Wednesday, February 18, 2009


My grandmother died this past weekend. That's one near and dear friend or family member passing away each month this year. My family was driving into the mountains for a three-day Presidents Day weekend when I heard. She was 96 and had been ailing for the last several years, so unlike my friend last month, her passing wasn't unexpected, though it remains a sorrowful occasion.

I remember my grandmother first as the formidable woman who owned a sandy summer cottage at Breezy Point in Queens, and by "sandy" I mean the sand was everywhere inside, most especially the bedsheets, though the fact that I was an active boy who played all day every day on the beach may have had something to do with that. Her husband, my grandfather, died when I was five years old, and while I remember him, I don't remember much. My grandmother, on the other hand, I grew up with. She took me on a road trip from New York to Boston one year, just the two of us, when I was 9 or 10 years old. She handed me a map and asked me to navigate, which I'd never really done before, but I was a quick learner. She might've been taking me to visit my cousins in New Hampshire, to be picked up by the rest of my family a couple weeks later. We took the side roads, not Interstate 95. That trip may have been one of the more formative experiences of my life, with me being given active responsibility for the first time, with potentially unpleasant consequences if I didn't execute well.

When we arrived in Boston, she took me to visit the U.S.S. Constitution, which I've only returned to once since then. It must've made an impression, since I've been actively interested in the Age of Sail since, but I don't recall much about the visit itself except the toy cannon she bought me from the gift shop, and how many different sizes of cannons there were to choose from.

There'll be a memorial service in Brooklyn for her in a week or three, where they'll lay her ashes to rest beside her husband, from whom she's been apart for so long.

God Bless you, Gram.