The picture on the left is of my daughter Kayci who as most of you know is two years old. The picture on the right is of myself at the age of six spending time with my Grandmother (who was way too young to be called Grandma so I called her La La.) I had a difficult childhood and my La La was like a mother to me. I spent most days with her and many weekends. Often times my dad and I moved in with her as she had two apartments in her large home. She never had an easy life but no one would have known her struggles. She and my Grandfather divorced after having four sons. Later in life she met a man she truly loved and spent a lot of time with him. We went to his shore house frequently and he became part of our family. After he passed, he left my La La with a beautiful home on a lake. It needed a lot of work and everyone chipped in including mini me as she allowed me to help whenever I wanted. Now that I am a mother I understand I probably was making the job more difficult but she never let me know that. I felt proud to be able to help the woman I adored so much. She took a house that is the oldest home in this small town and turned it from run-down to the most beautiful home in town. It was not just that the home was beautiful, it was joyful. It became the home all of the family came for each holiday and had a warm, happy, inviting energy that made everyone cheerful and loving. A couple years after she had inherited her home, her youngest son passed away. I will never forget that day as at that time my dad and I were living at the Lake House as people call it now. My dad and I arrived home and La La was not home, however there was a police man at our door. I could tell by the vibe and the look in this man’s eyes that something terrible had happened. The police officer asked if I could leave the room and I did but only to hide in the next room so I would know what was going on. My Uncle, my dad’s youngest brother, and my La La’s heart had passed at a very young age. My dad held it together as he had to tell La La this life altering news. She was not home so he called her and explained he was sick and needed someone to watch Jessica (aka me.) La La always put family first and was home within thirty minutes. I do not know the courage it must of taken for my dad to give his mother this awful news. I do not remember all the details but I do remember La La on our pink stairway just sliding down the wall to her knees crying: “I never wanted anything to happen to my four boys or my Jessie.” I had never seen such pain in my Grandmother and I had no idea what to do. I have no idea how she got through this loss but it truly proves just how strong and amazing my La La was. I also will never forget those words: “I never wanted anything to happen to my four boys or my Jessie” as I never truly knew she thought of me as a daughter. It was one of the first moments I remember feeling part of a real family. Now that I am a mother, I truly do not know how she managed to be so strong the rest of her life and still take care of me and her Lake House.
The house remained the nuclear place our family met as a lot of our family do not live in New Jersey. La La made me a bedroom in her home called the “Yellow Brick Road Room” as my favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. She painted a yellow brick road throughout the room and made the walk in closet into the land of Oz. My dad came back to the Lake House after he and my step-mother separated. She had two apartments above the home that she rented out and my dad rented out one of her apartments. Following the Mayo Clinic where I learned to manage chronic pain naturally I made a decision to come back to the Lake House instead of renting an apartment as I had always done in my twenties because I needed a year to truly practice to tools I learned to accept and manage chronic pain naturally. A few years later I met someone who later turned out to be my husband. Once he and I got very serious, we rented out an apartment from La La as we loved the home and La La had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was in more need of help than she would ever had wanted to admit. She loved my husband beyond words and he was the first man I ever dated that she did not make fun of behind their back. I love my husband for the care and attention he gave to my La La and he considered her a Grandmother as well. The first person I told when I found out I was pregnant with Kayci was La La. I ran downstairs to give her the news than called my husband at work. During my pregnancy, La La became more sick but I was never able to accept that she was failing. I was an social worker for the elderly specializing in the medical field and yet I pretended she was okay. I just could not accept the fact that I could lose her. I was also petrified she would not make it to meet my daughter. She always told me, I was born to be a mother and that one day I would fill her home up with children: both her dream and mine. Kayci was born February 2nd, 2012. My dad brought La La to see her the following day. Although the Parkinson’s affected her body movements she was able to hold my heart and soul many times. A few months later, hospice was brought into our home as she wanted die peacefully and without pain. I spent most days in her bedroom sitting with La La and Kayci. We laid in bed with her all the time and had constant visitors come and visit one of the greatest women they had ever known. My Aunt Pat (La La’s sister and best friend) moved into the Lake house for months to spend time with her sister and our family. The bond and love between them was something I never had seen except as a social worker but not in my personal life. Seeing that bond made me certain Kayci would not be an only child as I want that for her as well. It was not long before the nurses told us La La had mere days, if that to live and we needed to say goodbye. That night the closest people to La La sat around her bed crying and saying goodbye and it was okay for her to go. Each morning I ran down the pink stairs, straight to her room to make sure she was breathing. Three nights went on where we all sat around crying explaining she no longer needed to suffer and we would be okay. Each of those nights were beyond emotional and no one could stop crying. She refused to let go. After the third night, I laid in bed with La La and my daughter Kayci and my dad. We put on Baby Mozart and Kayci was laughing which made my dad and I begin to laugh and marvel at what a joy Kayci was bringing to our lives. I looked over and saw that La La had stopped breathing. She waited until the room was filled with laughter and happiness surrounded by her oldest son, her little Jessie, and her dream come true: Kayci.
The Lake House now belongs to my husband, myself, and our daughter Kayci. At times it is difficult because I miss her so much and there is not one room to go in where there is not some reminder of my La La. However, I will never forget when La La said: “I hope one day you can fill all these rooms with children and be the greatest mom, as I know that is your dream.” La La has been gone for about two years and I probably cry (especially lately) weekly because I want her to hug me and tell me everything will be okay. I believe La La is still here, call me crazy but my daughter makes references to her a lot. I once made La La a Build a Bear for Christmas. I picked a monkey and made a wish on the heart before they sewed the monkey up. I wished that chronic pain would not take away my dreams. Kayci has about fifty plus stuffed animals (its ridiculous!) Out of all the stuffed animals Kayci has she had to have the monkey with her at all times and named her Emmie. La La slept with Emmie next to her every night in the room that is now ours and at the age of merely one Kayci began taking Emmie everywhere. Times have been difficult as of late and Kayci has made so many references to La La. Three days ago I was making a collage of our family in the one room we do not allow Kayci in, the dining room saved for special occasions. I allowed her to come in with me because she wanted to help aka play with tape. She randomly picked up a tin box with the word Singer on it. I thought it was my mother in-laws and said: “Kayci that is Gammies, be gentle!” She looked at me and said: “No, its La La’s.” I started getting frustrated as she would not let the tin go and I thought she was going to break it somehow. I repeated three times: “Stop, we need to bring that to Gammie.” Each time my little toddler said: “No, La La’s.” Finally I took Kayci and the tin upstairs to give it to my mother in-law. As soon as Kathie (MIL) saw the tin she said: “Oh, that was La La’s. Did you find it in the dining room?” Kayci gave me a look like: told ya so! I hope my La La is with us as she knows me quite well and probably more so now since she has passed. I may be going through a tough time but when I look at my little girl and hear her say: “La La” out of the blue, I feel a certain peace and happiness. There are always reasons to never give up. My grandmother had a very difficult life and was one of the strongest, happiest women I have ever known.