It Ain’t Easy Being Indian – March 2019

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By Ricey Wild

Dear friends; my beloved Gramma Rose who I’ve written about many times has passed on at 100+years old. I grieve her deeply but she was ready to leave us and is with her family and friends on the other side now. Her deceased husband and son came to bring her home so I know she is in loving company. La Rose, our Queen Bee is gone but will never leave her family; she told me she would always look after us and I know she will. Bless you Gramma, I love you forever!

As my grandparents first born grandchild to a single mother I was welcomed into the family and was spoiled, but not rotten. I learned later we were poor, but I didn’t know that. For me it was all love and hugs. That is what I remember most about me dear ole Gram, that she loved and helped everyone the best she could, and prayed for us with doing a rosary and putting down tobacco for the spirits to ensure her prayers got through. Gawd knows we all needed them.

I’ve never not had her in my life and I am lost as to who I am now. The little girl “Inkapunk” (her nickname for me) is crying, bawling and baffled. During the times I had no one I always had her steady, unquestioned love and presence. Back in the day when I still lived in Minneapolis and you still had to pay for long distance, Gram would call me and begin to sing, “I just called to say I love you” by Stevie Wonder. My heart would melt and then I’d sing along with her. She’d stop and say, “Gad! What awful singing!” and we’d laugh.

I’m just glad I was able to maintain my demeanor as best I was able during her funeral services and not throw myself in her grave like I (mostly jokingly) told my Unk Vern. Gramma was baptized Catholic and requested a Mass for her funeral service. I haven’t been to a church in years and really didn’t know what was going on – what with the priest exhorting us to stand, kneel or sit. When the Father spread his arms up I almost did too, but I looked behind me and no one else did, so…?

When it came time for the mourners to receive the sacrament (?) only four people went up to get it, and the priest’s blue eyes widened in obvious consternation at we non-wafer people. Then he went back up to the alter and guzzled some wine and then thoroughly polished the holy grail. I was amazed at all the ceremony, incense, the call and response chanting. The whole church service was like aerobics for my old bones. Frankly, I think they make you do all that so you don’t fall asleep.

Gramma requested that I deliver her eulogy and I spent the day before taking notes and crying, trying to do her justice. Well…I forgot my notes but got up there anyway and told everyone I was going to wing it. I thought it would all come back to me but the message that came through the clearest was that she loves ‘Her People’ and I repeated that. So I muffed what was to be a profound and loving send-off – but now that I recall it I feel that was her main message.

My Gramma was so endearingly funny, she was quick to laugh and repeat stories about her family and friends and throw her head back and laugh like it was the first time she told it. Rose was also close to tears when her close family was not getting along and said she prayed for no more fighting. Her legacy is compassion, empathy and love. I have always been grateful for her and that I got to be in her life.

I did interview her several times, telling her to just talk like we always do but she would clam up so I never got the whole story, so to speak. Gramma did hold the secrets entrusted to her until her death, not that I ever pressed her for them. She was born in 1918, an entirely different world from the one that we all exist in now. Rose lived to see many catastrophic and phenomenal world events and ended up living comfortably at home with a cordless phone and remote controls for the cable TV.

What a life! I’m ending with a poem my son Steve wrote when he was 7 or 8 years old. I was crying at a sad TV show. I think this fits:

When sadness comes,
Happiness arises
When life ends,
Joy somehow lives on
Come tears,
Come Sun
Upon to dry those tears
Darkness comes light,
One will always become two
Life lives on