In the '40s, my father quit high school and joined the USMC. The day he left, my grandmother left my grandfather and married the man who she'd been "friends" with for years, Wyatt. She had finally found true love with this guy. He treated her with caring and respect, and built a house for her in Fair Lawn, NJ, and stayed with her til he died in the mid-60s.
Uncle Dutch married a pretty blonde in the 50s and they had a daughter together. The wife, who was an epileptic, had a seizure and was hit by a car and killed. The daughter, who looks just like my sister Quilty, was adopted by Grandma's next door neighbor. She'd watch her granddaughter play and the granddaughter would call her "Mrs. Wyatt."
In the 80s, Grandma moved out of the house in Fair Lawn and into our house. My mother couldn't stand her. Grandma was completely devoted to my father, and he to her, and I think my mother was jealous of this closeness. Til this day, I can picture my mom rolling her big Bette Davis eyes everytime Grandma said something thoughtless or critical or meddlesome. She was bitter about my grandmother her whole life, until her own final weekend, when she mentioned to my dad that she had finally forgiven her.
Grandma's condition declined during the 90s, and about 5 years ago, she slipped into full-blown Alzheimer's. My dad brought her to a nursing home, where she lived out her final days.
So that's Grandma. She loved her rose garden, she added an extra syllable to words for no apparent reason (pump-a-kin, af-a-ghan), she sewed us wonderful clothes (and always left the pins in--ouch!). She was forever making needlepoint pillows and wallhangings and decoupage.
Cookie and I used to spend weeks at a time at her house in the summertime, lolling in her beautiful garden, making shopping trips to Paterson, eating Swanson's TV dinners on little tray tables.
She could be maddeningly ignorant and prejudiced, she could be quite cuttingly mean to my schizophrenic sister Sally. She once told my father that his major mistake in life was not raising daughters who knew how to clean or take care of a house(!) She preferred Bottle Rocket to anybody, but was warm and affectionate to the rest of us. She was sparkling and cute and gracious til the very end.
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