December 11, 2014

Joy & Sorrow

Hey, friends.

So my heart is heavy today. Shortly after we wrapped our trip to Miami up, we found ourselves back down here again, but for a very different reason. My grandmother, nearly 96, passed away yesterday. 

A fundamental piece of Miami's early history (and a piece of my heart) has passed on. My dear Mimi (as she was known to all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) left us to go celebrate her reunion with my grandfather and many other beloved friends and family who passed before her. She was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital in January 1919, when it was little more than a wooden building. She was born before electricity was commonplace, and cars and horse-drawn carts shared the roads equally. Although she grew up poor, her life was rich in all the ways that mattered, and her later life was comfortable and beautiful. She was the only child to her parents, and as a young woman, she was often found laughing with friends and family. She married early (at age 16!) to her first dear husband, Raymond, and with him shared a wonderful few years, during which she had her first three children. She was tragically widowed as a young woman, and at some point during that time went to work for the City of Miami Planning Department. It was during her time there that she met my beloved grandfather, Carl, and it wasn't long after that they fell in love and married - he adopting her mother and three children as his own, and she adopting his two as her own. Nine happy years later, they had my father, Rick. The baby of the family, he is the same age as several of his nieces and nephews. :O) Theirs was a true "Yours, Mine & Ours" family. 

In 1948, my grandfather and her bought their home here in central Miami (known then as Grapeland Heights). She and my grandfather, Carl, were married for more than forty beautiful years before he passed away in the early 1990's. It was here, to this house, that my father was brought home from the hospital, it was here that I was brought home, it was here that we gathered to mourn her husband, my grandfather, and here that she lived in comfort until her final days. 

Mimi watched this city become what it is no, from nothing more than dirt roads and a few palm trees, to one of the largest cities in the country. She lived through two husbands, a World War, a presidential assassination, a moon landing, and many more of the greatest innovations of the 20th century. 

She loved her friends as much as her family, and loved to gather with them for dinners and socialization. She was the ultimate social butterfly - a fantastic conversationalist and storyteller. She was the epitome of the gracious hostess - full of charm, wry humor, grace, and joy. She was a great cook, despite her protestations to the opposite. I can still hear her saying (in her southern-ish accent) "Well, HOW YOU?!?!" when I walked in the door after a while of being gone. She had a sharp wit and was an artist of some museum-worthy pieces. She took up china painting in her 40's and had an astonishing eye for it. She was always well-dressed, and being fashionable was important to her - keeping up with the fashion of the day was always how it was in her household. She loved flowers and growing things, and loved to be out in nature, although she wasn't much of a beach person by the time I came along. She loved Miami, and never would have dreamt of leaving it. This city was her home, from birth to death. I spent the better part of my childhood in the home that she spent most of her life in, because she opened her home to us. She was not without many failings, but I loved her, and she was a constant in my life from the time of my birth. She was deeply devoted and loyal to a fault. She was also stubborn as a mule and had very definite ideas about the ways the world should work. 

Throughout most of her life, she was active in her church, serving in the nursery for a great many years. She and my grandfather were fixtures there for the better part of four decades. Some of my earliest memories involve being at that church and in the nursery with her singing and rocking me and the other, littler, babies. Dee-dicka-dee-dicka-dee-dee-dee.

While my Dad was growing up, she was an active member of many boards and committees, as well as supporting him in his football career through high school and college. Later, she and my grandfather, Carl, traveled together extensively, and built a cabin in the mountainous woods of North Carolina, our family has happy memories of visiting in the fall, when the leaves were most beautiful. 

And now she's having a party like she's never had! My heart is sad, but also happy, as the Mimi I knew - the one who lived up to the meaning of her name - Eva, "Full of Life" - had not been much present in her failing body over these most recent years, and now she is whole again. It is hard to watch someone you love become someone they are not because of a disease. Alzheimer's stole from her, but I am so very thankful that what was stolen has been restored. Mimi, the "you" I remember will always be the one that made me laugh. 

With joy and sorrow - until next time, 


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