2 weeks ago I lost my grandmother, Genevieve. Grandma was one of the sweetest women who walked the earth, and the rush of memories going through my head from nearly 40 years of my life with her are very hard to sort out right now, as I am still absolutely heartsick over her death.
My early memories of her are shared with my Grandpa, James Franklin, whom I was named after. Frank, as he preferred, was truly a saintly man, and was a retired Los Angeles firefighter. He couldn’t hear very well because back when he was in the fire department, they still rang a bell on the truck, and it pretty much ruined his hearing. He was a crafty man and was always building things in his shed. He and grandma made stained glass things and even had a sand-blasted shower door with the silhouette of a woman on it that they had made together. They were always doing things together. He drove an old whitish Volkswagon station wagon with a burgundy interior. He also had a heart-shaped tattoo on the back of his left hand. He claimed that he’d had it since he was a young boy so that if he ever got lost his mother would be able to find him again. Interesting, notion, that. I wonder what our society today would think of such a practical approach to an identifying mark. He died of cancer when I was a slip of an 8-year old lad, but I will never forget him as long as I live.
Frank was the love of grandma’s life and one time I remember her going on a date with some older gentleman, but she was content to be a widow. She had a lot to occupy her time, you see, because a few years before grandpa died, she had gotten an exchange student from Japan, Junichi Takano, who came from a very preeminent family in Shizuoka that owned and operated a shoe-making company.
Over the years, the Takanos became very good friends of our family and even hosted my family for a month-long visit to Japan in 1981. Grandma was the light of their eyes and she took at least a half-dozen trips to Japan, in fact Junichi even lived with her for – gosh – 2 years? He took vacations with us, worked at a special effects company that my Grandma’s nephew ran, etc.
Grandma travelled a lot. She took a trip to Russia once even – during the Cold War. She always brought us back really cool gifts too. I still have a hand-crafted wooden box that she brought me back from that Russia trip.
When I was in the Navy I met a stripper (sorry, exotic dancer) named Alena and she asked me to marry her after a whirlwind romance. Yeah, I’m the guy you heard about. I don’t know that Grandma ever knew what Alena did for a living and it really didn’t matter. She couldn’t come to the wedding, which was in the Orlando area of Florida. I left a girl, Shelley, when I went into the Navy and broke her heart, as she loved me very much. My family was appalled at the union, and my father actually tried to talk me out of the marriage 15 minutes before the ceremony. Grandma, however, called during the reception and she said to me: “I’m glad that you found happiness so young in life. Most people don’t and go on their whole lives without. Don’t you worry about what anyone else thinks.”
This love and support meant the world to me, and to Alena too, so when our daughter, Violet was born, she and I both agreed that Violet’s middle name would be Genevieve, after Grandma. Neither of us were into the whole “name-your-kid-after-a-relative” thing, for us it was absolutely a token of respect. And we were both in love with the name too, which didn’t hurt.
Shortly after Violet was born, Grandma, then 75, flew out to Sardinia, Italy, where we were stationed while I was in the Navy, to visit us and her infant great-granddaughter. She stayed for several weeks, met many of my friends, and we explored a lot of the ruins in the area. Grandma insisted on bringing me something before she came on that trip and asked what Alena and I needed. Well, we didn’t have a roasting pan, so she put a giant roasting pan into her suitcase and brought it with her to Sardinia, Italy. The only problem is it was bigger than our oven. HAHAHAHA. I still have it though, and have used it on many occasions.
She bought her first computer when she was 83. Really. I used to get emails from her, and I was so proud of her. She lost interest in it before too long, but she loved printing photos and cards and really did use the thing for a couple of years. Awesome.
I could make this post very lengthy with a lifetime of happy memories, but I shall resist and winnow it down to a few. Grandma used to sing when she was making breakfast, and one of the songs that she always sang/hummed was “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo” from Disney’s “Cinderella”. And it was always the nonsensical bebopping part that she would sing, because I think it was the most fun and endearing part of the song. Well, hell, it IS the song. She’d be in the kitchen in the mornings making eggs or pancakes or whatever, and you’d hear in that one-of-a-kind grandma vibrato: “Ooooh Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo Put 'em together and what have you got Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo Salagadoola means mechicka booleroo But the thingmabob that does the job is Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo”
When I was going to college right after the Navy I used to go to Grandma’s once in a while for lunch, and she would sing while she was making me lunch too. Until the end, I could call and talk to her for an hour at a time, she was really sharp, and was always interested in what I was doing. And so proud of me. I can’t believe that I can’t call her right now and tell her how much I love her. Sorry everyone, I just had to cry for a moment. Wow, that sucks.
When my Mother called me at 1:48 on June 24th to tell me that Grandma had died, I walked out of my office after we spoke and said simply to my coworker Josh: “she’s gone”. He knew whom I meant, since he was apprised of Grandma’s condition pretty regularly. We both live and work together on this project you see. Anyways, the first thing he asked me was if I was alright, to which I replied “What kind of question is that?” He didn’t really know what to say to a grieving person, most people don’t, so next he said to me: “Remember the good times.”
I looked up at him, considered that for a second, then realized how absurd that statement was in reference to my Grandma. “They were all good times,” I told him, then I took the rest of the day off. I was in and out of tears the rest of the day anyways, so I went home. Dad asked me if I would write her obituary, which I did. Here it is, sterilized of last names. Sorry:
Genevieve Kay YYY, died June 24th at 1:30pm at age 92, 31 years 4 days after her beloved husband, James Franklin YYY, a retired Los Angeles Firefighter. Jeane, as she preferred to be called, died in her sleep of natural causes while in hospice at The Gardens hospital.
Jeane led a long and interesting life, one of 5 daughters from Polish immigrant parents, she had a few clerk positions during her early career, but fulfilled a role, like many women during World War II, as a “Rosie the Riveter”, doing her duty for the war effort. Originally from the Chicago area, she made her way to Southern California and at age 28 she married Victor XXX, and had one child, Raella.
She later divorced and married James YYY, a neighbor and widower who was the love of her life. After travelling the world, including half a dozen trips to Japan, others to Russia and Europe –including a trip to Italy at age 75 to visit her newborn great-granddaughter, she survived the Northridge quake in 1994 then in 2003 settled permanently in Kingman.
Jeane was beloved by all who knew her for her compassion, love, and kindness. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Raella and Carl ZZZ of Kingman, as well as 4 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. She will be missed.
On the 4th of July, we all met and had a funeral of sorts for her at my mom and dad’s ranch in Kingman. My oldest sister, Liz couldn’t make it, but she wrote an incredibly touching eulogy for Grandma that she wanted me to read, which I did. Everyone had a memory of love to share, as she was a very special person who meant something to us all. It was a beautiful tribute to her life and the love that we all had for her.
When we were all done about 45 minutes later, I scattered her ashes on the eastern part of the property in a lovely, long garden area that Dad had prepared, and Grandma’s urn – a lovely piece that was bought and hand-carried back from Italy – now has a place of honor in the house. We went in and celebrated Grandma’s life, talked about her for the rest of the day on and off, and my step brother Carl and his wife Gayle arrived from Phoenix and spent the day with us too, which was nice. We wrapped it up by watching the local fireworks display from the front of our hotel, which were lovely.
So I guess that’s it. A life, a legacy, a love that was given with no reservations, and a dear woman that although leaves a void because she’s gone, filled me up with so much love and understanding, wisdom and good sense that she will never truly be gone.
Goodbye Genevieve, my dearest Grandma. I love you.