Late Thursday night, my family lost its rock, its matriarch, and the woman to whom we all looked for guidance and compassion.
My grandma died. She was 94, and for the last several years she’s been suffering from the awful scourge of Alzheimers disease. I wrote a little about Grandma in this space two years ago, and I will repeat what I said there: She is the greatest person I’ve ever known, and probably ever will know.
I gave one of the many eulogies at her funeral on Sunday, and while I don’t want to run the whole thing here, I wanted to share some excerpts with my little blog family.
Thank you for taking the time to read a few words about a truly extraordinary woman.
“When I was a little boy, my father used to have a saying he’d repeat after just about every visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment.
“Kids,” he would say from the front seat, while my sister and I sat in the back, “you’ll never meet anyone in your whole life like Grandma.”
At the time, I’m sure I scoffed, convinced that this was just my father using hyperbole to make us appreciate our grandparents more.
I mean come on; what are the odds of one of the first people to ever hold you upon entering the world also being the greatest person you’d ever meet?
But as I’ve lived my life for the past 37 years, traveling and meeting thousands of people, I’ve come to realize my father was exactly right: Marcelle Kouvant was, and always will be, the greatest person I’ve ever met …
…”as I think back on my own memories of Grandma, they come flooding back like a tidal wave of joy, flashing across my soul and making me smile so much.
…I think about Grandma always being the most excited person in the world when you told her good news in your life; with a trademark slapping of her hand on the table and an exclamation of “Wheeee!” at the top of her lungs, she exuded happiness so much you would’ve thought SHE had just won a big tennis match, or gotten first place in the spelling bee.
…“I remember her unrequited love of the New York Mets, and how intensely she delighted in their victories, and was so pained by their defeats.
I always got such a kick out of how they could win 10 games in a row, then lose one, and she’d say “They should fire the manager! And trade half the players!”
“But Grandma,” I would tease, “last week you said Mike Piazza and Tom Glavine were great.”
“Horrible,” she’d say. “Get rid of them. They can’t play at all!”
Sadly, during most of her years as a Mets fan, she was right: they did stink.”
…Then there were the blue cookie tins filled with MandelBread that would arrive at my apartment in Wilmington, N.C., when I lived there. I would bring them into my newspaper office, and Southerners who couldn’t tell the difference between a yarmulke and a Yo-Yo were devouring the delicious treats, and singing the praises of a woman who for 60 years made a succession of delicacies out of a tiny kitchen where an occupancy of 3 would’ve been a fire hazard. …
… In her later years, as she began to get sick and her incredibly sharp mind started fading away, she would’ve been so bothered by all the fuss that was made of her. Of my mother and aunt doing everything they could to make sure she were as comfortable as possible, even as she was unable to recognize those she loved so much.
But the end of her life isn’t what we’ll remember; it was the glorious years until then, when she was the brightest sun in all of our worlds.
My grandmother was the greatest person I’ve ever known, and it was the highest honor of my life to say I was her grandson.
I will miss her, and think of her, for the rest of my days. And as long as we keep telling stories about her wonderful spirit, she will always be with us in our hearts.
**OK, time to flip the switch and end on a happier note. I know Michelle Obama’s getting a lot of attention for her surprise appearance at the end of the Oscars (which I thought was just weird timing, putting her on at the end like that), the more impressive FLOTUS appearance lately was this awesome 2-minute dance skit she did with Jimmy Fallon the other night on his show.
It’s the “Evolution of Mom-Dancing,” and it’s brilliant. You go, girl.