As I’m writing this, I have sitting in front of me the last thing I will ever receive from my Grandma Edie. Maybe the last thing that anyone will. Edie was consistent in many habits, and one of them was sending greeting cards for every possible event. Last Monday, September 19, 2011, was my second wedding anniversary. We didn’t receive our card that day. We did, however, receive a phone call from my mother saying that we had better get back to Ohio quickly.
Although it was a trivial incident over the scope of her life, my favorite story about my grandmother happened when she was working at the Pentagon during World War II. She was young, hadn’t really been out of Cincinnati before that, and had never seen pedestrian traffic signals before. The first time she was crossing some streets, the instructions were obvious – WALK means you walk across the street. There was some confusion with the other instruction – DON’T WALK must, of course, mean that there’s a war on so don’t you be wasting your time just walking across this street. Luckily, this little misunderstanding did not result in any collisions with passing automobiles, and Edie went on to marry and have several children in whom to instill proper pedestrian etiquette.
My Grandma Edie liked words and games, and games about words. When we got together, her favorite activities were Scrabble, gin rummy, and correcting our errant grammar (she would not approve of the incomplete sentences found in this post). Maybe all those games of gin rummy had something to do with me becoming a gamer. Maybe her insistence on always following the rules rubbed off some on me too. I probably would have been better off if the way that she was always able to care about every life update of every family member rubbed off on me a bit more. Well, unless the Reds or Bengals are playing right now, because then you’ll have to wait until she has time to talk.
Father Kemper (Edie’s favorite priest) came to give my grandmother last rites, and she was at peace, but she kept looking at the clock because there was a mental list of people she had to see before she left. The other three Unstoppable Ries Sisters. The friends she had kept from elementary school (I was a military brat, and it still feels strange to me to have known a friend for more than three years; I still can’t wrap my head around keeping a friend for 75 years). Three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. She was able to see all of us. Katie, Benjamin, and I were the last to arrive, and she passed two hours later.
At Edie’s funeral mass, I did the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9). One of the verses in that reading is “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” I can’t say I agree that’s happened yet.
The anniversary card was waiting for us when we finally got back to Atlanta; a last reminder of a grandmother’s love and a new source of tears.
In memoriam Edith Ries Yuellig
February 24, 1925 – September 21, 2011