My Nana Pauline swore that she started smoking at the age of 7. She would sometimes exaggerate but there is probably truth there. Because of this decade upon decade habit, she had a lot of phlegm. Once, she was a passenger in my car, spit into a tissue, wadded it up, cracked the window. The wind grabbed that phlegm filled tissue and wouldn’t you know, the antennae off the back of my car caught that disgusting thing and it stayed there until we arrived at our destination, 15 minutes later. I couldn’t stop giggling at the gross factor AND the odds!
My Nana was the queen of one liners. She used to say, “You should never have to wait to pay your bill.” Once, as we waited for the bill in a non-smoking Chinese restaurant she said in her gravely, rough-as-sand paper voice with a matter-of-fact tone, “I know how to get ‘em over here.” Wouldn’t you know, she lit a cigarette and three waiters ran over shaking their heads, waving their arms, as she asked, “Can we please have that check now?”
She was opinionated, and strong willed, and not a force to be reckoned with. She was also a savvy business woman who grew her lighting and lamp shade business from the 1950s. It still exists today.
She wasn’t the picture perfect Mother that I think my Mom, at times, wanted but she made up for it by being the best Nana. She spoiled my brother and I, always able to tell us she loved us, that she was proud of us. She loved having us for sleepovers and dinners out, and to see shows at Lily Langtry’s, a cheesy Broadway revue style show where we would eat endless shrimp cocktails and Shirley Temples loaded with Maraschino cherries.
My Mom used to tease, that if she started to act like Nana, “to get the gun.” It became a long standing joke and to this day, once in a while, when we see glimpses of that opinionated, strong willed, force to be reckoned with, we say it to her and we all have a good laugh.
My Nana’s best qualities: showing great strength, work ethic, and having big loud laughs were inherited by my Mom and though she jokes about not wanting to have some qualities of her Mother’s, the ones she does have are incredibly admirable.
No one was too surprised when my Nana was diagnosed with lung cancer. She smoked before each treatment and after with no intention of quitting. No one was surprised when she died of the disease.
Undoubtedly, yesterday on her birthday, she was sitting up in her little corner of Heaven, pack of Parliaments in her red manicured fingers, cigarette with an inch of ash dangling from the corner of her mouth, laughing big and loud in that gravely, rough-as-sand paper voice.