Cecile Ross “Memere” 06/21/1923 – 09/20/2011

Last year on this day (or soon to be this day) I lost someone very near and dear to me, my grandmother Cecile Ross. She died as a result of a stroke that left her unresponsive on 09/09/2011. She was under Hospice Care.

Let me say a word about Hospice. Its one of those things in life that you really don’t want to know more about but it really is a blessing. Your loved one will be well taken care of in their last days. They serve meals for those who are staying with their loved ones. A chaplin will regularly visit and pray with you if you wish it. The rooms are very nice and every effort is made to keep them comfortable as they prepare to shed this mortal coil. Even after your loved one passes Hospice is there to assist you with counseling or whatever else you need.

The Hospice Memere passed away at is a minute from my house. I look at it every time I pass by.

First lets start off with a timeline.

09/08 – See my grandparents. Its a special visit as it is my last regular Thursday visit before their move to an assisted living facility in New Hampshire.

09/09 – I come home from school and find out “Memere” (French for grandmother) has been taken to the hospital. No words like “Its only low blood sugar” or “She needed a blood transfusion”.

09/09 – I see Memere and she is not in a good way. This is different than the other numerous hospital trips my grandparents have taken.

09/09 – My mom lives here, the other children are called. Two of the four were coming on Tuesday but change to Saturday.

09/10 – The relatives arrive. Pepere (French for grandfather though he had little French blood in him) has to know something’s up. The eldest son Bobby lays it out, she won’t make it. My grandfather breaks down, I was at the hospital or taking a brief rest at the time and missed this. Just as well. My grandfather agrees to go with the original plan to move up north.

09/11 – On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the opening of the NFL season I’m in a hospital room saying my last goodbyes before church. If a miracle happens then great but I don’t expect one (see later).

09/12 – Maybe a bit of hope, she seems a bit responsive when I go to visit. Quickly dashed as my uncles and aunts (one of which is a nurse) says no, condition is the same. She cannot survive or do much on her own.

09/14 – A somber last time with my grandfather and the family. Tomorrow is moving day. We shake hands and he says “I wish I wasn’t leaving you” (or something like that). I promise to visit. In reality as it happened I was saying goodbye forever. I’m hoping Pepere doesn’t change his mind as he cannot care for himself. The assisted living facility with most of his relatives nearby is the best bet.

09/15 – The move goes off without a hitch. One of the kids (Billy) is staying behind to be with Memere. I’ll leave the rest of that for another blog.

09/19 – I visit Memere (I wasn’t staying over but I did visit). Billy basically stayed the whole time. He set up a shrine of pics and other stuff beside her bed. He was also watching Twilight Zone on DVD. I gently suggest that at 7 – 8 weeknights she watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. This visit is significant because

09/20 – I get a phone call at 6:30 in the morning. I didn’t have to be psychic to know what it was. My mom tearfully informs me that “Memere passed”. I wasn’t sure where Billy was (he left right after she passed away as it happens) but I knew I couldn’t just go to school. Of course my internet is down so I have to drive to the school to put in for a sub. I don’t get one that late but I can’t work, my Mom needs me. There are things that have to be done and I’m not sure she could do them alone. The team I was part of at school (Cinnie, Tonia, Renee) split up my kids and offer their support. I’m so thankful for that.

09/20 – We go to Hospice, pick up Memere’s things. The cross she always wore on her neck was almost lost but it was found. The cremation arrangement was done by phone. Everything goes as well as possible during this time (almost).

Let me tell you a bit about my grandmother. I think she was a unique personality.

1) She was the boss of the house. Pepere could get angry or take charge and as a dutiful wife she would go along with it but she was in charge. There was a sign that read “The opinions of the husband of this household are not necessarily those of the management”. Uh, yep.

2) She loved me very much. More than the other grandkids. I’m not sure why. My mom and I lived with them for several years. In addition I had ADHD (called hyperactivity back then) and mild autism. Part of it may have been sympathy. I don’t know for sure, I’m not sure I know everything that happened to me as a child.

3) She was like a second mom as she babysat me 8 hours a day (a few when I was in school). She tried to work with my hyperactivity and took a bunch of childhood rage from me for it. I was a kid but I still cringe  at how I treated her as a pre-teen.

4) She was set in her ways. There was a schedule and it was followed every day. She also planned everything out. They would discuss at 9 AM what was for lunch. The TV schedule was set. From 7-8 Wheel& Jeopardy every night.

5) She was funny. When we needed rain she did a rain dance (she wasn’t PC). She hated Tiger Woods. “Miss, miss, miss”, “Bunker, bunker, bunker”. Maybe she was a good judge of character (considering Mr. Woods’ many affairs). Some of the other stuff she said was funny.

6) She was feisty. Preempt one of her shows for a presidential news conference and she would not be happy. One time she was in the hospital and it took a while to be released (a 20 hour stay for a “routine” blood transfusion). Oh she fussed and fussed.

7) Her favorite shows were game shows. “Millionaire”, “5th Grader”, “Deal” (everything was shortened). The last few years it was hard to find shows she enjoyed. At least “Cops” was on and she watched “America’s Most Wanted” and always saw at least one person from the show.

8) She also did some things that made you say “Hmmm…”. She watched Judge Judy every day. She would always say “Ol’ Judy’s at it today” meaning she was getting mad at a litigant. Memere had many catchphrases by the way. She hated the way Judy treated the litigants but she watched every day.

9) Some Memereisms: “Ol’ Judy is at it today”, “Can’t fight city hall”, “Here he is, the man of the hour”, “Did you get a haircut?” (she hated my long hair, my mom loved it), “Don’t eat too fast”, “Watch out for the idiots” (other drivers) or its variation “Its a full moon, watch out for the idiots”, “I can save more money because I’m not buying it” and my favorite “You can have a cookie” (especially if I was on a diet).

10) She could have been a part of neighborhood watch as she was a big people watcher. Pepere always said “Memere knows what’s going on”.

11) She was a devout Catholic. As old age robbed more of her health the one thing she did not want to lose was her ability to go to church (see below).

12) She rolled with the punches and showed great strength as old age took its toll. Can’t go to Disneyworld? No problem. Can’t move around like we used to? We can deal with that. I have to drive? I can do that (well, maybe she could do that, no wrecks in any case). She and Pepere showed great dignity as their abilities diminished. They enjoyed what they could do and not what they could no longer do.

13) People who met them loved them. My grandparents could charm anyone.

14) She was a great caretaker. She could have been a nurse (and one of her daughters became a nurse). She took care of me and my cousin Shawna as kids (me for much longer). When Pepere lost his mobility she waited on him hand and foot. The greatest testimony to Memere, the greatest tribute was that when she had the stroke (her last moments of real coherence) there was a cup of coffee in the microwave, I believe it was hers. My grandfather had just been served breakfast. That was her last willful act on this planet. She fed me the day before. She got Pepere his breakfast, sat down and that was it.

One more point I feel must be made: I steadfastly and absolutely REFUSED to ask God to heal her during this time. If He was willing fine but I said I would not ask for that. Why? Because in my mind that would be questioning God’s plan. The idea is you’re born, you grow up, you contribute then you pass on. We don’t live forever and we aren’t supposed to. I wish she had lived another 5 years. I wish Pepere and her could have enjoyed their return to New Hampshire, experiencing all the great things the assisted living facility (Bentley Commons) had to offer. But her life was a testimony to God’s plan for us. I refused to be selfish enough to say “Yeah God I know that’s how it works but heal Memere because, because, because …. I want You too”. God has a plan, a purpose and a will. I feel living a full life and dying at a ripe old age while still being able to do what she wanted to do (take care of Pepere and the rest of us) is exactly in line with that plan.

Honestly I procrastinated and rushed this a bit to get it out on 9/20. I might refine it for the second anniversary. I just felt that my grandmother deserved a tribute. A “regular” person, not famous or brilliant but unique. I’ve never met anyone else quite like her.

Cecile “Memere” Ross (6/21/1923 – 09/20/2011). RIP.

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