Thursday, January 12, 2017

Marie Singer Wechsler

Having written 2 blog posts about granny over the last couple of years and then recently, her obituary, I thought it was going to be difficult for me to write about her again for her funeral. What else would I say? But it wasn't difficult at all. I guess that's because a lot can happen over 93 long years, so there's volumes of material. I could write a book. But for now I'll just have to share a few remembrances and anecdotes. Please forgive me if these memories are a bit disjointed at this point. The book is only just starting to take shape. 

If there was ever a life and a death to be celebrated, it's this one. We should all be so lucky to live such long, full, happy lives, blessed with love, family and good fortune. Blessed with relatively good health and all of our faculties. Granny was pretty healthy and pretty dang sharp all the way to the end. 

I remember a family reunion in St Pete Beach a few years ago when Granny fainted by the pool. She was probably just dehydrated but they ran every test in the book on her at the hospital trying to find something wrong with her. The last doctor to release her was a cardiologist and he basically came in and told her that his diagnosis was that she was just plain old. With all due respect, ma'am. The same thing happened in San Antonio this summer. She was trying to get cleared for an eye surgery but her echocardiogram kept showing abnormalities. The echo tech told her that her 92 year old heart looked better than most 50-60 year old hearts she saw every day. "Beautiful arteries, Mrs Wechsler," she said. And then another cardiologist said he could keep testing to try to find something wrong but basically her heart was 92 and probably a little tired. Were I more eloquent I could come up with a way to express how appropriate it is that Granny ultimately passed away because her well used heart wore out from being in use so much and so often. 

Many of you know that she survived a fire a couple years ago. She told us afterwards about how she was crawling in the hallway of her apt bldg and the smoke was so thick that she didn't know which way was her apartment or which way was the elevator. So she just sat back and looked up to the heavens and said "Lord this must be it, go ahead and take me," but then a fireman appeared and picked her up and carried her to safety. Rescued by a fireman. How many people can say that? 

I'm grateful that she was so present up til the very end. About three weeks ago my dad and sister and I were over at her place playing rummy and poker with her and drinking wine -she always seemed to win the first game whenever we played - and her fair share of others- more games than I won for sure. 

One of my most treasured childhood memories was of a night I spent in a hotel room with Granny and Grandpa and Granny's sister, Aunt Lula. We were on a road trip- no idea where to or from, but the hotel room was absolutely infested with mosquitoes. For some reason it just cracked granny and aunt Lula up to watch grandpa and I running around the room trying to kill all those mosquitoes with rolled up newspapers. I'm really not sure why it was so funny. I think it was just the joyousness of a good life. Granny was fortunate and she knew it. To be on a trip, with family members she loved, with hardly a care in the world --so much so that she could just enjoy life, and sit back and watch her crazy husband and grand daughter clowning around swatting at mosquitoes, leaving a trail of squishy mosquito smears all over the walls of your hotel room.  Life is funny. Life is good. If all life throws at you are a few pesky mosquitoes then you are  a fortunate being indeed.  Granny could hardly tell the story afterwards , and she told it again and again, without dissolving into uncontrollable giggling. 

Her laugh -another sign of her joy in life- Her laugh was wonderful. I recently watched a tape of her and grandpas 50th wedding anniversary and there's this part where she and grandpa are cutting the cake, and someone off camera says something to her - apparently funny- you can't tell what- but granny turns and cackles at them. I played it over like 5 times to hear her laugh again. 

No one was more instrumental in my early developmental years than granny. My career as a youth development professional has taught me that there is no time more critical in a child's life than birth to three. Once I was old enough to understand that, I loved her all the more for being there. I hope she knew it. And while I don't remember any of that time, from birth to 3, I've heard the stories and seen the pictures and felt the love that followed me after that, from age 3 to age 50 and I know how it shaped me and made me into the person I am today. And I was only the first of 9 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and 4 great great grandchildren. I know that those who came after me felt as cherished by granny as I did. I know there are a lot of people in this room who have memories of Granny as vivid as mine are. 

Granny was not only a loving family matriarch but she was also a career woman - priding herself on her membership in ABWA -the American Business Women's Association and also on her membership in the order of the Eastern Star  - an entity which was founded on teachings from the Bible and committed to charitable work for Alzheimer's and juvenile diabetes research as well as funding scholarships for students of theology and music. To this day I'm still so proud of her for this civic mindedness. She was quite the role model of how someone fortunate chooses to give back. 

A tiny part of me kind of felt like she just might live forever. She's always been there and it was too hard to imagine her not being there. But 4 years ago when I visited her at Christmas time in Ohio, I could see that she was fading. When we moved her to Texas a year after that I watched her start to fade even more right before my eyes. And a few months ago she started dropping hints about being ready to go. Again, we should all be so lucky to go this way. 

I can tell you that she was hilarious to the end. I spent a good amount of time with her at hospitals and doctors offices. There was the time she tried to hook me up with her cardiologist -"isn't he good looking?" Granny asked. "Do you think he's single," she wondered? "He isn't wearing a ring." "I don't know, Granny. He's a doctor - it's common that they don't wear wedding rings."  I had to practically restrain her from grilling him on his marital status when he came back into the room. He was pretty cute though- she was totally right. But probably married. 

And then there was the time she complained about all the viagra commercials on the hospital tv. The nurses were dying over that one. 

My last moment with her will always be a sweet memory. She was asleep when I got to her room but woke up when I sat next to her on the bed. She told me that she was so sleepy and wasn't being rude, she just couldn't keep her eyes open. I played her video messages from the birthday party she was too sick to attend and opened her presents for her. Her nephew had brought her a tin of baked goodies and as soon as I popped open the lid her eyes popped open at the smell of sugar that came wafting out. She propped herself up on her elbow and started rooting around in the tin, settling on this ball of sugar - and she ate the whole thing. Just relishing the sweet taste of it. And then she laid back down and fell back asleep. I told her I'd see her later, but then 2 days later she was gone. 

I like to think of her with grandpa now. They were apart for 13 years, but now they are together. I will miss her dearly but always cherish her memory. Granny, Marie, Ree Ree- you rocked your life - and by association so many others lives too. Well done. Now Rest In Peace.