Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

In the midst of wedding planning and the joy that's been surrounding us, the reality of life has set in. My dear friend and adopted grandmother, my Margaret passed away Tuesday morning after a battle with emphysema and possibly lung cancer. I never really knew how to define her. She's always just been my Margaret, my caregiver, my role model. She was first and foremost my babysitter from the time I was 15 months old. An Irish, Catholic woman who shot guns and did puzzles, gardened and recycled, fed the birds, loved the outdoors, and made the best damn bread on the planet. She was full of fire, spunk and love. There was never anything that Margaret couldn't do. Her stubbornness taught me not only how to live, but how to die. Margaret found out she had a mass in her lung in 2010, right before I went on my adventure to Washington D.C. She didn't want to tell me because she didn't want me to not go to D.C. She had once told me she thought I could be President. Her husband used to think I could be a famous singer like Celine Dion. It was assumed it was lung cancer. She didn't ever get a confirmation biopsy because she didn't want to have a timeline or seek treatment. She believed strongly in leaving this earth when it's our time to go. As time moved on, it was hard to see this hardy but wiry woman, grow weaker and skinnier. She'd always been thin, though I remember as a child riding next to her in the pickup driving to town in Sweet Pea, her old gardening pickup, while chewing Spearmint Trident gum, playing with her "flappy". We'd playfully wiggle the skin hanging under her arm and giggle. She never minded...or at least she never let on. 

I always loved going to Margaret's and thankfully we were there Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 5 PM with the exception of going to school. I remember a few brief schedule interruptions with other babysitters, but none were ever as good as Margaret. Her toaster made magic toast, seriously there was something about that thing. We'd dance upstairs listening to old records, to songs like Shaving Cream and The Streak. We'd read. We had limits on television but if we watched Price of Right and Jeopardy with her we'd have a little more time.It didn't matter though because playing outside at Margaret's was magical. I'd climb trees as high as I could, becoming her little red-headed woodpecker in the tree. We'd hike through her "forest" and along the creek. We'd build bird nests from pine needles while dodging the panty hose balls dosed in perfume, hung to ward off deer. She encouraged our sense of adventure and exploration. She let us be kids while loving us and disciplining us if necessary. 

None of this really lets on how much she meant to me. I could on about the little things that makes her so wonderful. She just loved us, my brother and I. She always joked about how she had always wanted 8 kids but only had 6, so Marcus and I were her 7th and 8th kids. She loved us that way. We had a whole second family with her. Her grandkids were our same ages and we grew up together. I remember one of the many times we were all together, she demonstrated butchering a chicken for her grandkids. She didn't even wince as she went to whack the head off of that chicken. I can still hear her laughter as we all squealed as the chicken ran around headless. Oh I'll miss her laugh. A few weeks ago when I last stopped to see her with Levi, I felt guilty for making her laugh because it made it more difficult to breathe. But I had to tell her the story of Levi and I killing rats at the feedyard. I, of course, did more squealing and jumping than killing. But she got a kick out of it none-the-less. 

Even at 73 years old she made a point to get with the times to stay in touch with her family that was spread across the country. She was a frequent emailer, sending forwards both funny and serious to multiple people. She had an ongoing Scrabble game going with her youngest son and her sister and another friend. I would say they'd been playing back-to-back-to back online Scrabble games for years. She even learned to use Facebook.

I most admired her for her strength. I think in everything she did, her strength and resiliency shone through. She worked like a man, cooked like a woman, and killed the birds and snakes when the need arose. It takes strength I realize to look to the heavens when your time comes and know the best is yet to come. She never wavered in her choice to not seek treatment or had pity parties questioning God, why she was sick as she was. She made her choices boldly and proudly. She loved her family and her adopted kiddos. And we loved her through and through. I'm glad that I was able to call her the day we got engaged and let her know. I'm glad she knew the date and the colors. Peacock colors are the ones we chose, which frankly is quite symbolic. Margaret had peacocks when I was a child. There's a chance this post is going to change over the next few months as I add memories or change wording. When John, her husband died, I wrote a story for English class about him. I've wanted to write something for Margaret for a while now, but I never could find the words. I wanted her to know what she meant to me, but never successfully told her while she was alive. But now, maybe the internet world will know. I know she's in a better place, but dang I miss her terribly.

Rest in Peace Margaret, I love you. 1940-2014

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