Today is the second anniversary of my mom’s death. Anna was only three-and-a-half when her Grandma Dolly died, and she never knew her grandma when she was still fully herself. All she knows are the pictures of them together—my mom reading her the same book over and over. It was an ideal relationship: Anna loved hearing the book read over and over, and my mom never remembered reading it before. But I wish Anna had known my mom the way I did—all the wonderful and infuriating things that I found myself missing even before she was gone.
Her laugh. No matter how old she was, my mom always giggled like a little kid. I always loved making her laugh, and one of my fondest memories was hearing her laugh one last time a couple of days before she died. She’d been in the nursing home about a week, and it was the last time I saw her conscious. She was pretty much out of it, but at one point Anna did a little dance. She smiled and laughed. Anna could always get a smile and a laugh out of my mom.
Her singing. Before her throat surgery, my mom had a beautiful singing voice. But she also smoked, and at the age of fifty she developed nodes on her vocal chords. The surgery scared her into quitting, but it also ruined her voice. She didn’t care. She liked singing too much to stop just because she couldn’t carry a tune. It drove me nuts then—now I miss her off-key caterwauling.
Her dancing. My mom and dad were both very good dancers. It was a skill essential to their generation, and while I always enjoyed the rare instances they’d dance together, my mom’s dancing around the house drove me nuts. Looking back, I think she danced ridiculously to get a reaction from me. I played my Iron Maiden records, figuring she’d hate them. She didn’t care. She’d dance to anything, and laugh when I got mad.
Her sense of humor. My mom was hilarious. She’d do the silliest things just to get a laugh. She’d drop into a cockney accent on a moment’s notice, and then shift to her “toffee-nosed twit” voice in mid-sentence. She’d sing ridiculous songs her brother taught her, or insert a hilarious saying into the conversation at just the right time (her favorite: “Every little helps . . . as the vicar said when he peed in the ocean”). It was typical English working class humor—always seeing the ridiculous for what it was, never missing an opportunity to “take the mickey” of your supposed social betters, and never forgetting that no matter how foolish someone looked to you, in their eyes you looked every bit as foolish.
Her generosity. All my friends loved my mom. Whenever they came to visit, there she was with potato chips, cookies, and all kinds of snacks. Nothing is more popular with teenage boys than free food, and my mom always had it to spare.
Her faith. My mom described herself as “Church of England,” but that was more a statement of her Englishness than her Anglicanism. Had the Church of England been Catholic, Orthodox, or a bunch of happy-clappy Pentecostals she’d still be “Church of England.” She rarely went to church (not that I did much either before I moved to Oregon) but (unlike me) she prayed daily. Hers was a simple faith, but it was a genuine one and I know in my heart that—despite all her faults—she is with the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints in the presence of Christ. She is whole again and knows the total and complete joy that we can only glimpse in this life.
Those are just a few of the many things I want Anna to know about my mom. But most important of all I want her to know how much Grandma Dolly loved her.