in memoriam: Barbara Anne

One year ago today, my sweet grandmother passed away. I'm sad that she didn't get to meet her great-grandson this year (I was only about 12 weeks pregnant with him at her funeral), but I'm also thankful she's at peace after many long years with Alzheimer's. What follows is what I wrote (and read) for her service last January when we laid her to rest: 

My Dad, Ralph Jr., asked if I’d say a few words about Nana today. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a few words could never be enough to cover all that she was. Nana was the picture of strength, determination, patience, tough love, and kindness. Witty. Sharp as a tack. Quick to speak her mind. A big heart and a big laugh. There’s no way to capture all that in a few words.

So instead I thought I’d focus on one small thing—one memorable feature to me, and that was Nana’s hands.

You might not think there could be anything remarkable about a pair of hands, but you’d be surprised.

Nana’s hands were always warm, always moving, never resting, but always graceful.

As a kid, I remember her hands brushing the hair out of my face after the cousins spent hours playing dress-up in the basement or jumping around on the couches;

I remember her hands holding an open book while her pinky finger traced the words as she read aloud.

Her hands wiping away my tears after I cracked the clubhouse mirror while doing somersaults that one Thanksgiving.

Her hands smoothing the bed sheets, tucking in the hospital corners so they were perfect, not a single wrinkle.

Her hands swatting the air, brushing off some smart-aleck comment from Uncle Steve or Uncle Ralph.

Her hands running through her hair when she got stressed, especially on that fated day in Florida in 1994 when Andrea chipped her tooth in the pool. Nana kept running her hands through her silver curls until they were standing on end, again and again yelling “Jesus Ralph” all the way to the emergency dentist.

And even in the later years, as her memory started to fade, her hands stayed the course.

At her place in Brooksby Village one night, as I was getting ready for bed, her hands tapped on the door;
“Do you need a bathrobe Devie?”                             
“No thanks Nan.”
Minutes later, another knock on the door; “Devie, do you want a bathrobe?”
“I’m fine Nan.”
Then as I was falling asleep, she popped her head into the room, “Devie, I thought you could use a bathrobe,” and her hands carefully pressed the bathrobe into mine.

At dinner one time, I remember Ben sitting next to Nana, grabbing her hand and saying, “Nan, let’s arm wrestle.” And without missing a beat she said, “No, Sonny, I don’t want to hurt you.”

When my husband Ryan and I took her to Friendly’s, her hands never quit—she’d be straightening the sugar packets and place settings—that is, until her ice cream arrived. Then, in between spoonfuls, she’d tell us again:

“You know what he said to me, your grandfather? He said, ‘Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll get it for you.’ …So I stopped, and the ball rolls over the sand dune. Then he walks over and says ‘You didn’t really think I was going to climb down there and get it, did you?’ And I said to myself, ‘Boy, what a jerk this guy is.’”

She smiled, one hand rubbing the veins of the other in a comforting, circular motion, her green eyes gleaming as though she hadn’t thought of this memory in years, and she added softly, “He was a good man.”

These were the hands that touched countless lives in her years of nursing.

The hands that cared lovingly for her 10 grandchildren.

The hands that raised 4 wonderful people, who are also the picture of strength, tough love, and kindness.

And the hands that, for the better part of 44 years, held the hands of a man we all loved.

Even though we miss her, I know Poppie is happy to have her back at his side.

And I like to picture them both smiling down from up there, somewhere, where the smell of Italian food and cigar smoke lingers in the air.


and now, we wait

People keep asking if I'm ready for this baby to arrive. The short answer is "Yes." The real answer is "Does one ever feel ready to push a watermelon-sized person through one's ladyhole?" (If you haven't seen this clip of Mila Kunis from Jimmy Kimmel you should watch it.)

But yes, I'm as ready as I'm going to be. We have all the necessities and recommended baby paraphernalia (thanks to many generous gifts from friends and family), and so I'm documenting it here with a few photos. 

Eleven other babies in my family have slept in this crib (starting with my mom in 1957). The frog above it was also in my room and my brothers' rooms when we were tiny tots. 


oh yeah, the other dog

Do you remember when I made such a big deal about getting our first dog Gabby's DNA results?

Then we got another pup and like most "second children," she never got quite the same level of attention as the first. Well we did do a DNA test for dog #2 (Jazz) but I never posted the results. Until now... [dramatic music swells]...

So she's basically a certified mutt. I feel that these inconclusive DNA results further prove my thesis that she is, in fact, a coydog. Pay no attention to the domesticated patriotic lei she's wearing in this photo—don't let it distract you from her clear coyote similarities.