Monday, June 18, 2012

Personal: Brief Hiatus Part II

When people talk about "the best" person they've ever known, it's often hyperbole. I mean, how do you quantify "goodness," right?

But this weekend, I lost the best person I have ever known. My grandmother, Evangeline, died, and I am plowed under. She'd been sick for a while. And she was... heck, she was 89, so this isn't a big shock. But for most of my adult life, I have always been able to drive myself to tears and fits of morbid sorrow merely by thinking, "My goodness, what in the world is it going to feel like when I find out that Vange has died?"

And now it's a reality.

And yes, I called her "Vange." My father, her son, passed away from cancer when I was three, and for a solid decade after that, my mom and I lived a town away from Vange and my grandfather (Chip-- also my preferred nickname). And we probably spent four nights a week at their house-- my mom and I-- for dinner. And during the summers it was more than that-- they had a pool and a dock on a pond where I would stand for hours and fish (always catch and release-- always sunfish and a tiny bass now and then).

I was-- I am-- the oldest of her thirteen grandchildren (sometimes I round up to 15... I don't know why). She and Chip had five sons, and when I was born (she always told me), my dad called from the hospital and said, "We had a GIRL." And Vange said the appropriate congratulatory things, and my Dad interrupted and said, "Did you hear me, Ma? I said we had a GIRL!" And she said, from that point on, I was the girl she hadn't had.

I always felt so special to Vange. Because I was the oldest, I was brought up in a family of adults.  Hence the fact that I called my grandparents "Vange" and "Chip"-- what my mother called them.  The rest of my cousins called them the Portuguese "Vovo" and "Vovo"-- yeah, they look the same, but grandmother is "vohvoh" and grandfather is "voovoo."

But I have no doubt that Vange made ALL of her grandchildren feel like they were the most special to her. She was just that kind of person. Several times, when I was a little kid, the UPS man or the flower delivery person tried to deliver something while we were sitting down to dinner, and she invited them to join us-- and they did! She was the kind of person who, if your friend's sister who'd she'd never met just had a baby... she'd come over your friend's sister's house, bring some chocolate-chip cookies, and offer to sit awhile with your friend's sister's baby while your friend's sister took a nap.

It's hard to quantify goodness. But I can without any hesitation or hyperbole say that this woman was the very best woman that I have ever known. Or probably will know.

And there is some solace knowing that she died a woman who was SO loved by SO many.  Her goodness did not go unappreciated.

One of my favorite Vange stories...

It was shortly after Chip died-- suddenly, around 15 years ago... he was a plumber, and bless his heart, he had a heart attack while fixing an old lady's toilet-- that my cousin Beth (grandchild #2) and I stayed the night with Vange.  Somehow we ended up watching the movie JERRY MCGUIRE with her. If you know the movie, you know it opens with Tom Cruise having particularly vigorous sex... headboard blamming, big ol' holy-crap sex.  And Vange was on the couch between me and Beth.  And as the scene ended, she hugged us both close-- wait, I should say that both Beth and I had lived with boyfriends at this point... Vange couldn't be under the illusion that we were pure as the driven snow-- she hugged us close and said, "I just want you girls to know that sex doesn't have to be like that.  It can be a beautiful and gentle thing."

Friends, I'll be okay. But I can honestly say that a world without Vange is a world that has been diminished so much. I'll probably be absent from this blog this week.

Unconditional love.  I am so grateful that I had thirty-mumble-mumble years of unconditional love from this woman.  I hope all y'all have someone who gives you that.  Love them hard.


jugband girl said...

So so sorry for your loss! Evangeline is such a beautiful name and she sounds like a beautiful person. She lives on though - through you. When you talk about someone who has had SUCH an influence on the person you are today, I have no doubt that take that person forward with you.

Jesse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse and Liz said...

"Love them hard." I like that. Sending you good thoughts. I was close with my great-grandmother like this

M said...

Thank you so much, folks. She was... awesome. An army nurse, a mother of five sons, the champion of all of her family. I loved her just about as much as I possibly could love anyone. I appreciate your kind words.