She was a strong, difficult woman. I had a good relationship with her, mostly because I had a life that she considered successful and, due to geographic distance, she didn't witness my myriad daily screwups. She had high standards for everyone, herself included. She had a way of turning a compliment into a criticism, and a personality that brought out any inkling of perfectionism in anyone who encountered her. She and my grandfather were married for 66 years, until he died almost exactly two years ago. I don't think I've ever known a happier married couple.
I went to her memorial with my father (Mama Doris was his mother), my mother, and my stepfather. My mom and my grandmother remained close even after my parents divorced, and Mama Doris was always warm and welcoming to my stepdad, too. The memorial was held in Southwest City, Missouri, the town where she and my grandfather had lived and raised their four boys, and near where much of my father's extended family still lives. My two uncles, six cousins, and all the spouses were there, and it was fun to catch up, tell stories about Mama Doris, and enjoy each others' company. I suppose that for some families, the presence of my mom and stepdad might have been awkward or unusual, but it was all OK for all of us. In some ways, my extended family is pretty open-minded. If I've never mentioned this before, now would be the time to say that when my mom married my stepdad, my father is the one who walked her down the aisle and gave her away. Yes, you read that correctly.
I've put off writing about Mama Doris's death and the trip to the midwest, mostly because it's sad when people die and latley I don't feel like writing about sad stuff. For the most part, I've felt pretty happy these days. As I have alluded to in recent posts, the arrival of 2010 has felt like a fresh start in a way that the new year usually does not for me, and I find myself rejuvinated and refreshed. Sure, some days are not so good. I can still be impatient. The other night, I yelled at Maddie for something silly then yelled at Riley for good measure. The cleanup that needs to get done from December's burst pipe is still not complete. My grandmother died. Annoying, sad, life-changing things continue to happen. But the underlying feeling is one of optimism, and I had felt hesitatnt to burst that bubble with a big, heavy post about Death.
To lighten the mood, here are a couple of amusing anecdotes from my trip to the middle of the United States:
- Our hotel was across the street from a gas station/convenience store called Kum & Go. I bought a travel mug out of amusement/disgust.
- The first night there, we ate at a restaurant called the Rib Crib. It was about three blocks from our hotel. My uncle suggested that not only should we drive, but we should take two cars in case he needed to leave earlier than the rest of us. We convinced him that we could all walk.
It's good to be back. I'm wearing one of Mama Doris's signature costume jewelry necklaces today. I miss her.