Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Grammy

Today is my grandmother Katherine's birthday. We called her "Grammy". She was a Leap Year baby, and if she were still alive today she would be 96 years old and celebrating her 24th birthday.

I was named "Katherine" in honor of my mother's mother, although growing up everyone called me "Katie" (until I moved south after grad school and decided I wanted to appear more "mature", so I started going by "Kate".....still my family and friends from home call me Katie, which I like. It's nice to have 2 identities, especially when I get a phone call for "Katie" and then if I don't recognize the voice I can narrow it down to those who know me by that name.)

My grandmother, she always went by "Katherine". Not Kate, not Katie, although I vaguely remember my Uncle Fred calling her "Kater". When she was younger, her camp girlfriends gave her the nickname "Pete". But for the 36 years I knew her, she was "Grammy" to me.

Grammy was so special, so talented, so lovable. She could do anything; she could cook and sew, she was kind to everyone. She was always laughing and teasing....I remember her playfully reprimanding my dad at times, calling him "Lee-Lon", a play on his name Leon. She would teach us new card games, and serve us Fresca, and make us open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches in her toaster oven. She would make us pajamas every Christmas, which I called "Grammy Jammies". I remember when I was in college, she offered to crochet me a bikini!

She was a wonderful grandmother, and even though I was a horrible teenager, she loved me anyway. Even when I was 14 and she stayed with us for a few days while my parents went out of town, and I stayed out past curfew with my friends and worried her until she called the police....she still loved me. I'm not even sure she ever told my parents about it. (Of course, now they'll know). I don't know, maybe I reminded her of herself when she was younger, because I heard from my uncle that she was a pretty wild teenager herself, breaking curfew, skipping school, etc.

But I always knew that Grammy loved me no matter what, and I loved her dearly too. There is something special about a grandmother, you know? She and I wrote letters to each other, even as an adult I still wrote to her to keep her posted, and after I moved south I tried to visit her in PA every time I drove home to NY.

My dear sweet Grammy passed away in May 2001. I was pregnant with Leah, my 2nd child, maybe 12 weeks along. When I visited Grammy in the hospital for the last time I made sure she knew we were expecting again. She so loved her first great-granddaughter, Emma (whom we had named after Grammy's mother, my great-grandmother), that I know she would have been thrilled to have had the chance to hold Leah too....and Frances, and Jesse for that matter.

I knew that this baby would carry a part of my grandmother with her. I can't explain it, but I just felt my grandmother's spirit all through the pregnancy. And so when baby arrived, we named her Leah Katherine, in honor of her special great-grandmother. Leah Katherine, now 6 years old, is an awful lot like her great-grandmother: fun-loving, cheerful, sunny, always laughing. In fact, the other day, I happened to glance at Leah from the side and I saw my Grammy. Just for a split-second. It was awesome.

I was thinking about my grandmother again this morning, because it is her Leap Year birthday, and because I often think about her and miss her very much. Today I was reminded of something my mother (who is every bit as special and talented as her mother was) wrote me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She wrote that if Grammy were here, she would know just what to say, and she would wrap me in a big hug and tell me it would be all right. My mother's words gave me comfort then and now. I know Grammy would do all that, and even though she's not here on Earth I know that she is sending all her prayers and and hugs to me from Heaven. And if she could hold her great-grandchildren, she would give them big squeezes and tell them how special they are, just like she used to do to me.

Happy Birthday, Grammy. I miss you.