I think she must have worn lipstick every day of her adult life. Bright, shiny red.
Never, not even once, could I convince her to wear eye make-up, because only whores wear eye shadow.
I didn’t listen. After all, she also said things like this:
“Find a man you can manipulate,” she said, laughing. “And it’s not a bad thing if his mother is dead!” Oh, she was only joking. Right?
I didn’t listen.
And then there were her health tips:
“Everyone needs to spend an hour outdoors everyday.” She lived by this rule. I would look out the window in February and see her all bundled up (in her mid 80’s), sitting on my back deck, with her head leaning back so the sun, however weak, could shine on her.
I didn’t listen. Now I have a Vitamin D deficiency.
The last time I saw her, she said this to me:
“You know Jane,” (her name for me) “you’re just as pretty as that Vanna White. Maybe when she retires you can take her job.”
She meant it as a compliment. She didn’t think that my talents would be best utilized flipping letters on Wheel of Fortune. To her, Vanna was still a young, beautiful star of a hit TV show.
Way back on her 80th Birthday, I gave her a little book called Grandma, Tell Me Your Stories. She promised to write down all she could remember. I forgot all about it.
Years later, she handed it to me and said, “Now it’s yours. Read it. ”
I didn’t have time. Not then.
Here are a few excerpts:
- What did you want to be when you grew up? A choreographer or reporter.
- Did your Mom or Dad ever find something you had hidden? Yes. My cigarettes.
- Is there anything you would do differently as a teenager? I would chase more boys, not just the whimpy white ones. (Reminder: she was Italian, so any boy that was tall or fair skinned or blue eyed fell into this category. And she married one.)
- Do you have any superstitions? Many. I’m Italian.
- Tell some good advice your mother gave you. If you wait your turn love will come. And he did. (He was a Kentucky born, motorcycle riding, Navy man)
- Tell about a strange person that lived in your town. There was a Nazi that lived behind us when I was 13. He was constantly exposing himself.
I miss her. And I’m turning into her. And my own mother is turning into her. And I treasure that. I hear myself telling my kids that the best things in life are free and that the leaves are showing their petticoats just before a summer storm. I even delight in the birds that visit our feeder. I flip through her old Audubon guide in an attempt to identify them by name.
She taught me far more important things, simply by being herself. Her family and her relationships were always her main focus in life. Except at 1 p.m. on weekdays when she worried about the relationships on Day’s of our Lives. Often, around 2:05, I would hear from her. “You are not going to beleive what that Victor Kiriakis did today!”
She showed respect for all life -children, neighbors, nature. And I heard.
She listened with an open heart and encouraged. And I trusted.
She was fiercely loyal and protective over those she loved. And I was secure.
Still, on the five year anniversary of her death, I can hear her. On the pages of another book, pulled off the shelf to read with my own daughter, I find her writing. She reaches out to me again and encourages me to follow my dream, even though my dream has changed.
And I am inspired.
I know deep in my Vitamin D deficient bones that peace and joy and Heaven are now hers, because they always were.
One final thought from her book. When asked to make up a limerick about herself, she wrote this:
Madelyn Rose Lima Tolive Osborne
Better known as Mandy.
If I could live it all again
Wouldn’t it be dandy?
It sure would, Nan.
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