|Pre-college photo, possibly high school graduation ca. 1935|
|Engagement or wedding photo, ca. 1937|
|Admiring my dad, summer of 1943|
|Dinner in Kansas City, ca. 1984|
|During one of my visits, 2010|
|Meeting Severen for the first time, October 2012|
Last weekend we attended the memorial service for my "Grandma Duffy," my paternal grandmother. She passed away right before Christmas. She is the only grandparent of mine who lived into my adulthood and I am so thankful for that. She was, like so many women from her generation, a tough goddam cookie. She was born in 1915 and trained as a musician. She worked full-time as a cellist and raised a family of three with my grandfather. When he passed away she found new love and married again at the age of 73. Again a widow at 78, she met and married a third time. She outlived all her husbands. I find it so inspiring that she found new reasons to love and be joyful in the different seasons of her life. My family joked that she could never be alone long before getting snatched up by someone else. She was just too good of a woman. And it is really true. She was so lovely, so elegant, so frank, so quick to laugh.
The majority of the service was made up of short speeches from family and friends. All of her grandchildren (five of us) spoke as did my mom, uncle and a few other people. Here's what I said about her:
As a girl, I was really in awe of Grandma Duffy. She wasn’t like other grandmas. She traveled the world. She was a musician. She made chicken with wine and served leafy salads on fancy side plates. She wore pretty pajamas to bed and her closet smelled nice. She went skydiving. She had lots of interesting friends. She was elegant and worldly and I was totally enchanted with her.
Grandma was also spunky. I have Grandma’s copy of her Junior yearbook from Drury (college). It is easy to see from the messages from her classmates that she had a good sense of humor. One was addressed to, “My petite Miriam” (my grandma was tiny - just barely 5')and another teased, “You were such a pest this year in class!” She was quick to giggle and seemed to appreciate a certain amount of silliness.
When I think of Grandma and what she means to me, I think of three names, her husbands and loves: Grandpa Duffy, Harvey, Jack. We are all here because Grandma said “yes” to love, and to new adventures – not once, but three times in her life. I am so grateful that she chose to say “yes” each time and strengthen our family in love (and numbers) over the years. That took great bravery. I love our hodge-podge family and am so proud to be a part of it. To be a part of what she built.
In losing Grandma, we lost some of our family glue. That means that now, we all need to work a little harder to stay connected to one another. Maybe it means more phone calls or cards or a family gathering once a year. Whatever each of us can do, we must do it. That is the best way to honor Grandma.
In the last several years of her life, my grandma was cared for by the most wonderful women. There was someone with her - keeping watch while she slept, bathing her, laughing with her, eating with her, playing cards, reading the paper - 24 hours a day. The care she received was professional and compassionate. Almost all of her caregivers attended the service and at least one of them brought her family. They, too, had fallen in love with my grandma. She was so easy to love.
You can read her obituary here, if you are interested.