Mum called me this evening to let me know that my grandmother passed through the veil at the beginning of the year.
Oddly, Isabelle (known to me as Mimi) has been on my mind of late. I've been thinking about her, and dreaming about the house that I grew up in, where she and my grandfather lived for most of my young life. I have been wondering where, and how, she was.
She wasn't kin by blood, but rather by marriage, wed to my grandfather for...umm...a long damn time.
After Papa died, Mimi returned to France and despite my efforts I lost touch with her. She left our part of the family behind, and it seemed to me like she never looked back. She moved, moved again, and I never got her new address. I suppose I could have made more effort - there was a trust, there were lawyers who knew where she was - but why? She made it clear through her absence and silence that she wasn't interested. That hurt. I had to let go.
Still, from time to time I would look for her online, a quick browsing of Google searches giving me nothing. Last night, Mum found an obituary.
Mum and I talked about her sometimes, she relating news that had filtered to us months or even years after Mimi had come to the US for some reason, or perhaps whispers of where Mimi was living in France, me wondering if she was happy, if she felt loved and was content. She wondered, once, whether Mimi was even alive. I told her she'd know when the woman passed - the trustees would be in touch. We laughed ruefully about that. As it turns out, no one got in touch. Mum found the obituary and talked to my aunt, who made some calls and found out what was what. Without the curiosity and the drive to find out, who knows when we'd have learned of it?
She never told us when she was coming over the pond, and in fact seems to have instructed people who were in the know to NOT tell us.
She lived through the Nazi occupation of France. She married, came to the US, found that her husband had lied to her about his circumstances and she left him (righteously, IMO), made a life for herself. She was a terrific cook when she wanted to be. She taught me to endure and even enjoy all kinds of foods I'd otherwise not have eaten. From her I learned how to make vinaigrette dressing. Until I was about 6, I spoke with her in French as easily as English. I can still read and sing in French, although I don't speak it very well any more and my understanding is weak at best. Google translate has to do a lot of the work for me, these days.
Because of her, I learned exquisite table manners - I can, if pressed, still recall which utensil is for what and I have fond memories of high tea with her. I still have the eggshell China teacups we used for such occasions.
She drove like a maniac, but I would sleep in the car without fear. She hated flying and would take pills and ride the Concord to minimize the horror.
In the evening, she and Papa would watch the news in their living room, and I would sit with her, leaning on her, and she would stroke my head. She taught me how to pour and appreciate wine. I can eat just about anything with a knife and fork thanks to her. At Christmas she would let me set up the nativity scene.
She said horrible things to me with the best of intentions, never knowing how she devastated me. Some of the the shadow demons with which I do battle sprang from her.
I wasn't much connected to her French family, but I adored one of her nieces (Christine) and found the rest tolerable.
She was a staunch friend and ally to those she loved and believed in. She was opinionated and acerbic. Her anger was terrible, her approval rare, her favor much sought after. No one wanted to be left in the dark, arctic chill of her bad side.
She stuck with my grandfather through his end, and that was no small thing. I believe that she loved him, and he loved her, even when they didn't see eye to eye (which happened a LOT). She was relentless in making sure he was well taken care of. A bulldog on his behalf. It must have been exhausting.
She wasn't terribly interested in church when I was little, but she was Catholic and became more so as she aged. I hope her God saw the good in her and let her in to his halls. There are those who would say she deserved a place in Hell, but I don't think so. I think she knew enough of Hell here in her earthly life.
One of the last things I said to her was that she had hurt me, deeply, but that I loved her, and that nothing would change that love. I meant it then, and ever after.
I hope she remembered that.
There's so much more that I could say, but she was too complex to encapsulate in a blog.
Rest in peace, Isabelle, Mimi, grandmother, force of nature. Rest in peace.
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.