The Queen of Forest Hills
A lot of my early blogging adventures featured my Grandma Flo.
A few from the archives:
- Five Minutes with Flo
- New Year, No Change
- The Spelling Bee (Grandma’s a hero in this one!)
- Mother’s Day Wrap-Up
But a few years ago, it started to become obvious that any new stories about my grandma were less in the “infuriating, but relatively harmless” category and started to fall into the “she’s a danger to herself and others” bucket. An increased descent into unchecked alcoholism, dementia and a refusal to give up driving and accept adequate help meant that our relationship deteriorated from strained at best to almost total estrangement. Out of respect to my family, I decided not to share even the less-horrific adventures — but rest assured, there were plenty.
On Wednesday night, grandma passed away.
I’m okay. It’s unfortunately a mixture of relief and sadness. She was very unhappy for a long time, and clearly not making great decisions for herself. Both short and long-term prognosis was pretty grim. And yet, because we had been called to her bedside to say goodbye several times over the last few years — I am still somewhat in shock that she is truly gone. She was that much of a force in our lives.
And while I feel completely at peace with my decision in these past few years to cut ties to her, I have some really wonderful, warm memories of my grandma when I was a little girl. The woman has been gone for years, and I’ve finished mourning her — but knowing that it’s really all over? It’s jarring.
In an effort to help my mom and aunt make sense of the apartment that grandma has been living in (renting!) for about 50 years, my sister and I started cleaning out some drawers and organizing paperwork. One of my grandma’s greatest achievements was that for the better part of 30 years, she was a truly beloved teacher. She had saved dozens of truly heartfelt notes from both parents and students about her incredible impact. I believe every word. There was one class that clearly stuck out for her – and a star pupil she kept in touch with for years and years. She even saved a handwritten “playbill” from their annual production of The King and I.
Marisa and I were placing it in the appropriate pile, and the name of the “King” stuck out to her. Billy Eichner — it didn’t really ring a bell for me, but as soon as she told me who he was — I was shocked! I love this guy! I googled to find out if he was from Forest Hills, and lo and behold, he definitely was.
I am not sure if Grandma knew one of her students was a giant success, but I know that if she did — we would have never heard the end of it. She would be so proud.
I tweeted him the pic, and he quickly replied and couldn’t be more gracious.
I’ll be sending him the original.
Rest in Peace, Grandma.