Au Revoir, Estelle Marguerite

This was I think, the last picture Gram ever drew for me. She was always drawing or painting something, usually animals, which she loved. I’m pretty sure giraffes were her favorite.”Look at their darling faces” she would say. She often said it was my grandfather who was the artist, but she was an artist too. I have a little framed watercolor of her two cats, Fred and Harry-o, that has sat on my dresser and has moved with me everywhere since I was a little girl. I have another painitng she did of a cardinal. She thought the legs were all wrong-“like a chicken’s legs” she said. I never noticed.

What I do notice, now, as I become middle aged, are glimpses of her face in my own when I look in the mirror. I’ve inherited a lot of things from her, I think: the loony sense of humor that enables me to “get” Monty Python, the love of animals, the books piled everywhere, the wide ranging interests in you name it, and absolutely the gene that makes me think (as she always said) “I have more interesting things to do than clean my house” which in her case was true.  She was always doing something interesting: painting, writing, making dolls, needlwork, cooking, telling funny stories. (like the time she was taking her driving test in the 50s and hit the gas instead of the brakes at a crucial moment. When the instructor told her he would be unable to pass her she said “Oh that’s alright. I’m just going to tell my husband you grabbed my leg.”” Mrs Day, please don’t tell him that!” I can still see her laughing, her head thrown back. Somehow, she did eventually pass and drove well into her 80s).

Like Gram, I  tend to be skeptical of things like religion, and I’m a bit mystified by those who seem to have all the answers and are so sure. Gram, however was much more definite and outspoken about it than I am. She told me she didn’t believe in an afterlife. “When you’re dead, you’re dead, and that’s it” and she didn’t have a lot of patience for those who  tried to convince her otherwise, although I think she was more tolerant of the Catholic faith of her childhood than “that new agey stuff”. I think this was a very brave and lonely view to have, especially for someone who outlived her beloved husband and three of her six children.

Gram died today and as per her wishes is not going to have any kind of ceremony which, belief in an afterlife or not,  makes it hard to say good-bye. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind, but I hope that she was wrong, and she’s now in a place where she can be with all the people she lost, and that her heaven overlaps like a Venn diagram with giraffe heaven. I picture them sticking their long giraffe necks in the window of her book cluttered house like that hotel in Kenya we saw once on the nature channel. “Such darling faces” she’ll say.  She’ll feed them fruit and give them all French names.  Gram would laugh and roll her eyes….but I hope I see her there someday.

Good-bye, Gram. I’ll miss you.