Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Gramma McDonald

Today would have been my Gramma McDonald's 88th birthday. This year she is celebrating her birthday with Our Lord, and my Grampa.
I was treated to a wonderful surprise this morning. There was another lovely May basket hanging on our front door this morning from our friends, the Beardsleys. They didn't know it, but this basket was really special given the day that it arrived on my front door. I know my Gramma was pleased with it as well.

Ruth Marion Brennan was born on May 9. 1919. She grew up in New Jersey, and went to Mount St. Vincent's College. After graduation, she went to work as a secretary at a patent law firm and would take the train in to New York with her father. When she was 22, my gramma met Eugene John McDonald. His uncle worked with my great grandfather. After their boss' daughter died, everyone was invited back to my gramma's house for a drink. Since Gene was the only young man, he and my gramma sat on the stoop and talked. He asked her for a date and the rest is history. It was a whirlwind romance. Gene would take the train out to New Jersey each weekend to court my grandmother, and then take the train back to Brooklyn at the end of the evening. They just sort of got engaged by default according to my grandmother! They ended up getting married on December 26, 1942. My grandfather was in the Army, stationed down in Alabama. Their honeymoon was an overnight train ride to their new home together.

My grandparents were married for 50 years, raised 4 boys, and lived in countless homes before the Lord called my grampa home in 1993. Grampa held on through his devastating bout with prostate cancer to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. He died a couple of months later.

I was the first grandchild, and I was her first girl. My grandmother went crazy when she heard she finally had her girl. The story goes that she decorated anything that didn't move, and some things that did, with pink! Little did she know that out of the 13 grandchildren she would have, 10 of them would be girls.

After I graduated from college on May 9th, 1993 (note the date...), I ended up going to work in Atlanta for 6 months. During that time I grew very close to my grandmother. I would go to her house for dinner - and man, could the woman cook! She always cooked for an army even though it was just the 2 of us!

For Thanksgiving that year, we flew to my parents' house in Florida together. I was going to be moving back to Florida for my job, so I was bringing my cat home with me to leave at my parents' house until I moved. I don't know if you are aware of the nightmarish traffic in Atlanta on a typical day, but let me tell you, it's not fun, and it's even worse on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Now, for someone who went to school in Richmond, and left for Thanksgiving on Tuesday of that week, I didn't really factor in enough time to get to the airport. We couldn't do curbside check-in because of my cat, so we had to wait in the super long line with the rest of the Atlanta population. When we finally got checked in, I asked the agent to call down to the gate and let them know we were coming. My poor 74 year old gramma and I were RUNNING through Hartsfield Airport - so I was doing the really fast running, but she was moving pretty quick for an old gal. I really thought she might have a heart attack. After all that, we still missed the plane. She always blamed it on my cat having to get checked in. She really didn't like cats.

Even after leaving Atlanta, I made a point to stay close to her. She always told me she wished I would move back to Atlanta. My gramma saw me through many frogs before I found my prince. And she always told me how much she loved Chris and how lucky I was, and how lucky HE was to have me. My mother made my ring pillow for my wedding from my gramma's wedding dress. Once I began having children, she was just overjoyed at being a great-gramma.

Now, let me digress in my story for just a moment. Gramma was "Gramma" from the time I was born. Being the first grandchild, I had the privilege of "naming" my grandparents. I think my gramma was glad I didn't call her Nambana like my dad named his grandmother! She was "Gramma" until halfway through her grandmothering journey. Then she changed her name to "Gram". Those of us on the front end of the grandchildren refused to change mid-stream on what we called her. So, depending on which of my cousins you talk to, you might hear Ruth referred to by different names. Back to the story previously in progress....

So once again, Gramma changed her name. This time she became Gigi - for Great Gramma. She loved my kids like nobody's business. We brought Brian down to visit her when he was 9 months old. She just couldn't get over how cute he was (of course!), and how lucky I was.

On our way home Brian got to meet Mohammed Ali - he singled Brian out on the people mover at Dulles, and came over and picked him up and kissed him. It was pretty cool.

Gigi came up here for Thanksgiving that year, and got to meet Sean at 6 weeks old.

I got to hear once again what cute kids I make - I never tired of hearing that!
I made sure to send Gigi pictures of "her" boys often, so she could see them as they were growing up. We made a point to go down to Atlanta last summer to visit her since a few weeks before her heart had stopped while she was out to dinner with all of her kids. I was pregnant at the time with Colin, but she got to see Brian and Sean again, and was just amazed at how smart and handsome they are. She told me I'm a wonderful mother, and am doing a great job with them. I will always hold those words close to my heart.

We were planning on making another trip down to see my gramma this June. However, she went home to Our Lord on March 24th. She went in the hospital just days after moving into her new apartment near my Uncle Tom. They found a slow growing colon cancer, and they opted to go in and remove the cancerous area. The surgery was a success, but she ended up developing hospital grade pneumonia, and ended up dying from respiratory and kidney failure. She died peacefully after seeing all of her boys. My cousin David drove like crazy down to Atlanta to say good-bye, and he let me talk to her on the phone one last time. I told her that it was okay to go. I would miss her, but she needed to go home. I'm so grateful that I was able to say my good-byes to her, and I know she heard me. She died a few hours later.

At the funeral, many of my gramma's friends came up to me and told me how much my gramma loved me and talked about me and my boys all the time. She was so looking forward to meeting Colin this summer. My dad had brought down a picture of Colin for my gramma to see while she was in the hospital. I know she is watching over my boys and I, but I really do feel sad that I don't have the memories of her holding my baby.

I still have a hard time realizing that she is not here anymore in the physical sense of the word. I know she will always be with me in my heart, and I miss her very much. Happy birthday Gramma. You will always be loved.

1 comment:

KC said...

What a lovely tribute. This left me teary eyed.