I Forgot to Remember to Forget

It has been about nine months since we all lost Mary Lou, and yet I guess I haven’t fully dealt with her passing. I have always been the one to take the tough route focusing on my own needs last. During that tough time of her passing, I felt responsible to help keep the office together as well as my friends. Whether my presence was needed for this or not, this is what I’m compelled to do in a time of need. I tend to be a private emotion girl when crying is concerned, so during that entire time up until her funeral, I would lie in bed every night and cry. It can seem a bit pathetic; because why couldn’t I let my friends help me through this as I was helping them? It is a question I ask myself all the time, but something I don’t see changing for awhile. Why this sudden sad trip down memory lane? Well last night as lay in bed, I randomly began to think about that fiery woman and with that came the tears. I am definitely not dealing with it as I should, so today I thought I would put it in writing, deal with it my way.

Thinking back on it now, Mary Lou was probably the closest thing I could associate with a grandmother. My mom’s mother had passed away before I was born, and I was lucky enough to get some time with my dad’s mother and step-mother before they passed. My Grandma Knight is probably the one that I remember most clearly as she was extremely crafty and artistic. Her little apartment always had fabric, lace, and ribbon strewn about. I still covet many of dolls and animals that she made for me, but sadly our time was short.

Most of my memories of my Grandma Myers come from her nursing home. The few Christmases and summer vacations don’t leave to many memories, which are odd, because I have an abnormally good memory. She did venture up to see me one time for a Grandparents Day event for my school, which I believe was when I was in first or second grade. I can’t even remember the when of something that I was really important to me at the time. How sad is that? I was excited to finally have a grandparent present for the event, but I can’t remember any of the activities we did or her sitting with me at my desk. I remember her staying with us and the smell and the feel of her make-up case as I dragged my finger along the lid. That’s all I remember. Grandparents Day was always a day of discontent for me as I grew up and saw other children with their grandparents. I understood then as I do now, but you can’t help what ache you feel in your heart as you sit making macaroni necklaces and have no one to give it to. It was probably a couple of years after that she was place in the nursing home after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My mother wondered if I ever knew my real grandmother, because of the disease. I guess the sadder news is from the stories I’m told of her. I probably would have really gotten along with her. She had a heck of a humorous side and a voracious need to read, not unlike myself. I was still young when she passed, somewhere around the beginning of Junior High.

When I met Mary Lou, she was part of an overstuffed office that she shared with two other people, one of them being my boss at the time. Because I didn’t directly work with her, I just always thought she was a sweet dear. That was until she was quoted by fellow worker and friend. Let’s just say it was shocking…. funny, but shocking. For someone I didn’t know very well, I gained a large of amount of respect and admiration with one little line. When she was moved up to work with us in our sacred little island, we were in for the time of our life. I got to know the fearless, feisty, and ornery woman that was hidden by this dear sweet face of lady in her early seventies. I don’t think there was a person that came through our office that didn’t know Mary Lou. They would stop and talk with her at every moment.

She didn’t even lose her fire when she was faced with yet another battle with cancer. She would still throw her personality around. Probably one of our favorite memories of her is when she would get annoyed by an arrogant drug rep. I don’t think there’s one of us that worked with her that will forget her slamming her pen down on her desk and then shoving herself back in her chair to angrily look at us with exasperation and disbelief. The woman loved her American Idol and was determined to set me up Danny Gokey by either calling him or writing him a strong letter. This is making me laugh right now as I type this. For her birthday I decided to recycle a high school graduation gift one of my sisters gave me for Mary Lou. We were constantly aware of how much she liked the male form, so I thought I should give her a man for her birthday. It was a cardboard constructed man that I had been given and thought it should be passed on. She thought it was a riot!

The day I found out she was a huge Elvis fan, I couldn’t love her more. I let her borrow a horror comedy called Bubba Ho-Tep that was about Elvis in a nursing home fighting a mummy. Normally, this would not be the typical item to give a lady at her age, but she loved it as I knew she would. The time came when she was planning a trip with her family to Graceland. She was very excited about this, because she had never been. We were all for encouraging her Elvis love and even taped up a life size Elvis for her right before she left. When I found out the story of her personal Elvis collection or rather the destruction of it, I quickly ran out and bought her a hits album, because all she had was a gospel collection. I told her that the gospel collection was beautiful and should go along for the ride, but she couldn’t go to Graceland without Jailhouse Rock.

Somewhere during this time I began to wonder if this was what having a grandmother was like. I’m not going to say that she was the grandmother I never knew and always wanted, but she was the closest thing I had to one during the time I was blessed enough to know her. The day her impending loss to cancer was confirmed will never leave my mind. We were all aware that she was losing more causalities on her side of her battle than the cancer was. I’m not going to go into any more detail than that out of respect, because she was a very proud woman and did not want anyone to know more of her troubles than was necessary. But the day she found out she was going to lose…….. I was holding the fort that day, and she asked me if she could go home early. We were the ones that always talked her into to going home, because she feared she would leave us stranded. When she asked, it was serious, but the look in her eye is something I’ll never forget. I didn’t know at the time, but that was the last time I would see her. About a week afterwards, Mary Lou passed. I still try to beat myself up for chickening out and not visiting her. A part of me knows she’s not upset, because she did not want to be remembered that way. I just haven’t gotten over my personal guilt.

I handled her viewing well. I fought back a few tears throughout it. We shared our memories with other friends and family and watched slideshow of her life. Miss Mary Lou was a little Audrey Hepburn in her day. There were pictures from her trip to Graceland that I had yet to see, but one stuck out. It was her signing the wall of Graceland along with others that made me smile, only to find out that the message she left for the King was “See you soon.” The funeral was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in a long time. This was also the first funeral I have been to since I was a kid. I’m here to tell you that I miss the naivety of being a child during one. I was somewhat composed until her son started to sing for her, then most of what I tried to keep pent up broke through. The trip to the cemetery was much more of a blur than I realized at the time. We ended out night with a much needed gathering of just us girls, with a bit of alcohol mixed in. It had been a long rough day for everyone, and we just needed some comfort and each other. We weren’t as prepared as we thought for the next day at work, seeing her empty desk and knowing she wasn’t coming back.

Not long before I left Indiana, I decided that I wanted to visit her grave and say goodbye. I bought some roses I thought she might have liked and went to the cemetery. After two frustrating hours of my mother and I scouring the head stones, I was unable to find her. Regardless of what I thought I remembered of the funeral, I guess I was physically there, but my heart decided to carry the burden of both it and my mind. When I got home, I lay the flowers at the base of my crabapple tree and said my goodbyes and apologized that I couldn’t find her, but I would the next time I came back to Indiana.

I apologize for my somber mood throughout this, but I feel better having written it. I’m sure a thought or two about Mary Lou will still hit me just right, and I’ll probably tear up again, but maybe it will be less next time. She was a wonderful woman and now a memory I’ll keep close to my heart. For the girls back home at AHN that still get questions about where she is, just tell them she’s dancing with Elvis.