For a Wonderful Woman
The woman I'm going to write about is a lady that was more like a mother at times then my own mother. A woman who I miss even though in her last days she was only half of who she use to be. That woman would be my Maternal Grandmother Joyce.
She came into this world on June 9,1929. Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried. So she became one of many children in her home. Meeting her family through out my life was always an adventure as she had numerous either step or half siblings and funny looking back I can understand her relationships with each of them a little more.
She married my Grandfather after only a few dates and she was only fifteen at the time and he was thirteen years her senior. Back then though this really wasn't uncommon. My Grandfather was the only man she would ever marry and he passed in May of 1979.
What I have written so far is about a woman most of you may not have known but she was a woman that did more for me then my own mother. She was there for me when I came home from school crying. She was there to teach me how to make Ribs or Red Beans and Rice or anything else for that mattered. She was there to give me things and let me experience life.
After my parents split we moved in with my grandparents. After my grandfather past when I was home I use to watch her put her rinse in her hair. I asked her why she dyed her hair and she informed me that it wasn't a dye it was a rinse. I laughed at her and said it had to be a dye as it stained things. She swore it washed out. Then she would go to her stylist and get the latest bouffant hair do. Hmmm and I wonder why I started dying my hair at an early age.
Well, actually she was the instigator for that too. It was the summer before my senior year and I hadn't taken my senior pics yet. I was on vacation in New Orleans and pleaded with Gram Joyce to let me try Sun In. It was going to make my hair blond wasn't it. Wow, were we wrong I ended up with the reddish brassy blond. My mother was so ticked. But hey the only problem was that senior pictures were two weeks away. So yes the Sun In will forever be remember as my senior pics show the proof.
When I lived with her in High School I was going to a now defunct Catholic high school. I would get dressed in the morning and not really care. Heck I was wearing a uniform and who was I going to impress? Another girl. She would come up behind me if my shirt wasn't tucked in and lift my skirt up and pull it down. I use to get so upset with her and sometimes I would pull it right back up. I was in high school what more could be expected.
She was proud when I had my two step daughters. She loved them as if they were my own. After I got my cat Beefers she would always call him the Baby. "So how's the baby doing?"
After my mother passed we became more dependant on each other. Sometimes she was a little too dependant and at twenty seven I couldn't understand. I had moved back to New Orleans and was staying with her and my Dad. We would go to the movies and she was willing to see 'Speed' or the 'The Crow' and enjoyed both. I would bring movies home from the video store and she'd watch anything I would bring home just as long as we were together. Staying with Gram was nice at first but once I started dating and having friends she just wasn't happy about this. She wanted me to herself and was very angry when I moved back to Illinois. She got past that though and we remained close.
I would see her every trip I took and would call her every Sunday and sometimes talk to her several times during the week. She hated when I called her Gramcracker but I did it any way. Through the years we became friends and at time it was if she were my mother instead of my grandmother. She felt the same. She never did get over loosing my Mom though and always felt that my mother didn't kill herself.
When John and I started looking for a house we planned on her moving in with us. He had never met her but he knew how important she was to me. We wanted her to move but she was happy down there she said. Right before we moved into our house I flew down to New Orleans for a trip I didn't want to take. It was a trip that I was told that I had to get there quick or she might not make it. I had tried all weekend to get in touch with my Gram and got no answer and I didn't have her friend's number. So for three days she laid on the floor to her apartment and yes this was a building where they were supposed to do daily checks on the people. Anyway her friend found her on the floor. She had been there for three days. She had broken her femur and had lots of fluid in her lungs they told me she had COPD. They wanted to fix her leg and they told me though they didn't think that she was going to make it pass the surgery.I know why do the surgery if she won't survive well just in case she did they wanted to make sure she healed correctly.(When she moved up here I took her to a pulmonologist and she showed no signs of COPD. This is something that just doesn't heal up.)
So I signed off on the surgery. Waiting in her room in CCU before the operation she was talking to her mother who as you know passed a long time ago. I thought for sure this was not a good sign. Two hours after she went in the doctor came out and told me she was fine but the next 48 hours would tell if she would be OK. They told me if she was OK she would have 6 months to live. There story would change numerous times and they even had her in hospice for a while before they deemed her to be better.
This was all before Katrina. So she was in a nursing home and all she wanted to do was go back to her apartment and I could understand that. It was a place she knew. A place where she had friends. I'm at work and a get a call from a shrink wanting to know if I think my Gram is depressed. I tell her yes cause she wants to go home. She ask about my mother and that evening when I am on the phone with Gram. This man shows up and takes her and wraps a sheet around her and is going to take her away. I get him on the phone with me and tell him I didn't authorize this. HE stops but the following Monday they do it anyway. I have no power I'm told. But an attorney friend of mine goes and checks on her and makes sure she is OK.
Right before Katrina hits she is put into a rehab hospital. Mind you this is four months since her fall and no one has taught her how to walk again. When Katrina hit she was in a hospital with no electricity or food for 4 days. They gave the patients oranges and bottle water. She was evacuated to Lake Charles and thanks to my Dad got out just days before Rita struck. She never believed that New Orleans was devastated no matter how many news reports we showed her.
She came to live with me and so did my other Grandmother. So here we were in our new home not even settled and not married yet and John has taken in these two strangers. He told me he lost his Grandmother a long time ago and it was nice having Gram Joyce around. He use to fix her sandwiches and one night when I had to work a holiday party they waited up until 2am when I got in. John recalled how he sat there watching the NIN video for Closer.
After she got up here we learned that she had macular degeneration so she really couldn't see that great. She also had a touch of dementia. After taking her to Chilli's for the third time she tells me she knows why I like coming here.
"Oh really. Why Gram?"
"Cause that Pepper looks like a Penis."
I couldn't help but laugh and John told me she must not have seen on in a long time.
Even though her vision wasn't great we made sure we put on wrestling for her.She would holler at the screen and yell at them to get the bad guy. I knew she use to love playing Frogger on the Atari so I decided I would get a wrestling game for the Xbox. I put it in and started playing and when John walked in the room. She tells John to sit down as she has seen this match before and it is a good one.
Between her telling me the Strawberry jam was bad. It was actually hot sauce that she added to her cottage cheese at the urging of my other Gram. Or the fact that she thought the toothpaste I bought was bad as it burned her mouth. She had taken Ben Gay into the bathroom with her. I learned very quickly that I had to take the adult role now. I had to bathe her, help her with her diaper, help her get around and help to make sure she ate. Watching a once vibrant woman be so dependant was a hard thing. After she fell a couple of times at the house and I was working I realized that I couldn't take care of her at home. I didn't want to do it but it was dangerous for her to be alone in the house during the day.
SO I found a nursing home that smelled like fresh coffee and cookies. A place that did go on to teach her how to walk. A place where they made a big deal because she survived Katrina. The things she enjoyed there for one the popcorn cart and the ice cream pallor was open twice a day for her to get a treat. She made friends and enjoyed when we took her out of the weekends.By the time Joyce's 76th birthday rolled around I took her to Chilli's and she was walking with the assistance of a walker but she was so proud she was dancing around and just enjoying herself. After Chilli's I took her to Starbuck's for a Strawberry Frappicino.
I know Katrina brought a lot of destruction but I got a gift out of it. I got to be with my Gramcracker again. She got to be with us for the holidays, she was at my Wedding and I was ultimately there by her bedside holding her hand when she passed.As I let go of her hand she let go. We donated some tissue to burn victims but she wanted to be cremated.
She finally did get back to New Orleans. It had been raining all day and we place some of her ashes with my Grandfather and then we drove to the river and released them where I had released my mothers years before. As we walked up the levee as we reached the top we both looked back and John told me to take a photo so I would remember. As we drove back to my Father's the rain stopped and the clouds parted. Looking up I saw the sun and knew that Joyce was happy with what I had done. The sun only lasted a few moments before the rain started again.
If you have read all this I thank you. This was written with tears and memories and much love for a lady that I miss. She was a woman that was quite a remarkable Lady and I'm glad and proud that she was my Gramcracker. Happy Birthday Gramcraker!