There is much more to a person than their outer shell. Soul mates come in many forms. Sometimes in that of a lover, other times in the heart of a kindred spirit. She held me not long after I was born and told my mother exactly what my personality would be. From the moment her hands lifted me up and she held me in her arms we were and will always be intertwined.
She grew up in New York. Living in the city before heading out to live by the bay. She was an amazing swimmer. She had a little boat that she used to take out in the harbour and would go fishing. Along with her catch, she would “borrow” a few vegetables from a neighbours garden and make a little fish stew for herself on the banks.
She once safely stowed her books away, with the gentleman who ran the candy store, so she could skip school and go see Frank Sinatra croon. She had quite the voice herself and used to sing at her Uncle’s cabaret with his band as a young teen. She was a baseball player. Like Geena Davis in A League of Their Own, she was a pitcher. That’s how my grandpa first met her. He was smitten! Her? Not so much. But he wore away at her and she would later elope with him.
I’ve seen the New York census from the year they were married, it has them listed each living with their families at different residences. What the census didn’t know is that they had already secretly married in Virginia and it was only much later when she became pregnant that they told their families. That was the first of eight babies they would have together. They absolutely adored children and that was something that never left her.
My grandfather fought in WWII and she stayed to fight on the home front. She was an empowered woman before it even became a thing to be one. She was a Rosie the Riveter. I have a copy of an old photograph of her that was taken for a promotional shoot, she looks like a doll with her little cap on. She was an incredible artist, her drawings and pottery beautifully sculpted. She was also an amazing seamstress.
She taught me how to go crabbin’ at the beach. I caught a baby alligator my first time out the gate, but by the time we were ready to leave we had a basketful of crabs for dinner.
She kept her aluminium pie tins for me and I spent hours in her backyard making mud pies, that I decorated with acorns and berries from her yard. Once I was totally filthy, she would call me inside and bath me in her avocado green kitchen sink.
That was the same sink where we washed baby doll clothes and she made a drying line with some twine hung between two of her dining room chairs standing back to back, for me to pin them on.
At one point she had a little orange pinto and we used to shoot through the streets with our sunglasses on, laughing and listening to music. She was a smoker for a short while of my childhood, and I would “smoke” with her at the kitchen table. She would pretend to light up one of my crayons. I held it between my fingers like she did, taking a “puff” as she did, while I coloured with the other hand. It was like hanging out with Betty Draper.
She had a wicked sense of humour, a wonderful laugh, an even better smile. Her hands were like butter. She was a woman of unwavering faith. Her eyes saw beauty in everything. She didn’t miss a trick. She and my grandfather continued their passionate love affair up until his death.
Like my other grandmother, she was a woman of rare breed. A lady through and through. She had a special “good luck” clap that she did when watching baseball, but it was also used when she watched, Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. She had a lot of -isms that we still say to each other all the time. And when you spoke with her on the phone, her way of saying goodbye was normally, “Ooookay, so long, doll!”. All said in a sing-song manner with a slight New York accent.
For 93 years she walked this earth. For a small part of that she was mine. We lost her this week and my heart has broken into a thousand pieces. I’ll eventually pick them up and put them back together, but there will forever be a missing piece.