October 27, 2014

Dear Josephine

I first heard about you when my Grandpa Lema called my whole family and said "I eloped in Reno and I don't care who knows it."  Apparently Grandpa met you, decided he wanted to marry you, won you over, and convinced you to run away to Reno to get married.  And he didn't give a damn what anyone thought about it.  We had no idea who you were but I thought you must be pretty awesome if you ran away to Reno to get married in your 80s.

Before you met my Grandpa, he was alone.  My Grandma had passed away on my birthday a year before.  I will never forget the look on my grandpa's face when he said goodbye to my grandma.  I will never forget his voice saying "Well Avis, this is it."

I wondered how he would ever be able to go on without my grandma, a person he had spent his entire adult life with.  The person who was waiting for him when he came home from World War II with scars much deeper than his skin.  The person who took his crap and dished it right back.  The person who smacked him with a wooden kitchen spoon if he tried to eat dinner before anyone else.  And the only person who could rival him in competitiveness when it came to family board games.  If dice was flying through the air at someone, it was one of them throwing it.

But then you came into his life and gave him a chance to be happy again.  And to have a companion.  I immediately liked you when I met you because your hair was perfect and you were wearing head to toe fuchsia.  It was a bold fashion choice, and I respected it.  You didn't ever try to replace my grandma, but you were kind and you loved my grandpa, who at the time was one of the grumpiest people on the planet.  To the point where we all called him Grumpa. I know you did your best to help him when his mind started going.  Thank god he had you.

I will never forget that you held me at Grandpa's funeral.  I went to hug you and tripped and fell towards you instead, flailing my arms.  My face landed in your bosom and you were not fazed.  You did not budge as I tried to regain my balance.  You never judged me for being weird and accident prone, even at funerals.  You just kept hugging me.

And even though your ties to our family were cut when Grandpa passed away, you still wanted to be a part of our lives.  You wrote me letters and were an excellent pen pal.  Also your handwriting was way better than mine.  As was your grammar.

When I went to see you last, you said when I was leaving that you hoped we would meet someday again.  We both knew what that meant, but you weren't scared when you said it.  You looked brave.  You were wearing a fuchsia sweater and your hair was still perfect.  You were 99 years old and you didn't give a damn what anyone thought.

Thank you for keeping the memory of my grandpa alive by telling me stories about him long after he was gone.  And for being so kind to an awkward little kid (adult) when she needed it the most.

-In memory of Josephine Lema, a hell of a lady