She was the epitome of a textbook grandma, not just because of her clothing, but also because of her fierce love for her grandchildren. She was the one who would stand up for my cousins Jen and Sara (my only two cousins on that side) when they would wear bikinis and my aunt would be mortified. She would rub our arms when we sat beside her on the couch. And she would call us each by nicknames, mine being Kazzy Wazzy.
Her house always smelled like warm grandma food (you know what I mean), and she brought that smell with her when she came to visit. I am not really sure how that works with grandmothers, but it is an interesting phenomenon.
She lived on a big hill in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and until the time she had to move in with my parents she would walk that hill to go to the market or to the Catholic church she attended.
When I was born we lived with Vo for about 18 months. She had been widowed from my equally-perfect grandfather six months before my parents' wedding and our presence helped her tremendously. My mom tells me it was MY presence mostly that saved her. She wore her black clothes and black lace for a full year after being widowed, and once she got to rock me in her wooden spindled rocker on a regular basis it helped in her healing. I felt a special connection with Vo my whole life. When my engagement fell apart in 1986 I called her for comfort and advice and I was wrapped up in a big thick blanket of it. She was my biggest fan and I still miss her so much.
But the most important lesson I learned from Vo was taught very indirectly from a story she never told me herself. She moved to New England when she was 3- years old with her parents. She (along with every single ancestor I have ever researched) was born in the Azores, which are small islands owned by Portugal way out in the Atlantic. When she was only 15 she had to drop out of school to work in the textile mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, and by the time she was 19 both parents had died, leaving her with an 8-year old younger sister that she took care of. Once her fiance had heard about the new responsibility of the younger sister, Georgiana, he asked Vo to find a new place for her. Refusing, she soon broke off her engagement and got on with the business of caring for Georgie. A few years later she married my grandfather, who loved his little sister-in-law like a daughter. Until the day Vo died I wondered why Georgie's kids called Vo "Grandma Mary" instead of "Aunt Mary", and then I heard the story of her selfless sacrifice and realized who she really was. She was my hero.
ps.. I am being published today at www.bloggersannex.com