Monday, February 4, 2008

happy birthday, roey-rina

it boggles my mind that a bare nine and a half months after the titanic sank in the north atlantic, my grandmother was born. i had not made that connection until i discovered my great-grandmother's naturalization papers, dated april 12, 1912.

wasnt that when the titanic went down? asked my stepfather one day when i was telling him the story of the discovery.

my great-grandmother was a young woman, then. her age is given as 23. her boys are listed as frank (4) and joe (1). and soon, so very soon, there would be lucy, nicknamed rose.

if she'd been born even a generation later, i think she might've been happier. if she'd been born now, she'd go to uconn on a full basketball scholarship. my grandmother was uncommonly strong woman, athletic and vigorous well into her seventies. even now, her ailments - much to her chagrin - remain relatively minor, and even while her head sometimes wanders, her body retains the legacy of a life spent breathing clear ocean air, walking everywhere and an abstemious appetite that confined itself mostly to yogurt, cottage cheese, bananas and ice cream.

in her own way, i don't think she felt that she fit in any more than i frequently do. in her photos, she is usually glaring suspiciously at the camera, as if daring the person to take her picture. even when she is not directly the focus, she is most likely casting a sullen eye over the subject. no one understood the uses of evil eye more than my grandmother.

that i have always known myself to be her favorite is a fierce and terrifying thing. when fay wray is swept up in kong's arms, i know exactly how she feels. no tiny human could bear the weight of such crushing, all consuming love.

as we filed into the limosine after my aunt babe's funeral mass, where my cousin julie had spoken eloquently and with love about her grandmother, my aunt, and grandmother's sister, babe, my grandmother said, to no one in particular, "gee, i wonder whose going to say all those nice things about me when i die."

"don't worry, roey," i said on cue, as my aunt katherine gave me a Look. "i'm sure i will be there to stand up and say all sorts of good things. after all, i'm a writer, you know."

i forebore to remind both old ladies that i am primarily a writer of fiction.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

3 comments:

My name is Stacie. said...

Fact...Fiction...the lines are so easily blurred. That's what makes it so fun!

TinasTribe said...

I love how you talk about the crushing love you feel from her. What an amazing find you came across. It reminds me of when I found my great grandfathers name on a boat docutment from Ellis island. History is so important and interesting to me. Feel free to read my journals on Cafemom if you want :)

Judy Vars said...

I love the way you honor your grandmother, remember when the old woman on the movie Titanic dropped the priceless sapphire into the ocean.