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  • Last night my grandmother passed away. She was 90 years old and the last of the World War II generation left in my family. Up until two months before her death she still lived at home. Judy, Jackson and I visited her in December on our way back home to Hawaii. She was so happy to have lived long enough to see her great grandson born and to know him, if only for a few years.

    The quality I cherish most about my grandmother, or ‘Mema’ as we called her, was her unconditional love. The generation gap between us was substantial. She was a protestant Minister’s wife raised on traditional values in rural Oklahoma in the 1920s and 30s. Her only child, my mother, became a Unitarian in the 1960s and we lived in the Middle East during the 1970s as a secular household. My sister and I were raised in cultures that shaped us in ways that were far removed from Mema’s upbringing, but none of that mattered to her. She just wanted us ‘home.’

    In the late 70s we came home from a decade of life in the Middle East. The clean-cut little boy who left the heartland came back a tall, shaggy-haired rebel with a penchant for bad habits. I knew my grandparents worried about me, as did my mother. They all recognized the change in my personality but were at a loss at how to deal with it. I was on a path that had to run its course and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ was the soundtrack for those dark days. My grandparents turned to their faith in times of trouble. I turned to rock'n'roll.

    “The Wall' is one of the most depressive albums ever recorded and I played it constantly back then. It spoke to that hole inside of me: living overseas, feeling out of place and all of those issues so common to cross culture kids. When we were abroad, and during my life in Hawaii, family connections were maintained over the telephone. Much of my relationship with my grandparents was long distance.

    Last night I listened to ‘Nobody Home’ and thought of my grandmother and a phone sitting in her empty house. Her love was a light to my darkness. I know it brought her great joy to see me pass through those days and she ended her life knowing I was happy. This is a poor obituary as it’s mostly about me, but that’s how grandmothers are – mostly about someone else. And unlike the character, ‘Pink’, there was always somebody home when I picked up the phone.
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