We spent last week with my grandma, Suzy, in Florida. We try to make it down once a year, and the wait is always hard - but even harder is leaving when the week is over. It has been event more difficult since my grandpa passed away a few years ago. Usually, Suzy says goodbye in sunglasses, and the last words we will hear are "Just go" as she slips back into the garage. She will worry for the next 20 or so hours as we drive back home until we call and let her know we have arrived safely.
She isn't like most grandmas. Or most people, for that matter. She is full of attitude, spunk, and more stories than can be covered in a week's vacation - or a single blog post. Our stays include teaching my kids how to blow bubbles in the pool, hearing their bare feet slapping on her polished concrete floors - down her halls that they treat like a runway - and evenings by the pool filled with stories, gin and tonics, and Virginia Slims. There was never a more elegant woman than Suzy. She calls everyone by their full name and doesn't approve of nicknames. She drinks vodka with water and smokes Virginia Slims by the pool in the evenings. She has traveled the world and has continued to do so even without my grandpa. This year alone will take her to the Amazon, London, and Paris. In the spring, she will be traveling by barge down the rivers of France and will bike to chateaus between stops. She does Pilates,water aerobics, and dance cardio classes every week, wears gold jewelry every day. If you ask her where she buys her clothes, she will laugh and tell you that most of them came from trips to Italy. She will never understand smart phones and calls them "Funkenwagnals" (used in context: "Just look it up on your Funkenwagnal.") She uses words like "super" and "divine" to describe things like my eyebrows, various desserts, and the kids' pool flotation devices.
She is my dad's step-mom, not blood relation to me - but I am closer to her than any other extended family member, and we share so much in common. In her younger years, she modeled. She was also an interior designer and worked in a place that sold granite and marble kitchen countertops. She designed and drew the plans for her house and then had it built - when the builders said it couldn't be done, she simply hired someone else who would build the house around the pool and make it exactly the way she wanted it. She is a designer and an artist and a traveler, a mom, a grandma, and a great grandma. She talks with her daughter on the phone every evening and worries when she doesn't here from me for a while.
This year, Suzy turns 79. The day that we left, she allowed me to take a few portraits of her, and I will cherish these forever. There was lots of talk about "after she is gone" and her will and what to do with the house and things of that sort while we were there, and it made leaving that much harder and taking these photos that much more important. So with all that said, this is Suzy, and she is the best.