The Great Transition: Losing a Grandmother

When I wrote my new years editorial a few weeks ago I was hopeful and optimistic. It seemed like the light was visible at the end of the tunnel. I was naively unaware of the darkness that awaited. This is my reality along with millions of other Americans since last March.

1943

As I have mentioned, I started this blog to research and relay the stories I have been told by my parents and grandparents. On the afternoon of January 15th, 2021 I lost my maternal grandmother suddenly and unexpectedly. Her name was Nancy but to me she has always been Mommom.

Grandmother’s senior portrait 1960

She was one of those that I relied on when I had questions about things I write about. She was one of the inspirations for all that this website is and has come to be.

Meckley's Hat Shop
Standing in front of her childhood home / father’s business on Columbia Avenue in Sinky in the late 1950s: Meckley’s Hat Shop

All you can do is hope that there was some sort of mistake; that the heart that stopped beating in the hospital was not the one you knew. How can you know for sure? You’re stuck at home. There was no goodbye. She left the world without us by her side.

One of her favorite places, the jersey shore

I try to remind myself that our existence is not quantified by the way it ends. It’s a culmination of beautiful moments, memories and the love we show others while we are alive. Yet these thoughts are immense and consume me at times.

My first birthday

How can I possibly pick and choose which memories to relay to you? I could tell you about all the years worth of summer days she watched my cousins and I while our parents worked. She worked insane third/first shift splits just so she could have that time with us.

Searching for bugs and salamanders under the bricks around her flowerbeds. Ping-pong in the patio. All of my July birthday parties at her house and pool. Her pool is where I learned how to swim. The sleepovers in her basement. The time we broke her garage window playing wiffle ball and she wasn’t even mad at us. My first experience with a fasnacht.

on the boardwalk

All of the Apple Dumplings Festivals at Owls Grove down the hill from her house on Reading Boulevard. All of the Halloween parades watched from her front lawn. All 29 of my Christmases surrounded by the people I loved the most in her living room. I never imagined this would have been the last.

The now vacant table in her kitchen represents one of the safest places in my life. I remember hiding under it as a child when we played. Eventually I sat at that same table to break the news to her and my mother that I was expecting a child of my own.

Her holding my newborn daughter in 2018

So I carry her on with me in little ways and moments. Every time I care for my own pool like I helped her do for so many years. Through my writing here about the places and things she experienced. The unwavering forgiveness I give my own child when she inevitably breaks something serious like a window. By loving fiercely with a selflessness that only a woman of devotion and faith like her could.

Mom, Mommom, Me in 2018

I am reminded again of my dwindling youth, and now comes a great hierarchical transition. I am suddenly thrust into the middle position. My mother ahead and my daughter behind; that sweet two year old now sits in the spot I once occupied.

I can’t go back, and the future is not the one I foresaw, yet the world spins on. So we pick up the pieces and trudge forward into the uncharted. For there is no guidebook on how to navigate losing a piece of your soul.

Last mother’s day: my mom, me, my daughter and grandmother. Four generations

If you made it this far, please read her obituary which I wrote, and keep me and my family in your thoughts on Saturday in what will inevitably be one of the most difficult days of our lives.

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

20 Replies to “The Great Transition: Losing a Grandmother”

  1. A beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Just a little correction: the two beach/boardwalk photos you posted are from Ocean City, N.J., not Wildwood. The first has the Flanders Hotel in the background, and the second has the Strand movie theater and the Music Pier in the background.

  2. My deepest condolences. While I did not know your Mom directly, we probably passed each other many times. I graduated from Wilson in 1965, grew up in Lincoln Park, played in Owls field as well as attended many “fairs” there.
    My family and myself spent many summers at Ocean City and Wildwood, NJ. I’ve bought hats in “Sinky”, probably at Meckleys. Spent $$ at Browns for cat and dog food, my late ex grew up in Midvale, just across the field from Owls.
    Your momom, mother, father, and yourself make Berks County such as wonderful place to grow up and remember!
    Once again, my deepest condolences for your lost and thanks for your families contributions to Berks.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Barbara. It’s amazing how many of us from the area have such similar upbringings, even spanning across generations. It was such a great area to spend a childhood. I appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Thank you for your beautiful and loving tribute to your grandmother, Nancy Martin.
    Sending condolences to you and all of your family at this time.
    And a sincere thanks for picking up the reins of Berks Nostalgia and sharing local history and lore.

  4. What a wonderful tribute. Strange yet somehow poetic, I remember a number of the things you wrote about as well in the house on the hill…. only I experienced them with your mother years ago. Your mom mom was all a part of that. She will always hold special memories in my heart and I hope it brings comfort knowing she touched so many lives.

    1. Thanks Megan, I have heard so many great stories of the things you guys did together. My Mom speaks fondly of you and those times. I always felt so lucky that I got to experience a similar childhood as her. It does bring me comfort knowing Mommom lives on in the hearts of all those she has touched in some way over her life. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. It really hurts to lose a grandmom. Reading this made me think of my own grandmom (called Busia in Polish). I’ll never forget her unconditional love and I’m sure the same will be true for you. Just remember she’ll always remain in your heart and I firmly believe you’ll see her on the next level. Peace and love.

  6. Very moving, poignant testimonial regarding your beloved grandmother. I hope your wonderful memories become a consoling balm as time passes!

  7. Your tribute to your Mommom, Nancy is beautiful. So Sorry for your loss. The thirty years I worked with Nancy, I never heard an unkind word from her mouth. She was truly a pleasure to be around. Alexa, you are so lucky, to have a “Mommom ” like Nancy. God Bless You All.

  8. Nancy would have loved this tribute to her, and for the few times I had the pleasure of meeting her, know it is true. She was taken from you all way too early. I am just so sorry. Keeping you all in my prayers.

  9. Allexa, Please accept my condolences on the loss of your grandmother, she must have been a very neat lady and very precious part of your life. In a way I feel connected to her having been a former employee of Palmer’s and familiar thwith Kuhn’s funeral hom

  10. Alexa. I sang when you were dedicated to the Lord. You’re entire family was blessed. Her smile was Jesus. Your tribute to her is gifted. She will be greatly missed. ~ Karen Sandor.

  11. We were so sad to learn of your grandmorther’s passing. I ( Kathy Pfleger) went to school with her brother, Larry. She would often attend the annual dinner meeting of the Sinking Spring Area Historical Society with her friend, Lanette Dussinger and, many years ago, had brought her mother along ((Mamie) Our deepest sympathy on your loss. Paul and Kathy Miller and the Sinking Spring Area Historical Society.

  12. What a lovely tribute. You’ve reminded all of us to take a few moments to recall memories of our Nanas and Pop Pops.

  13. My heartfelt condolences to you and your entire family. Praying GOD’S perfect peace, comfort and strength for each new tomorrow.
    I will cherish all the wonderful memories I shared with Nancy from Bible Study at my home and our Christmas gathering with our group of friends. Nancy was a beautiful woman of GOD who was wise, a hard worker and a sweet spirit. I will always remember her signature smile!

  14. Alexa, what hundred block of Reading Blvd. did Nancy live on? I grew up on Reading Ave. after age 8 (before that Lincoln Ave. in the ‘Ditch’) I had several pals from Reading Blvd. that lived on the 2200 block and some across on the 2300 block. I was wondering if any of them knew of her.

    1. Hi Scott,
      Thanks for your condolences. My Grandmother lived at 2400 Reading Blvd, on the southwest corner of the Boulevard and Harrison. Her backyard butts up on Owls field, with a perfect view of the Ditch.

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