I was at work on my lunch break, getting ready to make a call after a text that ended with -not urgent-, for some reason those words made my heart rate shoot up. I knew deep down it was urgent, maybe not drop everything and leave urgent, but urgent enough to get that kind of notification. The call of course, was from my aunt telling me that my grandmother, who I love dearly has lung cancer and she was going to start hospice the next day. All this is true, but I would also like to pay tribute to the things about my grandmother before she got sick.
Patricia Beyers-Florio is not an easy person, you must work to get her approval (unless you are a grandkid), she's particular about who she lets into her heart, but when she does she's loyal to the end. She is a teacher, and many of her students remember her fondly some still contacting her 30 years later, others of course remember her as "the strictest teacher they ever had", leading me to believe that she had a nice balance going on there. She is so dedicated to the job that when she got pregnant she continued working until very late on in the pregnancy despite the fact that there was a rule that once women got pregnant they had to leave their job.
As a grandmother, she softened from her days as a mother, she was warm and loving, she played and smiled. When I was tiny she used to line a laundry basket with blankets and slide me around by running and pushing the basket. We would visit every Sunday when I was very young and when we drove back home if the stoplight was red she would encourage me to blow it out like a candle so it would turn green so we could have our pizza. When my mom was very sick she took care of me and my brother. She took our family in when we had no other place to go, making sure that we felt at home when we first got there. She used to like to tell the story that when I was in high school me and my friends had decided to carve pumpkins and all of us were too afraid of doing it wrong (and also the knives). I think she liked that story because even though I was 15 or 16 I still needed her. The truth is I still need her, and I know that I have her strength, her tenacity, and yes occasionally her temper.
In the past four years my grandmother became two different people, the person I know and love, and the person saddled with the terrible disease of dementia. She was brave, and fought for a long time to keep her rights, to keep her ability to make decisions, for those of you who know her you wont be surprised to know she wasn't the easiest patient. She demanded what she needed, and while that was exhausting to those of us who were caretakers, it did her well in the end. Dementia is a terrible disease to watch happen to a person, especially someone as sharp as my grandmother..
Patricia Florio is tough on the outside, and occasionally on the inside too, you had to put in real effort to win her over. Sometimes difficult doesn't even begin to describe it, but she really cared. She cared about her students, enough that some still write. She loved me and the other grandkids unconditionally, willing to give me a Mickey Mouse shirt after I "accidentally" got my other clothes wet when I was three, I really just wanted to take home as many disney clothing as possible. She loved her husband so dearly, and believed they would be together soon, which I truly hope brought her comfort.
It's hard to talk about my grandmother without mentioning her dogs. I think the proudest she ever was was when she was taking my dog Bruce on therapy dog visits. The joy that they brought to so many people is something my grandmother holds deep in her heart, even on the worst days you would mention Bruce and her face would light up. They did great work together.
To wrap up, it's hard to imagine my life without my grandmother, but I know she isn't in pain anymore. I wish I could have years and years with her, I feel that there's so much more that she has to teach me. There's so many more adventures I could have tried to talk her in to, like eating peanut butter for example. I miss you so much, I hope you are at peace, I hope you find grandpa, and I love you so much.