“Wake up grandma. Please, wake up.” I said as I held her hand, attempting to warm it from the heat of my own. I felt comfortable speaking out loud with no one else in the room. Her response to my plea: a deep inhale of air. There is no experience like watching your loved one depending on a machine to live; otherwise known as life support. All you can do is sit, wait, and pray for a miracle. On January 21, 2015 a week after she was admitted into the ICU her heart stopped.
Dorothy Clemons Conover Myrie could lift your mood with her smile. Her voice was always in a teacher tone: high-pitched and kid-friendly. I assume that happens after teaching children for nearly 40 years. On my birthday, she’d say, “Enjoy your special day” with an emphasis on the word special.
My Grandmother valued education and instilled that value into her three children. She graduated from Winston-Salem University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Grandma was one of the first African-American teachers to integrate the Manhasset/Great Neck school system in the late ’60s. In one of her class pictures she is standing tall with a beautiful afro.
Outside of being an educator she enjoyed cooking and gardening. One holiday she proudly showed me a watermelon the size of my arm! The holidays were her time to shine – she would use the “good” china, cook vegetables from her garden and bake pies from scratch.
Our last two phone conversations I began to open up. I didn’t have to give a detailed account of my situation but she knew what I needed to hear. After a moment of silence she asked, “Is there anything new?” I responded, “Not really.” I thought it could wait until another time. That next time was in the hospital. I told her about my boyfriend, how he is caring, how we meet and how happy we are. Her response: a deep inhale of air.
My Grandmother kept active after she retired by attending yoga and Zumba classes; so I never imagined I would say goodbye anytime soon. If your grandparents are alive, talk to them and record their stories. Don’t let the tradition of oral history fade away. I saw her as “Grandma” and not as another human with wisdom to share. I never asked about her life experiences. Now, I can only depend on 3rd person stories from my family.
Hours before she was rushed to the hospital she went to see the movie, Annie. I imagine her laughing and singing along. I played the song You’re never fully dressed without a smile, at her hospital bedside. I’ll always remember the warmth of your smile.
Dorothy Clemons Conover Myrie aka Grandma – February 12, 1943 – January 21, 2015