Thursday, January 4, 2018

I love you Gram.

This past Christmas Eve, December 24, 2017, my grandmother, Paula Ballerini, Grammy to me, passed away after suffering from a stroke 10 days earlier. The stroke occurred on Thursday, December 14th and on the 15th, I jumped on a plane to head home. It was a difficult 10 days for my family but I hope more than anything that my grandmother was at peace and not in pain during that time. She was surrounded by love, positivity, family, music, and support throughout the time in the hospital. And we as a family, were able to comfort, cry, laugh, and be together in those uncertain and difficult moments. She had loved ones surrounding her around the clock in her last days and she passed away peacefully in the early evening. We all loved her so much and she was the very heart of our family.

It's hard to accept that this is a thing that really happened. It is hard to believe she is really gone, despite everything that has happened since that confirms it to be true. It feels like there is a large hole inside of me that is missing. It feels like there is a large hole in the world where she used to be. And it doesn't make sense that we're all supposed to just go on living with those holes just out there, as if things are normal. We miss you Gram.

I knew from an early age that my grandmother was special. That she was different from my other friends grandmothers. In a good way. She was fun and funny, warm, loving, patient, nurturing, and adored her family. Grammy was the most accepting and loving person I had ever known and I always felt so lucky to have grown up in a family that welcomes everyone - without prejudice or judgment. This part of her personality was passed down to her children, my mother, and aunts and uncles, and those very traits have made me who I am all today. That curiosity, openness, and acceptance of what is different from your preference - that all came from Grammy.

She was as kooky as they come and passed on her warm sense of humor to the rest of the family as well. She was known to wrap gag Christmas gifts, like a funny pair of thong underwear, and leave them under the tree for an unsuspecting relative from "Santa." She was the instigator of many a marshmallow fights where she'd randomly walk into a room with a bag of Jet Puffed marshmallows and start throwing them. Paula Ballerini pro tip: bite them in half before throwing them so they'd stick. She was never afraid to be silly, crack a joke, or throw some side eye from across room the room. She kept us laughing and on our toes.

Working until the age of 73, Grammy was an RN, and was loved by patients and colleagues alike. Nurturing and caring for others was a calling for her. I remember my grandmother as working as a nurse in at an OBGYN. All through when I was in high school, she would collect and save for me these little plastic zippered cases and bags that the birth control samples came in. She would call them purses and give them to me and I would give them to my friends. I used them for years and years to put makeup and change in, always just having to shield the logo of the birth control brand when I was around other people. I also used to love her stories of being a nurse to Steven Tyler's wife through her pregnancies of their children (he was a local in area she worked in outside of Boston!) She said that they got along great and he was a great guy, and although his ripped jeans and clothing choices weren't exactly her style - to each their own!

Known to the gang of 13 grandkids "officially" as Grammy, but was also a lover of giving nicknames to others and earned quite a few herself over the years. Grammy, Grambo, Grambolina, Gramsterdam, G-Ma, and "the other Grammy." The latter was earned when she one day introduced herself to a friend of one of my cousins as "the other Grammy" when she was in fact, the only Grammy around. And if you asked any of us, we'd have let you know that she, to all of us, would always be THE Grammy. I will never forget the way she'd respond back on the phone with "Katie!" or was the only person to write out my name as "Katy" and how when I was younger she would sing to me the old World War I era song that went "K-k-k-Katy, beautiful Katy, you're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore!"

Grammy was well known to her grandchildren for her back scratches, for never forgetting or missing a birthday card, and always letting us know when we looked particularly nice with her most notorious and highly regarded compliment, complete with Boston accent, "You look shahp!!" She had her own unique style, of course, and I could learn a thing or two from her in how put together she always was, in the softest fabrics and the warmest colors. I remember talking to her on the phone after one of my marathons where in addition to commenting on how I did in the race, she told me how much she loved the bright pink top I had chosen to wear - remarking that so many young people nowadays wore so much black. Not Gram. I will always remember her in light purples, soft blues, and cream. Warm, welcoming colors that matched her personality.

She never sad a bad word about anyone. You could tell her anything without fear of judgment. I got my first tattoo when I was in college. It was small, conservative, and in a location on my body that was not clearly visible - yet I was nervous to tell my mom, unsure of how she would react. I actually told Grammy about my tattoo before I told my mom, knowing that if I had her on my side (which, of course, I would) - then my mom couldn't say anything. Grammy was always so excited to hear from you and talk about whatever was going on in your life. And you had better believe that she was beaming proud and impressed with any accomplishment that you shared with her, which made her so amazing to share good news with. I loved telling her (and my grandfather!) about my races and training and what travels I had been up to. They've been my biggest fans for as long as I have been writing, which was one of the reasons I wanted to even write this. It seems only fitting.

Grammy was a dear wife to my grandfather, mother of five, grandmother to thirteen, and great grandmother to three. Words can't really express how much she meant to all of us and how much she will be missed. I love you, Gram.

** To my cousins: thank you for inspiring me with your stories, memories and words, to combine much of what we all shared at the services into this post. **

1 comment:

  1. what a wonderful tribute from one wonderful lady to another! thinking of you, xo