Friday, July 3, 2009

The Eulogy My Auny Wrote for my Grandmother

This is a beautiful Eulogy, and I feel it deserves to be shared.

Our Mother would love to have been here. She was an extrovert's extrovert, a genuine people person. She loved a party, and loved to be the center of attention. She would love to have seen you all here.

Our Mother knew her own mind right from the start. She was a tomboy, and did not appreciate the same girly-girly things her mother enjoyed. At the age of 3-1/2 or so, just before the photographer arrived, she slipped into her mother's room, obtained the forbidden sewing scissors, and cut off three of her long, painstakingly arranged banana curls.

She would not be bullied and was fearless: climbing fences, riding her bike with 'no hands', besting the neighborhood boys at fist-fights. She rocketed flawlessly down steep hills on her roller-skates, only to break her arm by falling off the skates while standing still. She earned and held the nickname, Rocky all the way through college, until she met our Dad, who promptly renamed her Shelley.

I get my tenacity, AKA dig-your-heels-in-stubbornness, from our Mother. Macy's might tell Gimbels under the most extenuating of circumstances, but you could NOT tell my mother anything, including what to do. If she thought her kids should have a dog, one would come home with her. If she wanted to buy a car, she did so, regardless.

Our Mother was one of the first liberated women, untamed and undomesticated. Her favorite cookbook was Peg Bracken's “I Hate to Cook Book”. 'Burnt Offerings' regularly emerged from her kitchen. Her favorite thing to make was reservations, but her Stuffed Cabbage was legendary. Erma Bombeck was her hero. She owned or had read every one of Erma's books, and her daily column was a regular feature on our refrigerator. Dad learned early that Mom was domestically challenged, and we learned early that the mending needle and thread were in HIS nightstand. Mom thought she should set a good example, so, when I was in Girl Scouts we took a sewing class together. I came out of the class with a purple jumper. Mom put the sleeves of her dress in upside down, and the zipper in inside-out and upside down. When she sewed the hem of the dress to her nightgown she threw them both out and that was the end of that phase.

Our Mom was the bravest, most creative person I have ever met. In her first career she was a Physical Education teacher determined to get her students off the couch and exercising. The “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go Away” was a regular feature in our basement when I was in elementary school. Several of the students she coached in gymnastics went to the 'All State' competitions and won,

Gradually our Mother began to notice that illicit drugs were making an incursion into her locker room. Never one to do anything part way, she threw herself headlong into the fray. She found a school district in Concord, California that was using 'peer counseling' as a tool, and she adopted that as her weapon of choice. She wrote many dozen film strips (some of which featured my brother, Bruce), got anti-drug material written into Health Education programs, and wrote the New York State Curriculum of that day.

When health issues began to get the better of her, she retired and reinvented herself yet again. She went back to school and got another degree, this time in Horticulture. Her grandson, Dustin, by this time on the scene as a toddler, was an ally and an inspiration. He was responsible for her passing Entomology, as he was willing to capture bugs, and stab them with pins to the mounting board. And he inspired her to pass the practicum of backing up a truck with a trailer, because she didn't want him to be ashamed of her.

While she adored plants, they did not love her back and they died by the dozens and the scores, the infamous 'Crispy Critters'. However, she finally struck gold when she began designing landscapes for other peoples' homes, and many of you here have benefited from her talent in that arena.

In all these endeavors, she was backed by our awesome Dad, the first liberated man, who didn't marry her to be his maid, but loved her for who she was.

And our Mom was brave physically. I think she must have had one major illness or another every year since I was twelve years old, and had near crippling back pain dating to a car crash when I was only a year and a half old.

Nothing stopped her or short-circuited her curiosity or sense of adventure. She wanted to go to the Baltic States. She went. She wanted to go to the Galapagos. She went. Of course, she could never have gone on any of these adventures without Ruth Rekka, Connie Karpf, and our amazing Aunt Anise (I love you more!).

And Mom always wanted the same adventures for Bruce and for me. When we were little, she would save the quarters out of her change into a plastic tub that once held pickles from the deli. When the tub got full, she would empty the contents into a savings account. Every summer she would tell Dad where we were going for summer vacation. Every summer he would tell her that we couldn't possibly afford such an extravagance. And every summer she would show him the passbook and away we would go, to Quebec, to Vermont, to Gettysburg, to Colonial Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., Florida, and more.

Our Mother was always a fan of Broadway musicals. I remember her putting the LP's on the record player after she put us to bed. I can still sing many of the musicals from the 50's and 60's in their entirety due to this 'sleep learning'. When Mom was the age I am now, she took piano lessons. For the next three years, every time I came home, she would tell me, “I'm learning a new song”. It was always the same one, “Memories” from the show, “Cats”, and she always got stuck in the same place. Later in life she became enamored of classical music, and 'Mostly Mozart' was her must go, gotta listen.

Above all, our Mom loved fiercely, and was relentlessly loyal. Dad, Bruce, me, her Cohen Cousins, friends, California family, but, oh, especially her grandchildren. Dana and Dustin were the apples of her eye from the moment they were possibilities in their parents' minds. Dustin was her ally in the plant and ecology realm, and Dana was her cherished 'Dancing Princess'. Your grandma thought you were both perfect and could do anything.

Our Mom had a tender heart. I remember as a little kid, watching a Lassie movie with her. Lassie got lost in the woods, and she cried. Forever after, when something touched her heart and she wept I would ask her, “Mommy, did Lassie just get lost in the woods?”, and she would sniffle, “Yes”. Well, Mom, Lassie got lost in the woods again today!

Mom, we will always miss you, but you were larger than life, and will always remain with us in our hearts!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

So many fond memories. I am glad that my family and I were there for much of it. This is a beautiful memorial to Shelley.