The person I have always admired most, growing up, was my grandmother. She was French, loved to laugh and to make others laugh, loved animals, and most importantly loved Jesus. I called her Mersie, all the grandchildren do. And even though she’s gone now, we always talk about her, almost as if she’s just in the next room, and would come in asking us what was so funny. We have a lot of funny memories of her.
It’s hard to write about her. It’s hard to think about her. But for some reason, it’s so easy to talk about her. All the stories start off, “Hey, remember when…”
It is difficult to suss out my first memory of her. There are so many. Like the time when she and Papa came to visit me at CWU and she snuck in her little dog under her coat. Oh, how she loved dogs. Animals of all kinds, really. My parents and I just got home from visiting Papa today, and he told me a story about her that really didn’t surprise me. The two of them were in the car and there was a rattlesnake in the middle of the road. Mersie wanted Papa to get out and help it safely across to the other side, and he was like, “No way, woman! That’s a freakin’ rattlesnake!” He didn’t actually say that… but I’m sure that thought or something like it was going through his mind.
My first memory of her is probably one of her laughing, or trying to make me laugh. Oh, how she lived for laughter! In her world, laughter cured everything. She had an absolute insane sense of humor. She was a registered nurse and Papa was an anesthesiologist. One April’s Fool’s Day I’ll never forget, she replaced his car in the hospital parking lot with a donkey. Seriously. Life, for her, was an adventure, and every single day was a gift.
Her home was called Phalen’s Phunny Pharm. Donkeys, goats, horses, turkeys. Dogs and cats by the dozens. They even had a llama once. On her driveway, she created her very own yellow brick road, and her house was Oz. It was magic. SHE was magic. Pure magic.
Everything changed when she got sick. Her personality, most of all. That is what Alzheimer’s does, isn’t it? It creeps up on you and, bit by bit, it robs you of everything that ever meant anything to you. She didn’t deserve it. No one does. Her dignity and happiness were stolen from her. But now… if I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can hear her laughing. She’s entertaining the angels, I know.