Grandma Daisy

December 26, 2008



Ben Blair took the big kids to a movie (Bedtime Stories) and the little ones are asleep. Which means I have a quiet house all to myself (lovely) and I’m using the momentary silence to reflect on the life of my Grandma Daisy. She passed away a couple of days ago — on December 23rd. Technically, it was kidney failure. But mostly, it was old age.

Grandma Daisy was a wonderful woman. Tall. Regal. In my memories she’s always wearing purple with long strands of gorgeous grey pearls. And glasses on a chain. Incredibly hard-working — she retired when she was 89. Italian. My family grew up eating her version of focaccia — we call it figasa and it’s a staple in our family recipes.

Daisy had an unsentimental streak a mile wide. An example: she was insistent that no burial or funeral services be held on her behalf. Which means her children and grand-children are having to figure how and when to mourn her on their own terms. As you can imagine, there have been lots of emails and phonecalls and stories exchanged over the last couple of weeks.

A second example. When I found myself nearly engaged and pondering what I wanted my wedding ring to look like, I called Grandma and asked if I could please have a piece of jade from her rock collection, with the idea that I would take it to a jewelry designer and have something wonderful made. Both Grandpa Ralph and Grandma Daisy had collected and polished rocks as a hobby, and I knew she had some beautiful pieces of unpolished jade sitting in their workshop.

Daisy did send her prettiest piece of apple jade. And a gorgeous oval jade ring set in silver that she designed and made herself. Also. She sent her wedding ring. Because (remember that unsentimental streak) Grandpa Ralph had died a couple of years earlier and “the ring wasn’t doing her any good anymore.”

The ring is a small diamond (I have zero knowledge about carats or cuts or clarity or things like that — I never actually went shopping for a wedding ring and still know nothing about them) set in platinum with delicate cutwork in the metal. I loved it instantly and all plans for jade rings immediately went out the window as I adopted Daisy’s wedding ring as my own. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

My father died almost a dozen years ago. So I’m not mourning for his loss right now. But I am mourning for my uncle Mark’s loss. His father died. His brother died — his only sibling. And now his mother. I remember the feeling of orphan-ness I felt at my father’s death. And was completely surprised by. Because I was 22 and thought the whole orphan-concept should no longer apply. I’m betting Uncle Mark is feeling pretty orphaned right now. Even though he’s been more caretaker, less child, for many years.

The thing I keep thinking about the most, is how hard it must have been to be Grandma Daisy, raising a stepchild during the 40′s and 50′s — when there were no books or support groups to offer advice. And when nobody really even talked about such things. The basic story: Grandpa Ralph and Grandma Rudi married young, had my father and divorced shortly afterward. Grandpa Ralph took custody of my father and then married Daisy and had another son, my uncle Mark. My father was raised by Daisy and Ralph with his brother Mark. But my father would spend the summers with his birth mother, Grandma Rudi — who lived a couple of towns away and also went on to re-marry and have more children.

Seriously, I can’t imagine how awkward and painful that whole situation must have been. For my father, for sure. But also for Daisy — the new wife and step-mother — in particular. I’m so grateful to her for doing her best to do right by my father, even though it was hard. He grew to be a hard-working, capable man who raised 8 hardworking, capable children. So, yay for Daisy!

I still have that pretty piece of apple jade. Sometimes, I think I’m almost as unsentimental as Grandma Daisy, but maybe the time has come to make something lovely from it.

You can read Daisy’s obituary here.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bridget and luke December 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I read your blog often for it holds unquestionable inspiration. Admittedly, I often think, I wish my life were more like hers…if only…what if….it just seems so awe-inspiring. So URBAN. I am deeply touched by your entry today and feel a very human connection. Beauty can be found in so many forms and yet, at the root of it all is our humanity and how we are connected to people. With sympathy and with great love for the Daisies we all have among us. -bridget

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2 Chloe December 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm

I am so sorry for your loss.

This is a beautiful rememberance you have written. Lots of love to you and your family at this time.

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3 Kim December 26, 2008 at 5:37 pm

A beautifully written post & tribute Gabrielle – thank you for sharing this, especially as difficult as it may be have to write. Life is so precious and reading this today has been especially meaningful to me.

Kim

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4 Denise December 26, 2008 at 6:00 pm

What a lovely tribute. I’ve no doubt that she was incredibly proud of you and your family. Grandma Daisy sounds like my type of person. I’m sure I would have loved her, because of course, I love you. Thinking of you, Gabby…

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5 Jennifer December 26, 2008 at 6:08 pm

My condolences. Your tribute is lovely.

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6 Jeannie December 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm

A lovely tribute to Daisy and I love your blog. You inspire me as Daisy inspired you.

Life is good.

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7 BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) December 26, 2008 at 6:44 pm

I’m so sorry to read about your grandmother Gabrielle. She sounds like a lovely soul. Sending you good wishes.

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8 liz December 26, 2008 at 6:46 pm

what a wonderful piece of healing/ experience the feelings that go with losing a loved one I imagine writing might offer. thanks for sharing this with us.i love that you get to wear her rings and that she knew they would be in good hands (literally).

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9 barkingkel December 26, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Losing someone so close to a holiday makes for a bittersweet day. I lost my mother on Thanksgiving this year and struggled through the holidays. I wish you, your uncle Mark and your family much comfort during the days and weeks to come.

Kellyn

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10 Katie and Eric December 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Hoping you find peace and comfort during this time. You are truly an inspiration, and I loved reading your tribute. I was beautiful.

I also wanted to let you know that you’ve been nominated on ohdeedoh for one of the best kid’s design blogs. http://www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/the-homies-best-kids-design-blog-of-2008-submit-your-nomination-072805 hurray!

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11 Carla December 26, 2008 at 8:44 pm

My heart goes out to you in this sad time. Grandma Daisy must have been an incredible woman beyond what an words could say because you and your siblings are amazing and inspiring people, good people as well.

You’ve built an great community here and you are supported by many readers who hold you very dear. Your grandma is surely beaming with pride.

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12 Kristen M. December 26, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s story. Both my husband and I have grandparents who are in their late 80′s. This is a great reminder to treasure them before they leave this earth.

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13 zannestar December 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm

What a great Grandma, amazing isn’t it, the effect strong women have in our lives? These are great memories to share with all the great grandchildren and family. Thanks for sharing a bit of Grandma Daisy’s memory. xo

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14 allysha December 26, 2008 at 9:55 pm

How beautiful. I love that you have her ring. It’s nice to have quiet time to contemplate things like that.

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15 Amy December 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm

A beautiful tribute… thank you for sharing your memories.

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16 wandering nana December 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

This was really a beautiful tribute. She sounds like an amazing woman…. it is wonderful that you all got to know her. My children had the privilege to get to know my grandfather and I know it helped to shape the people they are today.

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17 ~amy~ December 26, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Such a lovely tribute to your Grandma Daisy…the world needs more Daisy’s…TFS…

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18 knitsandgiggles December 26, 2008 at 11:22 pm

It is never easy to say good bye to someone you love, but knowing that you will forever be comforted by the memories you have with Grandma Daisy and the stories and secrets that the two of you shared is such a sweet blessing. Life goes by entirely too quickly, and it seems the older you get…the faster it goes…that’s one of the reasons I love kids so much…they really make you slow down and really experience things again. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you mourn the loss of your sweet Grandma Daisy. Thank you for sharing her with all of us…

hugs,
Brynne

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19 Chris December 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I read your post and it was like reading about my grandma Lucy accept, thankfully, she’s still amongst the living (though for the life of her she cannot understand why). Your grandma Daisy and my grandma sound just alike. My grandma is 89 and retired 2 years ago. She also has an ‘unsentimental streak’ as well and I too, have and wear her wedding ring proudly. Don’t know what it’s worth and I don’t care. To me, it’s priceless. I know my grandma won’t be around for long and I’ve been documenting her through stories and photography. I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone. She is the matriarch of my family. I’m sorry for your loss and will say a special prayer for Grandma Daisy.

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20 Shannon @ Rocks In My Dryer December 26, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Gabrielle, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I lost my very dear grandmother two days after my wedding, nearly 15 years, ago, and I still grieve for her. It is a great heritage to have a strong grandmother.

Wishing you and your family much peace.

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21 colleeeen December 27, 2008 at 2:27 am

we have much in common. i lost my mule-headed, unsentimental grandmother almost 10 years ago and i adored her. i wear her wedding ring, too. i feel a sense of responsibility to live as plainly and generously as she did, and for years after her death would speak to her when i was alone. i’m in the process of losing my father now and it is a strange sense of orphan-ness. my mother is still alive and very healthy, and yet i am moving to second place in the family line. the time we have with those we love never seems long enough. twenty-three years of my grandmother’s love was not enough. almost thirty-four years of my father has not been enough. i grieve and love and remember with you. we all do.

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22 la belle fille December 27, 2008 at 9:23 am

What a wonderful tribute to your Grandmother. If she wanted anything, you have done it. Having lost my father three years ago Christmas morning, I know the feelings of loss. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.

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23 MamaChristy December 27, 2008 at 10:32 am

You are so lucky to have had such a wonderful woman in your life. I’m thinking of you in this difficult time.

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24 meg December 27, 2008 at 1:01 pm

thanks for sharing this with us. my heart goes out to you.

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25 mothergoosemouse December 27, 2008 at 1:58 pm

What a lovely story, and such a lovely woman she must have been. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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26 Emily December 27, 2008 at 4:09 pm

May the Lord be with you at this time of grieving. Isn’t it amazing to look back on the lives of those that have come before us and see the strong, diligent, stalwart examples as they came through so many tough and trying things? It helps me remember to be strong.

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27 Michelle December 27, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Sorry to hear of your loss and thanks for your words of kindness Gabby. What a wonderful name eh? You and Ben are just wonderful and we’re grateful to have you as friends.- michelle

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28 Julee December 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

a very touching tribute…I bet unsentimental Daisy would have been touched, too…

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29 Rusted Wings Gallery December 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Your tale is a lovely form of appreciation for many generations. I feel thankful for having a peak into the life of your family. I offer a sincere compassion for the tender time at hand!

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30 simply kris December 28, 2008 at 12:54 am

simply kris said…
Oh Gabs. Loved your Dad. He was remarkable, which makes me believe he came from remarkable stock. Just look at you!

I am so sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers are abundant in your behalf…. you have ALWAYS done so much good to those you touch. (it’s just on a much bigger scale, now…)

So, did you hear? Snow on Christmas Eve in St. George… It was a Christmas miracle. Beautiful and fantastic. Miss you. k

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31 simply kris December 28, 2008 at 12:54 am

simply kris said…
Oh Gabs. Loved your Dad. He was remarkable, which makes me believe he came from remarkable stock. Just look at you!

I am so sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers are abundant in your behalf…. you have ALWAYS done so much good to those you touch. (it’s just on a much bigger scale, now…)

So, did you hear? Snow on Christmas Eve in St. George… It was a Christmas miracle. Beautiful and fantastic. Miss you. k

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32 Laura December 28, 2008 at 9:20 am

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I am sure you will miss her dearly. I hope you will hold still all your fond memories…

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33 Shelley December 28, 2008 at 11:14 am

truly, an amazing post – i read it three times.

Happy New Year & all the best.
http://momtheblog.blogspot.com/

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34 Emily December 28, 2008 at 6:17 pm

What a beautiful post of memories of your Grandmother. I am sorry for you loss.

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35 Wendy December 28, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Thanks for tenderly sharing a bit of Daisy with us. Love you, Gabby.

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36 simply seleta December 28, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Amazing. Thank you for sharing a piece of your family’s history and inspiring us in such a heartfelt way. Just read this post to my husband tonight. Such a touching story.

Daisy is a great example that unconditional love and dedication to ones we love has no limits and can impact generations to come. What a gift she has been to so many.

Sending a prayer your way.

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37 KJ December 29, 2008 at 1:15 am

what a lovely tribute. definitely do something with the jade.

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38 liz stanley December 29, 2008 at 10:39 am

beautiful tribute. I’m sad henry never got to meet Daisy.

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39 The Yellow Door Paperie December 29, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Thank you for such a touching tribute. I lost three of my four grandparents last year. I’m thinking of you this season. That orphaned feeling lasts for a while.

Thinking of you.

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40 global mama December 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Thank you for the touching post. I know what you mean about that “orphaned” feeling – it kind of hits you out of the blue sometimes, even a ways down the road. I am lucky enough to still have both my parents, but all of my grandparents are gone now, and I miss their humor and wisdom. It is a strange feeling indeed to have the torch passed from one generation to the next. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

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41 Malinda December 31, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Your story is quite sweet – I’m sorry that Grandma Daisy isn’t in the world any longer. She seems like the kind of lady I wold have loved to meet.

My father has a similar story to yours – child of a divorce in the 50′s. Secrets abound and the children don’t always share those secrets with the family until it’s far too late. Or maybe that’s just a southern thing….

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42 Christine @ Boston Mamas January 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Wishing you and your family peace Gabrielle. Death is never easy to cope with, but there is some consolation when a beautiful life has been lived to its fullest.

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43 Emily January 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Gabrielle, I’m so sorry for your loss, and at this time of year. Your tribute is so moving and beautiful, and I feel like you’ve given us some of her wisdom to take into our own lives. Thank you so much.

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