On Friday evening, my Nana joined my Papa in Heaven after suffering from ALS. She was surrounded by her family and died a peaceful death aided partly by pain killers. I will miss her very much but am happy that she is no longer suffering. ALS took away her ability to speak and eat. I hope she’s in Heaven enjoying a large slice of cheesecake and a Bud Light. I choose to remember her when she was younger and sassy. Nana was a strong, well educated outspoken woman who was devoted to her family and friends. When her beloved Denver Broncos played, she would wear her shirt, break out her rug, and enjoy a beverage out of her favorite mug.
When I was younger, I spent summers with her and my Papa. Each year we would go to Colorado hauling the camper behind us. On those long trips, Nana and I would play “Guess Who They Are.” The object of the game was to make up stories about the people in the cars around us. For a time, we stayed at KOA’s which we always my favorite due to the swimming pool factor. Nana would always send me out to scout out the area expecting a full and creative report about the other campers.
Both my Nana and my Papa were advocates of higher education. Papa always said that education was the one thing that could never be taken away from you. Nana completed several degrees in her late forties and early fifties. After owning a Montgomery Wards store and completing one of her Bachelor’s Degrees, Nana went on to teach Special Education. She always joked that raising four children prepared her more for teaching than going to college. During this time, she volunteered teaching adult literacy.
Nana taught me so many things that I am having trouble remembering all of them. She taught me to cross stitch and sew. Around 13 I had enough cross stitched pillow cases to stock a Linens ‘n Things. She taught me how to write a check, that ladies didn’t smoke on the street, make Sad Cake, let me have my first tastes (actually they were more than tastes) of champagne and bourbon. And although I didn’t practice it until later in my life, that daily exercise was very important to maintain a healthy weight and low cholesterol and blood pressure. And one of the most important thing that she taught me was that some hurts do not away. Once, she told me the story of her mothers death and although it had been over 45 years since her mother passed, Nana cried at the memory. She was also the type of person that when she gave you a compliment you knew she meant it.
Nana always had great sayings like “Tables are for food not for fanny’s” (I liked perching mine on the side of the table), “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. And she was pretty strict about manners. You didn’t ask “Can I?” it was “May I?”. Nana and Papa had a zero tolerance policy on the word: hate. You didn’t say that you hated a particular food. Oh no. Ask my Uncle Greg about that one.
Here’s to you Nana. I will always love you and will cherish the memories of cooking together, working out to Richard Simmons’s “Dancing to the Oldies”, and the rib crushing hugs and endless supply of kisses.