Monday, June 23, 2008

In Memoriam: Mae Panettieri

Over the years, people in my family would joke to each other that because my Grandmother had lived for so long and been in such good health that she was going to wind up outliving us all. Now, I don’t think she had any interest in doing that, but God did bless her with a long, healthy life and it was easy to think she was just gonna keep on going.

All the way through her 95th birthday my Grandma had her sight, her hearing, her mobility and a sharp mind. Her memory for people and events was still good, and she enjoyed following her favorite sports on TV, especially baseball and tennis. I inherited my tennis enthusiasm from her, and I particularly enjoyed calling her up during the Grand Slam tournaments and discussing who was winning and losing. I was all set to do that again as Wimbledon started this week, when I got the call from Dad on Sunday that Grandma had passed away. Despite her increased physical frailty over the past several months, the news still came as something of a shock. I will miss my grandma and I will miss handicapping the field of contenders for this summer's events with my favorite arm chair double’s partner.

Having lived for almost a full century, it’s amazing to me to think about all that my Grandma lived through in all the different periods of her life. Visiting her house, you were treated to all of these wonderful collages of photographs hanging on the walls that told the story of where she had been and what she had done. You could mark the passages of time as the pictures went from black and white, to faded color prints on thick square photo stock, to Polaroid pictures, to 4X6 prints and digitally-printed photo calendars. I love looking at her wedding photos where she looks so tall and beautiful and happy beside my grandpa, with a train following behind her that seems to go on for miles. I love seeing her in all different places with my grandpa, taking care of their store in Brooklyn, playing tennis and golf, clamming together out in the Bay, going on cruises and vacations with friends, dancing together at their 50th anniversary. It was a life filled with love, and hard work, a competitive spirit and a sense of enjoyment.

After my Grandpa passed away, the scope of her world got a little smaller, but she still had a lot of love surrounding her. She took care of two parakeets that both could speak to you in three languages, she tamed my rather scruffy and lovably disagreeable dog Sparky, she had the constant love and support of my dad and in recent years she had the joy of spending time with three of her great-grandchildren, Anna Mae, Ava and Mallory.

There are so many images and memories that immediately jump to mind when I think of my grandmother, The way she held a bocce ball or a horseshoe when she was preparing to throw, the way that she threw down her pinochele cards when she had all the remaining tricks of trump in her hand. How she rolled out the crust when making apple pies with me and my sister Nancy. The way she stood at the door and waved to us as we’d drive away from her house after a visit. The joyful way she danced at her 90th birthday party, and the way she held and comforted my sister Anne Marie after my mom’s funeral. My grandma was strong but soft-spoken, she was competitive but not over-bearing. She loved her family and she took care of us. She was a great lady.

When my dad told me she had passed away, he told me she had a very good last day. She woke up happy and with energy, the great grandkids came over and she played with them and they went outside in the sun. Then as they left to go back home, she waved good-bye, and then later she was tired and she laid down and drifted away. After 95 years of living and working and loving, that sounds like a very nice day. I wouldn’t have wanted it any differently for my grandma, and she deserved nothing less. I’d like to close by saying thank you to my Dad for taking such good care of her these past few months under difficult circumstances. I’d like to thank her caregiver Lydia, who took such great care of her these past few months, Anne Marie and Randy and my nieces for showing Grandma so much love and attention and keeping her mind focused on happy things. I’d like to thank everyone who sent her cards, or made phone calls or just kept her in your thoughts and prayers. She felt your love and it sustained her. We can all take the memory of her with us, as she now rests in God’s love.


Anonymous said...

That does sound like a very nice day.


Grace said...

So sorry to hear about Grandma, but I'm glad she was lucky enough to live such a long, full life. Big, big hugs to you and your family.