Yesterday we attended a memorial service for Eric's grandmother, Mamise (pronounced May-meese, it's a nickname her sister gave her because she couldn't say Mary Louise). She lived to be 91, and had a long, full life. I didn't know her well, but I will certainly remember her fondly. She had a way about her, and I thought she was very funny. Yesterday was a beautiful day, and we spent it remembering her life. I enjoyed listening to the stories of family and friends, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to know her.
I took this picture of Mamise at the beginning of August.
Eric spoke at the service, and I'm including his words below. She was his Nana, and I know he misses her.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Eric Schwarz. I am the oldest son of Jeffrey, as his mom usually called him (especially when he was in trouble), which means that Mamise, who I called Nana, was my grandmother. For the record, my grandmother drove a Camaro Z28 convertible and owned a Super Nintendo.
As one of Nana’s grandchildren, I realize that you won’t find a better grandparent than one who is as passionate about eating candy, playing with toys, and having fun as you are. We would arrive on the Vineyard every summer and scramble into Heaven Between, where Nana had 3 things waiting for us: a fun pack of sugary cereals, several brand new presents, and a collection of perfect skipping stones.
The cereal was devoured and the new Lego sets and puzzles were put together, much to Nana’s delight, but the most meaningful items were the skipping stones. Each one hand-picked from her own beach and saved throughout the year so that they were waiting for us when summer came around. The great challenge was that in order to enjoy the skippers, we had to return them to the sea. And as I watched a particularly good rock bounce across the waves, I would hope for the ocean to bring it back to the beach so Nana could find it again the next year.
Of course the toys waiting for us when we arrived were never enough. Many trips were made down to Brickman’s for even more board games and card games, endless sports equipment, and plenty of water floats.
As much as we loved to play, she seemed to love watching us even more. There were several adventures to Oak Bluffs to ride the Flying Horses or play mini golf. In those cases, I can remember her excitement and pride when we would get the brass ring or make a great putt.
But Nana especially enjoyed watching us play ping pong. She would stand on the back porch of Heaven Above and just be thrilled to watch us hit the ball back and forth. She would always comment about how fast we hit the ball. And it became a game within a game, to do really well and get an enthusiastic response from her. I didn’t realize at the time how much joy that brought her.
For our annual charter fishing trip, we would bring enough GORP and Cheez-Its to last the afternoon, but, Nana would insist on buying us enough snow caps, candy dots, jaw breakers, sour patch kids, gummi worms, gummi bears, and anything else we could scoop out of the bins to last several weeks.
Heading out of Edgartown on a 40 foot boat, like the scene in Jaws, we’d be off to catch blues and stripers and nobody on board was more excited than Nana. When the pole bent sharply, indicating that a fish was on the line, she would let out a cheerful “hey!” as one of us kids worked to haul the fish aboard.
The best moment was when Nana would take her turn to reel one in. We were catching 40-50 inch bass, which was a challenge for me at 17, and there was Nana – 5 feet tall, 90 pounds, 80-something years old – not only fighting this massive fish, but fighting off my dad as he offered to help.
And that’s how I’ll remember her. Out on the water, sun blazing down, fishing pole in hand, a huge smile on her face while fighting to bring in the big one. And never giving up.