On this Memorial Day, I am thinking of the following people:
1. My great-grandmother, Big Gano. First, the name's explanation: This is my mom's grandmother. When my mom was little, she pronounced Grandma "Gangaw." The name stuck. Then, when my older sister was born, she heard my mom say "Gangaw," but was unable to pronounce it herself. So her version was "Gano." Then, to differentiate between my sister's (and my) Gano and our Great Gano, we called our great-grandmother "Big Gano" and our grandmother "Gano." Big Gano died when I was pretty young, so I don't remember much about her. My most vivid memory about Big Gano was a gift she gave me for Christmas or my birthday (I don't remember which, but they are basically the same). My cousin Amanda had this half stuffed animal, half plastic animal that was a monkey with suspenders. He was carrying a plastic banana in his hand. He was AWESOME! You could feed him his banana, carry him by his suspenders, stand him up on his white shoes... Also, he was pretty tall, so that was cool. Anyway, I really loved Amanda's monkey, so Big Gano bought me my own. I think that was the last gift I got from her before she died, so that made it even more special. Later, I had people tell me that the monkey is ugly and I guess from an objective viewpoint, it really is. But I LOVED it and I still treasure it as being one of my all-time favorite childhood toys.
2. My grandmother, Maw. This was "Gano." After our Big Gano died, we stopped calling her Gano and started calling her Maw. I think my cousin Amanda was the one that started calling her Maw. Towards the end of her life, she was always pretty sick and had to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. She lived with my aunt, who is a nurse and took care of her on a daily basis. I used to go stay with Maw on Saturdays when my aunt was at work so she didn't have to be alone. Mostly I just sat around and watched Nickelodeon and got food for Maw when she needed it and checked on her to make sure she was ok. Sometimes I would sit in her bedroom with her and talk. I wish I had done that more, though. I remember giving my mom a hug after Maw died to try to comfort her, but I felt so helpless. Strangely, I don't remember anything about her funeral, other than seeing her casket being lowered into the grave after the funeral and my great-uncle (her brother) watching so carefully to make sure the top of the casket was facing the right direction. He really loved her.
3. My grandpa, Papa Shirley. He died when I was really young, so I actually only have one memory of him. From what my parents tell me, Papa Shirley lived with my family for a short time when I was about 2 years old. In the house we lived in, there was one hallway of our house that we didn't use because it didn't exactly have a floor. I remember that you had to tiptoe between the pieces of wood that made up the foundation to get back there. Anyway, Papa Shirley lived in one of the bedrooms in that hallway and my one memory of him is seeing him walk down that hallway and into the kitchen. He was wearing a suit and had gray hair. My parents said he always wore a suit.
4. My great-grandmother, Mimma. I have several memories of Mimma. When I was younger, she lived in Sweetwater, Texas and we used to go to her house for Thanksgiving and Easter. (We probably went out there other times, too, but those are the only times I remember.) Later, she moved to a retirement home in Dallas and we were able to visit her more often. We would go out to eat with her at Luby's, which must have been her favorite restaurant, because I really don't think we ever went anywhere else, except for the cafeteria at her retirement home. Finally, in the last few weeks of her life, she had to go to a nursing home. When we went to see her there right before she died, I don't think she new who we were. I remember seeing her being pushed down the hallway in her wheelchair by a nurse and her foot was dragging on the floor. I heard her whimpering, but I don't know if that was because it was hurting her foot or she was in pain for other reasons. Either way, I remember being shocked that my Mimma, who was so sweet and caring and alert, had physically regressed so much that she couldn't even express her pain. There must have been hundreds of people at her funeral. Near the end of the services, my aunt Mary stood up and told a memory of Mimma. Many others followed and I listened from the back of the room to all of these people I didn't even know talk about how wonderful Mimma was. I felt so proud to be her great-granddaughter. To this day, I feel a special closeness to Mimma and I miss her and think about her often.
5. My cousin, Cameron. Cameron was 12 years younger than me and lived in Houston, but our families used to get together at least once or twice a year. My first thought about Cameron was that he was the odd one out in his family, with his bright blonde hair! He was a beautiful child and very sweet. But the most impressive thing about Cameron was his faith! At only 8 years old, Cameron understood God's plan for him better than most adults ever do. During his battle with cancer, his mom sent weekly emails to the entire family updating us on his treatment. I was constantly amazed by the funny, positive, and inspiring things Cameron said. His parents said that he often remarked, "I'm glad I had a brain tumor because I've gotten to meet so many new people." He passed away on September 29, 2005.