This beautiful piece was written by my better half, my wife Lisa de Marigny, as she reflected on her memories of her grandmother. I thought I'd share it...
You do not get to choose your grandparents and I am proud to say that Ida is not only my grandma; she is one of my favorite people. When people ask me why I am active in politics I tell them the story of how my grandmother took me to the polling location where she worked when I was a child. I tell them how passionate she was about individuals exercising their right to vote, especially women. I explain how impressed I was by the fact that my grandma worked, when most women stayed home, and how she wore pants suits when most women wore dresses. My Grandma had it all and shared everything, including her opinion. She was always outspoken, but never bombastic. She may have been wearing pants, but she always acted like a lady.
She loved my grandfather with all her heart. On the day she gave me her wedding ring, she reminded me that they were engaged for four years while he served in World War II. She was quick to brag about all the great things he did and content to downplay the wonderful things she did. She always put others first. Whenever I called or came over she always greeted me with a smile and a “Hello, Lisa Dear, I’ll get your grandfather.” If I told her I was there to see her, she would get him anyway and listen intently to our conversation.
My husband never had grandparents. They had passed away by the time he was born. When we got married, Miss Ida sent him his first “Grandson” birthday card. When he pointed this out, she never passed up an opportunity to refer to him as her grandson. I feel so blessed that all four of my children had the chance to know my grandma. The last time she came to visit us, my boys noticed that she had the volume on her hearing aids turned down. When one of my sons asked why she kept them turned off, without hesitation, she responded, “Honey when you are my age, you have heard it all and what you haven’t heard, you simply do not want to know!”
My children’s innocence reminded me of when I was younger and asked my grandmother why it seemed that she attended so many funerals. She made a joke about her age then, but looking back she had to be only in her fifties at the time. The reality of it was that she had a lot of friends and she was reverent. Her door was always open and I recall never being over her house for very long before friends or neighbors would drop by to visit. She would even invite our orthodox Jewish neighbors over for Christmas because she said we had so much food and our family was so loud that we would probably disturb he and his wife all night anyway.
As feisty and straightforward that she could be, she was a good listener. She would send articles in the mail on subjects that you had discussed months ago. While the world began to send email, Ida continued to write notes. She would always include a note with everything she sent; mine were always addressed to “Lisa Dear.” She gleaned a great deal from reading. I could be traveling for several months and when I would check in to tell her about the various books that I was reading, rarely had she not already read them. When I worked for an ultra-conservative company that expected women to wear skirt suits and walked in wearing a pantsuit, I thought of Ida when I returned my superior’s disapproving glance with a confident smile.
Years later when I told her I would be managing a couple of political campaigns, she did not ask many questions about the candidates that I would be representing. She said that one should be a patriot first, which I understood by the example she herself set. Just when I thought perhaps her political interest may have been waning with age she said, “And Lisa Dear, your grandfather and I have always been registered republicans, we are not going to be on opposite sides of the aisle, are we?” The interesting thing about her words is that, my grandfather had passed away ten years earlier. It was like she resurrected his patriarchal status as insurance that I remained politically conservative.
I will always cherish these memories. However, I most treasure having had the opportunity to see her one last time so recently and for speaking with her on the phone just days before she passed away. The last thing she said is that I love you and your family. Although I do not have a penny for each time she referred to me as “Lisa Dear” or said she loved me, I am rich. Richly blessed for having Ida as my grandma and for having a grandma that is one of my favorite people.
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Dean Wesley Smith