Back in these days, I went by the handle, “TT” or “Grammy’s Boy.” The amazing grandmother that gave me both names passed away last week. We say our final goodbyes today. But Gram will always be with me and all my family and friends that knew her.
She loved me from jump and spoiled me, if I am being honest, probably more than any of her others. Gram was born in the 20s that roared, or so they say about the 20s… but it probably didn’t seem like it in her small Georgia town because when she heard my Grampy’s sales pitch for an exotic place called NEW JERSEY, she fell for his olive oil voice and luxurious locks of thick hair and off she went… Like most great sales pitches there was probably more “sizzle” than steak. In her first year in NJ she asked my Grandfather Lew if he could start combing his hair like he did in Georgia last year– he said;
“I’ll try. Most of it’s in the sink.”
Like her birthplace she found herself in the midst of modest people that lived a farmers life. The only thing that changed was the volume. Her new Italian in laws were exponentially louder than her stoic soft spoken Georgia family. Conversations lasted days, it could take years for a person to make a point, in the rare times there was a point to what they were saying… it is my hunch that listening to this rumbling chit chat that never ended is possibly why Gram’s mind didn’t last quite as long as the rest of her. Over Stimulus! Again, this is a working theory. Still, young Wylene made her way in this cackling cast of characters.
Three children at least made the never ending conversation that came out of my grandfather focused on something they shared… Their kids and later their grand kids. My Gramps had a habit of taking benign things we did as kids, and unveiling in explicit details how they would horribly, horribly go off the rails. Little League would most certainly end in brain damage from an errant bat that would take out your skull. Attending the Eagles or Phillies would find you being pick-pocketed at tailgate before you even made it to the game that you would later be arrested at for someone else behaving poorly in the crowd. And of course going to college for Acting, Art, English or any other major not “MATH OR SCIENCE” or plumbing school, would without a doubt leave you penniless and in debt your whole life. In retrospect, he MAY have been correct on that last one… Regardless, gram always met his stern warnings with;
“Don’t pay him any mind!!” Which was where the “you do you” movement may have been born in our family.
And as we all went out into the world and “did us” as they say– my Gram was always the person that supported those efforts. She made us feel like we could be whatever we wanted to be and she was not afraid to invest in our dreams. Literally. Gram loved to spoil us with money and nice things. Her tooth fairy payouts were so legendary I would buy teeth from kids at school just for the upsell! When she went to the casino and “hit”– we ALL hit. Gram was a house wife and later a house gram to her grandkids, but she always made her own money too. Avon, Moffas, Delfinos– if she had a good day, we all had a good day. And when times were lean and she didn’t have her own cash, she’d write you a check from their joint account in some random number so Grampy wouldn’t notice! $37.78 here… $89.27 there, you get the idea… (I imagine they are discussing this in heaven now.)
Everywhere she went she was a spark without being the most dominant person in the room. These giant personalities we grew up with, both sides of my family… the drama, the laughs, the tears, Gram let them have the thunder and lightening while she was our sunshine. And that spilled to my friends as well. And all the people she met, worked with.
The last few years were really rough for all of us because 93 years is a long time to shine. You could catch glimpses of that Gram Magic but frailty, coupled with dementia she fought like the demon it truly is, took some of that sunshine away. Yet still, enough of Gram stayed right to the end that the staff and her friends at Virtua Rehab Center speak of her just the way we do… they called her their Georgia Peach.
My memories of my Gram are as endless as they are meaningful, even in those final years. No one relishes the thought of their vibrant Gram requiring Nursing Home level care, but even in that setting we had some times I will cherish. When I began hosting Weekend Philler I was so glad to share that with my Gram. No amount of Dementia could come between her knowing how much that meant to me. She gave me the biggest heartfelt, “YOU DO?! Weeeeeeeee!!!!”…. And when I told her the next time she gave me that same, heartfelt happy reaction… and then she did it again, and again… and again each visit it came up. (Hey, even Dementia has a silver lining i guess?!).
Oh, and “Weeee” is the excited phrase Gram would use. It was rare, but when you got it, you knew you did something special. It was her special catchpharse but in retrospect it was a metaphor…. WE. Gram was all about “we”… her family and friends.
Rest Easy Gram. I will miss you and I know I will see you again someday. Watch over our troubled world and guide our family with the kindness and grace that is, was and will forever be your legacy.
❤️ Grammy’s Boy