Monday, May 28, 2012

chapter three: the gift of phyllis

The day that my grandma Phyllis left this earth was a Tuesday in March.  Even to me, a nine year old, it was obvious that the cancer was winning, and the end was near.  She was dying.

March 8, 1994.  Mike Maloney was at our house first thing in the morning, before school.  This was unusual, but there it was - his car parked just out front, outside the side door.  In the living room, he and my mom told us.  Grandma was gone.  And just like that, the idea of life and death and heaven and hell was introduced.

I don't remember knowing about death before then, but perhaps I did.  It's strange thinking back and trying to remember what I knew and what I learned and when it all entered my consciousness.

But here is something that I knew: Phyllis was truly special.  She was my paternal grandmother, Mike Maloney's mother, and the lines of her story were established before much of it was socially acceptable.  Born in 1917, she was a college graduate, a divorcee, and a strong businesswoman - all before the close of the 1950s.  She was well ahead of her time, and though my youth prevented me from recognizing it at the time, her strength is something I try to emulate today.

In fact, there is a lot I try to borrow from her because though she's been gone for almost twenty years, her influence has not waned.

We remember her on Christmas Eve, during a quiet toast with Matt, Joe and my mom.  We say "to those that have gone before us" and drink to the memory of Christmas Eve's gone by, and those that we once celebrated with.

I remembered her last week, in the aisle of Whole Foods next to the Macaroon display.

I remember her driving through Iowa City, when I pass City Park or drive near Normandy Drive on the Coralville Strip.

Our lives overlapped for less than ten years.  Though she died before my tenth birthday,  it is not a stretch to say that her influence shapes the world as I know it today.  And perhaps that is the point of it all -  to live a life that people will remember.

On this Memorial Day, I am remembering.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you remember her. She was a generous soul and loved you 3 so, so much. Your generous spirits are testament that she lives on. I have so many treasured lessons and memories...we were lucky to have been touched by her.

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