“Who is she trying to fool?” Cousin M whispered as my Grandma emerged from her room dolled up in a pink sweater, pink bow, and an innocent grin. That smile stayed throughout the interview, but as soon as the potential home care workers left the smile dropped. She refused their care because “they were too fat.”
Oh Grandma. Tsk tsk. Grandma grandma grandma.
Hours after welcoming the new year, my entire clan was thrown depressing news. My Grandma— my strong, feisty, stubborn Grandma— had passed away.
We loved listening to our Grandma Josie talk. She talked slowly but very dignified and with force. You knew instantly she had a proud upbringing. Standing at a mere 4.5 feet it was always funny watching this tiny Philippine lady scolding my buff, military cousin. She prayed the rosary every morning and sang in her church choir. She was a very religious, upright woman.
She loved her husband and visited his grave every Sunday. She kept mentioning she was ready to see him again—even after 25 years. This dear old love brings me tears as I hear her beautiful voice—reminiscent of the music you hear in WWII films—so young and haunting and somehow miraculously recorded during her wedding as she sang to my Grandpa.
She was very stubborn especially about her independence. She traveled to foreign locations even after 75 years old. We hated Hated HATED her living by herself but she didn’t want to leave that house decorated with marvelous furniture hand-crafted by her father. She refused to have a home health worker check up on her. She happily took herself to the nearby Starbucks (where all the employees knew her) or to the buffet when she was alone for the holidays.
We considered it minor victories when we moved her bedroom to the bottom floor or interviewed home nurses while she was distracted. (Okay, her reasoning for no ‘fat’ care workers was their ease of running if she needed help or lifting).
Grandma Josie was still very healthy and stubborn three months ago when a handful of her kids (including my dad) visited her. She knew her body’s limits and turned down the grueling drive to their family reunion and opting for a wheelchair visit to Legoland instead. For Christmas my visiting relatives took her to dinner. And although she was found alone in the New Year, I keep encouraging prayers that she never felt alone in those final moments.
Even though she lived far away, she still made such an impact on everyone. We admired her discipline, her strength, her love, faith and life. We miss you and remember you.