An Ode to my Irish Grandma

Feeling more like myself on this lucky Thursday

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, DTT Readers! Cheers to another week! This week, like every other one during the past few years, has flown by in the flash of a leprechaun escaping a trap. I’m still Fitbit-free and feeling fabulous this week. I started a new gut-friendly workout and lifestyle program on Tuesday and my body and mind are happy with the changes so far.

Since everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to keep this week’s post rooted among the shamrocks. Our family Leprechaun left the girls some treats this morning, as they successfully fulfilled their duty of collecting the gold coins he’d scattered throughout the house since last Thursday. As you can tell by the photo, one of my Irish Lassies is a bit more excited than the other about the Leprechaun’s latest antics. It’s moments such as these that I truly long for the days when both of the girls got excited about our magical holiday elves, leprechauns and bunnies. Sigh.

I must admit that I would more than likely skip over St. Patrick’s Day on my way from Valentine’s Day to Easter, but my Grandma Garceau (maiden name Laffey) prided herself in her Irish heritage. And given the fact that her birthday fell just three days before St. Patrick’s Day, she was destined to adorn shamrocks and smiles as soon as the calendar page turned to March 1st. Since she passed away in 2016, I’ve made even more of an effort to break out our St. Patty’s Day decor and coordinating shirts.

Grandma Garceau would have turned 100 this year if she hadn’t left us almost six years ago. I fondly remember her 90th birthday, not only because we celebrated in true Helen-style with family and friends at the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, RI, but I had also just given birth to Elyse via c-section about two weeks before the party. I was thankful that I felt well enough to attend with Clara in tow, while Taylor remained at home tending to our new daughter. During the party, we all shared our favorite “Helen Memories” and enjoyed celebrating my grandmother, a woman who I sincerely think of every single day. Although she was never able to visit our home in Virginia, I’ve inherited and displayed several of her possessions around my house, as they really do bring me such comfort, while also allowing me to honor both she and my grandfather, Henry. Her antique vanity resides in my master bathroom, where every morning I sit down in the chair where she once sat and put on my jewelry and makeup. I’ve displayed a picture of Grandma and I — taken sometime in the early 2000s — on the vanity table. It makes me happy to see her smiling face — the way I will always remember her — everyday.

When Grandma died, I wrote a eulogy and read it at the cemetery before we said our final goodbyes on that sad day in July of 2016. As a way to commemorate what would have been her 100th birthday on March 14, 2022 and her favorite holiday, I’d like to share those words with you today, my dear DTT Readers. After I read through them again this morning, I raised my shamrock covered china teacup in my grandmother’s memory, along with the memory of her husband, Henry, and my other grandparents, George and Claire Mathieu, and revered them with the Irish blessing, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” Until next week, DTT Readers…

Grandma’s Glory

In Loving Memory of Helen E. Garceau

Stylish. Vivacious. Joyous. These words, among many others, can be used to describe my grandmother, Helen Garceau. But, to me, the one word that personifies Grandma is: Proud. Anyone who knew Grandma is keenly aware that she had closets packed with chic clothes and her calendar was always booked with parties and other social gatherings. She also had albums filled with family photos and scrapbooks brimming with newspaper clippings, invitations and program booklets. Whenever one of our names was in the paper she clipped and saved it – baptisms, birth announcements, communions, honor rolls, graduations, engagements, weddings, you name it. If your name was in print, she added it to her book. She had clippings from Uncle Richard’s Small World Nursery, Auntie Cheryll’s wedding, my mom, Jeanine’s high school graduation photo and even when Auntie Karen needed to get a permit to have her windows replaced. We all knew that if our picture or name were in the paper, we had to make sure that we saved an extra copy for Grandma.

During our last visit with her on Friday, she was in high spirits as she excitedly told us a story about Christine and Ryan’s sons, Brody and Ryder, at Brody’s First Communion, remarked at how big Charlie and Olivia were getting and how they, along with Becca and Corky, had visited. Her face lit up when she talked of both Rachel and Tom’s and Jeffrey and Alyssa’s upcoming weddings and Mark’s entry into the seminary. I was touched, but not surprised, when she mentioned how she had told every one of her nurses about my marathon run in Boston in April.

As I looked around her room at Wingate, which, of course, contained a spacious walk-in closet, she made sure to point out those prized possessions that decorated her space — photos of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, among other religious artifacts and precious family mementoes. In true Grandma-fashion, she made sure we knew how everyone always remarked about her beautiful family. Although, our queen informed us that she had been receiving the royal treatment from the Wingate Staff, including a ride to the hospital in a Lincoln Town car and several escorted trips to various Wingate events by the Director of Nursing herself, she beamed with pride as she talked about each of her grandchildren and how proud she was of the people they had become. She told me that she was so happy that each one of us had grown up to find much love and success. That was the thing about Grandma – no matter what you did, she was proud of you and nothing thrilled her more than sharing that pride with others. She was known to carry around a book of family photos with her wherever she went and she eagerly shared it with everyone from her hair stylist to strangers on a cross-country flight.

We all have our own books filled with great Helen stories — memories of silly things that happened to her, whether or not they were her doing or just happenstance. But, Grandma’s books were filled with stories, celebrations and photos of her family and she was sure to document it all, knowing that when her story was over, ours still go on. Before our visit ended on Friday night, we exchanged I love yous, hugs and kisses. As I left her room, she said, “Thank you so much for visiting. You can go, sweetheart. Everything will be fine.” It wasn’t until after she passed the next day that I understood the meaning of her final words to me. She knew that we would all take care of each other in her absence; that her children would be cared for by her grandchildren and vice versa. Those that had she had raised and been so proud of now had the strength and courage to carry one another in our times of need. Her work was done and she could rest knowing that she had given us the tools and confidence to continue to do great things.

It’s been almost 11 years since my grandfather passed away. I’m comforted knowing that Grandma and Grandpa have been reunited in their eternal rests. And knowing, Grandma, since their reunion, she’s been filling Grandpa in on what he’s missed these past 11 years – showing him photos of those great-grandchildren he never got a chance to meet and clippings of all of the other celebrations and milestones he missed. And as they sit together, I imagine that, like the sun, they will be beaming down on us all, during all of those proud and joyous moments yet to come.

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