My grandmother wanted no obituary. No funeral. She never wanted to be the center of attention.
She spent her life never having her way. She did for everyone else, and never had any semblance of control or agency.
She wanted to be cremated, buried in her favorite purse, and have her family go to her favorite restaurant together. Order a plate of her favorite food and leave it at the table for her. And that’s what we gunna do.
So, in her death, she finally gets her way. This will not be an obituary. An obit involves names, and those left behind, and arrangements and shit. And plus…I know why she hated obits. Its always rubbing your accolades in someone’s face…at least it always felt that way for her. “So and so was well respected by the business community…member of the rotary club…etc.”
She hated that shit. So, this will not be an obit.
I would be remis if I didn’t share just a few stories. The things I will always remember. So, maybe I am hijacking elements of an obit, but…..I just feel like this has to come out of me or I will lose my mind.
For most of my childhood, my maw maw drove a 80s Monte Carlo. She had only one Maxwell Cassette. She played that cassette till the tape ran down to nothing. I still know all those songs by heart. I will intersperse these stories with some key tracks.
As discussed at length, high school was rough for me. I spent the good portion of it with what I know now to be depression. I would mope around and listen to nu-metal all day every day.
One day, I am coming home from school, and I assume something happened. Something always did. I had my head hung low and slumped into the house. Maw maw would always have some kind of dinner for us. Sometimes it would be showing up a few hours after we got home, but for things like a roast, she would be at the house cooking already.
She looks at me skulk in, and yells at full volume “STAND TALL BOY AND BE PROUD. You do so well in school, and you gunna go to a good college. Be proud. You’ve done a lot.”
I’ll never forget it.
My maw maw’s house was the neutral zone. When there was strife or conflict in the family, it would fade away at her house. Mostly cause she never stood for that shit. If you were going to have a fight, you better get the fuck out of her house and have it.
That makes it sound too aggressive. She just wanted her house to be a place where anyone could go.
What sticks in my mind was halloween. By the time we got too old to trick or treat, we felt like we had nothing to do on halloween. And typically, I didn’t get along with my brothers friends. But at maw maw’s house, that was always different.
I can’t remember how it started, but we started doing halloween night at my maw maw’s. Maybe its because she lived on the busiest street in the area, so it was the street you would go to for trick or treat anyway. Who knows. But, we had all kinds of great junk food. Chili cheese fritos. Homemade mac and cheese. Grilled hot dogs. And we played SNES or watched horror movies on cable all night.
We did that for years, cause that recreation room at my maw maw’s house was magic.
If I needed something, my maw maw was there. She never had money, but she had a workers ethic. If she couldn’t do it herself, she would have paw paw do it.
One time, maw maw and paw paw came to my house in college. Brought me some frozen gumbo and spaghetti sauce. Helped me fix up some things in that fucking shithole. Paw paw sees some wine bottles I had on top of the fridge. I had started to go to vineyards and what not. Getting into wine
“I didn’t know you liked wine…ok…”
The next time they visit the apartment, paw paw gives me a clear glass two liter filled with this BLACK liquid.
“This is that good black cherry bath tub wine that my friend makes…”
I smelled it, and it smelled like fucking death. Like you could get rust of a car bumper with it.
Cut to me moving out. We are packing up my stuff, and the only wine bottle left is the wine bottle my paw paw brought me. My maw maw is packing up things in my bedroom, and paw paw and I are in the kitchen. Paw paw turns to me and says, “Oh you dont want any of this good black cherry wine?”
Without missing a beat, maw maw, who SOMEHOW heard it, yells at the top of her lungs.
“HE DONT WANT THAT SHIT. THROW THAT SHIT IN THE TRASH”
I cried I was laughing so hard.
I did see her one last time this week. She looked bad. Leukemia. She must have been hiding it. Never wanted treatment. Was on oxygen. Bedridden. Her arms look like she got in a fucking fight. Bruises everywhere.
But that visit. Was like the calls we shared every Thursday evening. Talked about all kind of stuff. Life. The old days. Like nothing happened. She was in really good spirits. After I told her I loved her, my last words were “I’m gunna see you tomorrow”
My dad thought he messed up having me come down and that maw maw was going to be fine.
She was dead 5 hours later.
That’s how it happens I suppose.
The biggest blessing I can give is that at least she didn’t linger like that. When it was her time to go, she punched the clock.
I’ll miss her. She was the one who raised me up. I didn’t have a ton of people in my family who advocated for me. My maw maw always did. “Chase that dream” she would say constantly. She was the ONLY person in the family who thought academics mattered more than sports. She told me my graduation was the proudest moment of her life.
So here is my suggestion. Go get some good shit to eat and drink. Enjoy it. Celebrate. That’s what my maw maw would have wanted. So my suggestion to you congregation is to celebrate. She had a life well lived and has moved on to the next journey.