A Writer's Journey

January 24, 2017

Another Farewell

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Almost two months ago, I wrote a post after the passing of my great aunt.

Now I write this post after the passing of my grandmother.

Yeah, 2017 is off to a great start, huh?

I hope you detected the sarcasm.

My grandmother passed late on Friday, January 6th. She had been battling several conditions—including breast cancer and COPD—for years. There were times in the past when we thought it was the end but she would bounce back. She was definitely a fighter.

She was born Grace Dorothy Nesspickle on August 21, 1924 in New Jersey. Her parents weren’t the greatest and so her great-aunt—her mother’s aunt—took my grandmother in and raised her. At least, that’s the story my parents told me. My Aunt Ellen told me Nana told her that her parents were professional swing dancers and they left her with Aunt Nelly so they could compete for money. Either way, she ended up with her great aunt. Aunt Nelly was off-the-boat Irish and so my grandmother had a lot of old world superstitions and traditions.

(Though she would insist she was not superstitious at all).

She lived in Queens after moving in with Aunt Nelly and stayed in Astoria most of her life. As an adult, my Nana legally changed her name to Dorothy Grace Ness. She got a job as a telephone operator for the Pennsylvania Railroad, where she met my grandfather, who she was introduced to as “Andy.” They began dating and she soon went to meet his family out in New Jersey. While there, everyone kept going on about someone named “Bobby.” Confused, my Nana asked my grandfather who “Bobby” was.

It was my grandfather. His name was Robert Andrew and he was going by “Andy” because there were several Roberts working at Pennsylvania Railroad. So my grandfather went by his middle name and never told my grandmother his real name, which probably would’ve been helpful before she met his family. As you can imagine, they were not pleased with her question. So my grandmother had a tenuous relationship with her in-laws and my mother is not close with that side of the family.

In fact, I didn’t even know about them until my mother got a wedding invite from one of her cousins on that side over six years ago.

Despite the bad first impression, my grandparents obviously go married and had three girls: Ellen, Elizabeth (my mom) and Dorothy. My grandmother got skin cancer while my mother was probably a teenager and was always sickly after that. In fact, they were always prepared to lose her first. Instead, my grandfather suffered a heart attack in 1978 and passed away. A couple years later, my mother married my father and it left my Aunt Dolly as my Nana’s primary caregiver.

Over the years, she had her ups and downs but never gave up. She would also do anything for her family. My father had to have emergency surgery and my grandmother packed a bag, called a car service and came all the way out to Staten Island in time to meet my sister at the bus stop. She took care of us while my mom stayed with my dad.

As she got older, it grew more difficult for her to get out since she lived on the fifth floor of a five story walk up. Then she got really sick and so we brought her out to our house to recover. It became clear to all of us that she couldn’t return to her apartment in Astoria. So my aunt started looking for places out here in Staten Island and found one a few blocks from us.

However, it soon grew more difficult her for to leave the house. Even a trip to the doctor’s left her drained for days. And she had a lot of doctors to visit, especially once she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She never got depressed and took everything in stride, though.

But the past few years were up and down for her. We had a few scares since 2013 and Nana was essentially trapped in her house, though she did leave for either doctor or hospital visits. She had to use oxygen constantly, needed blood transfusions often and was on a lot of medicine. In the end, she was also in a lot of pain. Thankfully, though, her passing seemed to be peaceful as she just slipped away while lying in a hospital bed.

That’s not how I’m going to remember her, of course. I’m going to remember her hugs, her laughter, and how feisty she was. I’m going to remember her every time I make tea and remind myself to put the teabag in first because it’s bad luck to put the water in first. There will be stories we will tell again and again, never letting her memory die.

Right now, we’re adjusting to life without her. We’re trying to keep my aunt busy and she’s been over our house several times for dinner. I got home from church yesterday and my dad commented that I got out earlier. I told him that it wasn’t really early—I usually just went to Nana’s afterwards to give her communion and spend time with her. There will be a hole in our lives for awhile, but we will adjust.

However, we will never forget.

Goodbye, Nana. I will always love you and you’ll always live in my heart.

We’ll see each other again.


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