Family Business, Body Image, Freedom

February 22, 2013

Who knew Monday’s outing with mum and the finale of Downton Abbey would be little blips compared to what Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday had planned for me?

On Monday night (home from a perfect Delawarean teatime) I buckled down to study CT scans, barium swallows, sonography, and even what an X ray of an egg looks like.

On Tuesday my mind was a swirl of shades of gray. I felt uneasy all morning. Doom was on the horizon. I knew it. The quiz was at 4 pm. By noon I was a nervous wreck. All I could think about was a nightmare I’d had – which isn’t worth getting into, but it was awful. At 2 pm I got a call from Mom during a lecture. Grandmom had passed away. Suddenly I felt better – as if an enormous tension was released. (weird response, I know). I left lecture, told my professor what had happened, and was allowed postpone the quiz to Wednesday morning.

My grandmother and I were close. I think she was psychic, at least concerning my love life. (When YC came to visit I made sure he met her. Poor YC didn’t realize I was actually introducing him to my fortune teller…) Anyway, everyone grieves differently. I found comfort on the internet. Here’s the facebook post I wrote Tuesday night:

My grandmom (Lillian) passed away today. She was 97, and died in her sleep in her own home. I usually think of her as an old woman – more adult than I could ever be. Lately, though, I’ve imagined the Lillians I never met: a little sister, a teenager living in the depression, a girl scout at camp, a newlywed wife, a kindergarten teacher, a mom raising 4 children in West Philly during the 60’s, a mother-in-law to my father before he was a father, a widow after decades of marriage… and all the other Lillians who are packaged and preserved in family stories and photos. I like to think that, if she were my age, we would have been close friends. Then I remember that we WERE close friends. Anyway, Lillian, I’m really going to miss you.

Wednesday morning I answered 25 questions about how to look at the body. Then I took a subway to a bus to a train to a car to my home in Delaware. Alan (my brother) flew in from Saint Louis that afternoon. Dad got home in the evening. We ordered pizza, and ate dinner together as a family, which hadn’t happened since 2011.

Thursday morning we piled into the Plotzker car to drive to Philadelphia for the funeral. We arrived at the funeral home by 10. My aunts and uncles were there. A few cousins came, and family friends. The service started at 11; it was 20 minutes of sweet nostalgia – resurrecting my grandparents’ marriage, comparing Grandmom to the sabbath bride, praising the success of her children who are her ultimate legacy. After the service, a caravan of us drove to the cemetery. I put a shovel of dirt on her casket alongside my mother’s pile of dirt. She’s buried next to my granddad, Morton. It was bittersweet to see them together again.

We went back to her house. I helped set up the food. People trickled in and out to offer condolences. It almost felt like Thanksgiving. Eventually I reverted to my childhood tendency of snooping around the second floor while the adults ate and talked in the living room. I found a shoebox of photos on Grandmom’s desk. The pictures were disordered. They spanned 1905 to 2000.  Here’s one of her when she was 25 – about a year before she got married.

photo (7)

(Apparently, it was my grandfather’s favorite photo of her. She was cute, huh?)

The sun started to set. I had to go back to New York. Dad drove me to 30th street station, and I boarded the bus at 6. Last night I tried to watch a tutorial on the liver when I got home, but inevitably ended up watching an old episode of Downton Abbey – the one where a Turkish diplomat seduces lady Mary and then dies in her bed.

As for Freedom, which I haven’t mentioned yet…. My roommates and I invented a holiday called Freedom Day. It’s today. On Freedom Day you can free yourself from whatever you want. We’d scheduled a party to celebrate. Initially it seemed wrong to have a party so close to my grandmother’s death. But, I decided seeing friends would be good for me, and also an opportunity for me to celebrate her life by telling my friends her stories. Once someone told me that telling stories about the deceased sets them free. I like to think that’s true.


4 Responses to “Family Business, Body Image, Freedom”

  1. melmelb Says:

    Oh Roz. Sorry for your loss, but what a nice tribute to her. I see a little bit of you in that picture.

  2. Miriam Says:

    That was heartbreakingly beautiful, Roz. Maybe I will more at peace thinking of your comments

  3. Yevcha Says:

    Lovely words HP. Reminds me of a Marcy Playground song: “Maybe we can even write her epitaph in the stars.” Or, at least on the internet.

  4. Sarah Brennan Says:

    Hi Roz,
    As is usual with me anymore, I just read this. I’m late with everything in my life. Anyway, I love your tribute to Mama. I really miss her. I can’t believe I can’t just pick up the phone and talk to her. That photo of Mama is one of my favorites. Thanks for including it on your blog.
    Aunt Sarah

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