’m not fishing for comments. I just want to have a whole host of people wish her a very happy 84th. THANK YOU!!!!
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