Monday, November 21, 2011

She called it a Martooni

My Grandma Egan was unlike anyone else I've ever met. I'm not alone in that sentiment. Since her passing yesterday, I have already heard so many compliments cut from that same cloth. She was "one of a kind", a "Great lady", and a "True Irishwoman"...that last reference hinting only slightly at the fact that she was also the most stubborn woman I have ever met. And up until she finally decided to let the silver tones shine about a decade ago, she was a red head, too. For the record. But there wasn't a description of Dorothy that I've ever heard that would be considered an insult. She was a way that most people left behind on this earth simply aren't anymore. She had a depression-era toughness that comes from losing your parents at a young age, growing up knowing that real work was the real world, and nobody is going to give anything to you. She worked every day she could...well into her '80's, often times for money, but more and more for the good of others. She was a constant volunteer, serving tirelessly for the hospital as everything from a candy-striper to a gift-cart mall-on-wheels, to a helpful part of the information crew at the front desk.

That "job" at the hospital, along with her long and successful career in real estate sales (yes, she and her husband Ed started the "family" in the "business" long, long ago. He actually snagged her when she worked for his Mortgage company in Tustin, CA, many lifetimes before 4 children, 9 grandchildren, or 6 great-grandchildren were even a thought), dialed Dottie into the intimate and core group of the Biggest Little City's bustling populous. Everyone knew The Dot, and it's because she was not shy.

She was the opposite of shy. Google "the opposite of shy". I just did. Yahoo answers rises to the top with the word "Bold". then further elaborates:

not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; 
courageous and daring:

Yeah, that's grandma. My dad had plenty of stories to back it up from his childhood, from his mom encouraging the nuns to "do what they gotta do" to keep her rebellious son in line, to marching right up to Bill Harrah's table in his showroom to introduce herself and her family...possibly playing the long odds that she might be able to help him find his next residential purchase? I'll never know. But she wasn't hesitant or fearful, and she was bold and proud wherever she went. She was a cheerleader for all of her grandkids, and demonstrated her love and pride loudly and with abandon at every football game, basketball game, recital, or graduation I can remember. As she reminded me on the phone, after her second martini of the night when she called to check in and see how college life was treating me: she was my biggest cheerleader.

Damn. I just lost my biggest cheerleader. It's crazy how I have never taken that for granted, but it just now really set in. I could always count on Grandma. She was always there for me. I know I'm not alone in that thought, either...she was there for everyone, always. But she was there for me in so many with a laugh. I could always make the Dot laugh out loud...even if she didn't understand where I was coming from, she appreciated the effort, and made sure the room never fell silent for me. That's probably why she taught me how to make a Martini when I was 7. Bucket, and just a CAP full of vermouth. I learned that a cap full could actually be measured after seeing my Grandpa's face wince a little when I handed him my first draft. But I got it. Thanks to her, I learned a lot of things at an early age. And she knew she could always count on me to get her drink right. Nothing made me happier.

Except maybe when I was really, REALLY young. The age when staying the night at your grandma's house was still kinda scary. Scary because your parents were not coming back tonight, sure...but more. Scary because the staircase that led from the foyer up to the bedrooms was bigger-than-life, and there was a giant crystal chandelier hanging from the top of it that I always wanted to jump up and touch, and just the idea gave me nightmares every time I spent the night there that always involved me waking up right before hitting the ground from jumping off the top step, which in my dream was like 50 feet high. Those dreams got easier over time, mostly because Grandma would tuck us all in and kiss us goodnight, and take her thumb and do the sign of the cross on our foreheads before she left the room. She was always praying. She taught me how powerful it is.

I've talked about her a few times on this blog, but I could never say enough about my Grandma, and what she means to me. She is such an important, inspiring woman that is single-handedly responsible for the reason I believe so proudly in equality, inner strength, and joy. She was full of joy.

I've missed a lot of the memories of Grandma, and her house, and family dinners, and everything that fades and changes as we all grow old. But I haven't had to miss her, because she has always been close by, and within 5 seconds of seeing her face, and kissing her soft, folded cheeks...unless she got those puckered lips in the way, of course...I knew my Grandma was there.

She will always be here. She is not gone from this earth completely. Her song that she hums in the kitchen, known only to her, but recognized by a few of us that have heard it as the soundtrack of our childhood, will find it's way out from my memory banks on occasion when I think about the good times that she was here to share with me. We are all so lucky to have those.


Erin said...

I immediately heard that hum when I read that part. Awesome post, you described her perfectly.

mohap247 said...

Just a little laugh, when she came to visit me in NZ I made my first ever martini and mixed up the vodka to vermouth ratio... and put an umbrella in it.
She said "Oh, get this trash outta here...i'll drink this one, but it is lotta vodka little vermouth for next time" HAHHAHAH
I love that woman

Ellen said...