Well done Gramm

True story before I get into this post:

In my office, I have a paper pinned to my bulletin board. It says "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,  screaming holy s*** what a ride"

Right next to it is the only picture I have in my office. My Gramm Slusher and I, taken nearly 10 years ago.

They both have been hanging in my office for about 4 years. Kind of ironic. 

Now on to the new post..........

One morning about two and a half years ago, I was sitting in my office when my desk phone rang. I recognized the extension of my friend and co-worker Stephanie Nixon, so I paused what I was doing to answer. She told me I had a call, and that the woman on the other line for me had identified herself as my Grandma.

I remember that split second like it was yesterday. My first thought was this person must have the wrong number. I asked her if she was sure, and Steph said she asked for me by name. First and last. Then it clicked. It was my Gramm Slusher.

I asked her to connect her through, expecting the worst. See, my Grandmother and I did not talk very often, and she had never called me at work before. My biological Father, Mike (her son) had passed away 15 years before and my Grandpa had also been gone for several years. So I was a bit confused when I heard her say my name.

"Michael?" she asked to make sure I was there. "Hey Gramm, how are you" I said as I waited to hear the news. She said "I am good, just hadn't spoken to you since your wedding and wanted to tell you how beautiful it was and how much we enjoyed coming." I thanked her, and she asked how we were doing, how the kids were, and when we would be able to come see her. In total, the conversation lasted about 3 minutes and, when I hung up, Steph was standing behind me. "Everything ok?" she asked. "Yep", I replied, "she was just calling to chat. My Gramms is kinda cool like that."

That would not be the last time she called me at work. Over the past couple of years she would call my office or my cell about every month or so to catch up. She would tell me about my Aunts and Uncles that I never saw, or which one of my cousins were excelling in which sport. I heard about weddings and babies and all of the other things going on in the family that I may not have known about. And no matter what I was doing or how busy I was, I always took her call. And each time the phone rang and her number appeared, it made my entire day better.

Last Thursday at 12:11pm, I was sitting in my office at work with a couple of my colleagues when my phone rang. The name on the caller ID said Dave Slusher. And I froze. As I stepped out to take the call, I knew there were only two reason he dialed my number. Either he was in town for work and wanted to get lunch as we had talked about before, or.....

"We lost Grandma last night, Michael"

It felt like a punch to my gut. I felt the tears welling up and walked out the front door to the other side of the parking lot. He told me it was sudden and that the arrangements had already been made. I opened my car and found a piece of paper to write on and jotted down the details. I told him we loved all of them and that we were here for them if anything was needed. He asked me to let my sister know, and I did so.

I left work early ahead of the three day weekend. I just needed to process a little. It seemed impossible that she could be gone, even at 85. This lady never slowed down for a minute. She tried to never miss a game or event involving any of her many kids, grand kids, and great grand kids. I heard later that she even argued with the squad and her own son about going to the hospital because she had plans with family, not knowing that only a few minutes later every one of them would be devastated to hear she was gone.

My family asked me to do a reading as part of the funeral mass, and I was honored to do so. Because she would have asked. See, here's the thing about Gramms. She always made sure my Sister (who sang amazing Grace at the same Mass) and I were included.

Another lifetime ago my Mother and Father divorced when I was not even old enough to remember. Both of them eventually married the people they were supposed to marry. My Mother went on to live her own incredible life, as well chronicled on this blog. And my Father joined the Air Force and became a world traveler. Unfortunately, that meant he didn't see a lot of us.

As we grew up, Gramm was always in the background. Birthday cards and phone calls and Christmas Eve visits from Grandma and Grandpa Slusher were woven into the fabric of our lives. She was so happy when my Mom married Mike, and told us how lucky we were. She expressed so many times that she wished my Dad had been more involved, and stayed on him to stay in touch. She loved seeing us every time we dropped by and cried like a baby each time she talked about my Mother after she passed in 2009.

She was the bridge for us, a path back to the man who gave me and my boys our family name. And in the moment Dave told me she was gone, I felt that bridge start to fade as well. I knew there would be time to fellowship with family as we celebrated her life. My only worry was that it would be the last real time we will spend in a room full of Slushers. And that saddened me even more.

As we went through the next few days, I saw a lot of people I had not seen in many years. My cousin Chris, who I used to play one game of chess with a year. My cousin Lizzy whom I had not seen since she was a baby.  My Aunt Mary, who was my Grandma's sister and close friend. All of my Father's brothers - Steve, Joe, Justin, Jay, and of course Dave, who wrote me a letter on my wedding day I will never forget. And my Aunt Jenny, who handled herself with so much grace and elegance in one of the hardest moments of her life. Gramm would have been proud.

I say that, knowing that no matter what any of us did, she was always proud. That's who she was.

85 years. Daughter to 2. Sister to 7. Wife to 1. Mother to 7. Grandmother to 25. Great Grandmother to 13.

Never stopped.


Well done Gramm.

Day # 858. I am a Slusher. And I am lucky enough to call her Gramm. It is good to be me.



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