March 14th, 2014
It's my Grandma's birthday. Well, it would be, if she hadn't passed away 20 years ago. She was only 67 when she died.
These days in Hollywood, most guys that age think they are the perfect age to date me and my girlfriends. I'm being flip, but boy is this a weird world when you think about it. The year the gov invented the age of retirement was based on the average life span at that time. Now, people are living, working, WOWING well into elder years.... I'm thinking of Elaine Stritch at the moment, the Broadway performer I just saw in a great documentary.... she's still gorgeous, vivacious, hilarious, beautiful.... and sexy! In her late 80s....
Well, back to this blog about Mabel. See, I was prompted to sit down and blog a little about her, but I don't have a specific A, B, C plot point-with-twist ending story line in mind. Usually, when I'm about to blog about something or someone, I have in mind already the vision for its unfurling. We're winging it together here, now.
Some of my family say I am just like my Grandmother. That's a huge compliment. She was a woman of magic and fun. She was the original four leaf clover collector. She would stay up late playing Trivial Pursuit and poker and watching old movies only to go out fishing just before dawn. She always loved to be where the fun was at and I mostly remember her eating Cheetos and drinking Pepsi and coffee.
And she smoked. That's what killed her, in fact. She died of Emphysema at that terribly too young to die age of 67. More about that in a moment.
Because she didn't die before she instilled in me a very few important things. She instilled in me a sense of wonder, and a love of learning. Of course she was the gal behind my passion for the classic films. She was a member of the Greatest Generation and they were HER movies. They became mine, too. :) By the time I was 12, I preferred Clark Gable to any Tiger Beat idol. I was a weird kid, but my Grandmother encouraged me to reach out and share my idiosyncracies with others. Now, as a grown up, I'm still definitely "different" than most people I meet, but I love these differences as well as I love to look for the similarities.
I wonder what it's like to be an older person. My mother is in her young 60s, and she says it's great, because you care less and less what other people think of you. :)
My grandmother lived with us right before she passed away and I spent a lot of time with her. I feel it was a huge gift as a 'tween girl to see illness, dying and death up close and personal. First of all, since she died of emphysema due to 50 PLUS years of smoking, I have never smoked. The death that smoking leads to is not fun and not easy. It is painful and tragic, completely stealing your breath away. It's terrifying and sad.
I also got at a very early age that life can be short- too short. That you only get these few moments and then it's gone. We all "know" that in our minds, but do we LIVE that in our hearts? Is it important?
I don't know. It's a great experiment that I am trying.
My aunt recently said to my mother that "Erin is most like Mom [Grandma], don't you think?" My mom responded, with honesty, "She has twice the risk taking and half the common sense." I laugh, but it's true. But it's also the gift of my generation. I don't have to be married with five kids unless I choose that. That was her life and she loved it. I know she did because she told me story after story about her time during World War II, about working at an ice cream shop, about meeting my Grandfather and getting married and having kids, about making a dime stretch as long as a dollar. About sewing the first bikinis and the surprise about Rock Hudson being gay. And all of this she told me with great respect for her fellow humans.
I am like her, I think, because I have learned (slower than she did, and after a lot of trial and error) that THIS MOMENT IS PRECIOUS. And I live accordingly. And if I forget just a little, the universe seems to conspire to quickly bring me back into alignment to CHOOSE JOY and CHOOSE LOVE. See, I practice these things as a way of life, consciously. And I think she was just, in a way, ahead of her time, and in another way, completely of her time in regards to living each moment with as much love and fun and integrity as possible.
She died over the course of a few days. Really, she died very slowly, over the course of weeks, months, and even years. She tried to quit smoking, I remember, many times. It's a very hard one to quit and I wish you would all quit immediately if you do smoke. My boyfriend recently told me I was very strict and hard core with my attitude about cigarettes, but I will skip, for now, sharing the gory details about cleaning up bloody phlegm from my best friend and favorite person at age 11.
The night she died, a few of my aunts were visiting. Some things are sacred and that feels too sacred to share here and now, except this: I remember praying so hard to God, asking if my Grandmother could just get well, or at least live a little longer. But I knew how much pain she was in. I knew, in my tender child's heart, without understanding on an intellectual level, she was going and it was a saving grace. I only wished I could have told her better how much I loved her and, also, I remember thinking I would not be a brat anymore. (I did have a temper now and then.) It matured me. I wasn't afraid of the fact that people died any more, but I was afraid that I wouldn't truly live, and I felt bad for others who didn't get to fulfill their lives, either.
I think that night she died, without saying it or realizing it fully, I became a true lover of life.
Happy birthday, Grandma. I'd eat some Cheetos on your behalf and find an ice cold Pepsi in a glass bottle, but, I'm a health food freak. (That one I got from my Mother!) So instead, I dedicate the next 100 four leaf clovers and the three songs to you.
I Love You Always,