Goodbye To My Grandmother, My Nonny, My Biggest Fan

It’s taken me some time to write this as I’ve tried to sort everything out in my head, but here it goes. On Wednesday evening, my grandmother passed away suddenly and without any real warning. I’ve put up a sort of mental block on the whole situation. It doesn’t quite feel real yet. I see her face next to her obituary, and it just doesn’t connect. I catch myself thinking about everything I’ll say to her the next time I see her, not quite letting myself believe that there won’t be a next time. I’ve felt moments of real grief, sadness, and pain the last few days. I’ve been trying to feel it when I’m in the position to, but after that, it gets buried back down. There’s sort of a bubble around the whole thing in my mind.

I thought I’d be more prepared for this when the time came. My grandmother was never really a healthy woman. Especially over the last decade or so, she was in and out of the hospital at a rate that almost made it routine. She struggled with diabetes, her weight, her mobility, her heart, and her blood pressure, among many other things. She lived alone up until a few years ago. When I was working less, I’d take her to weekly doctor’s appointments. I’ll admit it was sometimes inconvenient, and I didn’t always want to do it, but I’m glad I had that time with her. After the appointments, we’d go to the little coffee shop across the street from her apartment. She loved going there. I kept promising her I’d take her back there one day, but that day never came.

Living on her own became harder in the last few years. She’s forget to take her various medications, she’d eat poorly, and it was harder for her to move around by herself. After a few major falls, the decision was finally made to put her in a nursing home. That was tough for her. She was still only in her sixties. Many of the other patients were at least 15-20 years older. She had lost her independence, and what made it worse is that she never got as many visitors as she should have. She felt trapped and alone. She hated it, but there was no other option. We tried to make her as comfortable and as happy as we could, but it was just a difficult situation to be in.

I knew she wasn’t going to be around forever, and I knew the end would come sooner than later. I just thought, when the time was coming, we’d know. There were times when she was in the hospital that it seemed like things were going to be touch and go, but she always made it out. I always imagined that’s how it would happen. But things don’t always happen the way you imagine, or the way they’re supposed to.

The worst part was that she was better now than she had been in a long time. After years of being confined to a wheel chair, she was finally doing physical therapy. She was starting to walk again. She was losing weight. By all accounts, she was healthier. She had just celebrated her 71st birthday a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to take her out, but the snow had just been too bad. I wasn’t even able to get a gift for her. I was supposed to go up and visit her last weekend with a belated gift, but the snow had stopped me again. Despite my plans, there wasn’t another weekend. Wednesday had apparently been a pretty normal day for her. She was just getting ready for bed when she passed. One minute, everything was OK. The next, she was gone.

It’s hard. I’m not a religious person. I understand that religion really helps get people get through times like this, and I wish I could believe. Still, I know what I hope. I see people as consciousnesses living within a body. When we pass, I hope we are freed from our bodies, free to move to another plane of existence where we are just our consciousness. I hope we become like free-floating energy that is the purest essence of who we truly are. It’s not a lot, but it kind of helps. In this instance, I believe my grandmother’s body had almost become a prison for her, and I hope that she is finally free to do as she wishes. It still hurts knowing she’s gone, but that’s a nice thought.

My grandmother was religious in her own way. She prayed. She read the Bible. She kept her rosaries close. But she also was really interested in the spirit world. She’d tell you she spoke to ghosts. Sometimes they were family members who had passed. Sometimes they were people she’d never met. They all came to visit her, and she loved it. One of her dreams was to live in a haunted house. It makes you hope that ghosts do exist and that she is among them now. Maybe she’ll come visit.

She was a such a sweet woman who deserved more than life could give her. Her love was so strong, and she only wanted to be loved in return. Even when she couldn’t get around on her own, when she was confined to the nursing home, and when she didn’t have much to give, she always made sure people got gifts on holidays and their birthdays. She was so caring.

She was a single mother of six kids.  The first, my mother, came when she was just 19 years old. She made it work. She struggled with far too many hardships in her life, both external and internal, but she never stopped moving forward. She was the “Nonny” to 10 grandkids, and what a great Nonny she was. She was fun, she was funny, she was caring. A lot of the time, she was just a big kid herself. She taught us card games. She watched movies with us. She took me on my first Duck Boat and to the Aquarium for the first time.

I feel I can say with no hyperbole and no exaggeration that she was my biggest fan. She supported me 100% in my acting, my writing, my movies. She always wanted to know what project I was working on and when she could see it. She was so excited whenever she saw what I was working on. Even when she didn’t quite understand what I was doing, she was so proud. She’d tell everybody about me. I remember sitting with her in the hospital while she was recovering from something. When the nurse came in to check on her, she gestured to me, “This is my grandson. He makes movies. He’s going to be a big Hollywood star.” It meant so much to me, and I only wish she could have seen my really succeed in her lifetime.

You never feel like there was enough time. You always wish there was one more thing you could have said. I am lucky in a way. Even if I hadn’t spoken to her in the week and a half leading up, I know that the last things I said to her were “Goodbye” and “I love you.” I also said, “I’ll be back soon.” I wish I had been.

Goodbye, Nonny. I will always miss you. I will always love you. You were a loving, caring, thoughtful, funny, strong, and just plain adorable woman that made everyone’s life better just through knowing you. I am so happy and so lucky that you were in my life and that you were my grandmother. Thank you for everything.