On Matriarchs

A lot is going on in the Cootie family – so much so that I just haven’t had a lot of time (or inclination) to post here.

In September the Cootie Clan suffered the loss of one of the matriarchs – Denis’s mom passed away after battling various illnesses for over a year. As sad as the passing was, it was also a relief because she had had such a hard year – in and out of the hospital, put on a ventilator for several weeks, ending up in hospice, heavily medicated for much of the time she was there. In the end she passed away peacefully on Tuesday, September 21, at the age of 80 years old.

Denis and I traveled to NYC for the wake and burial after dropping off the kids at my parents’ house in Virginia. While it was for a sad occasion, it was nice to see Denis’s family, since we hadn’t seen them in quite a long time.

As for my mother-in-law, she was a New Yorker through and through – having lived there all her life (she honeymooned with Denis’s dad in Manhattan before settling in Queens to begin and raise their family). She loved going to Atlantic City to spend some money on the slot machines and even came home with a couple decent jackpots (she won a $10K jackpot once, and I think another time she won $5K). She began collecting little mini liquor bottles after buying me a mini bottle of Malibu Rum that I didn’t have occasion to drink. I think by the time she stopped actively collecting she had over 500 mini liquor bottles on display in the apartment that she shared with Denis’s brother. She never asked for much, but would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it.

It was so nice to see her friends and neighbors come by the visitation and pay their respects – she was well known in the neighborhood and will obviously be missed. And it was also obvious that Denis is well-loved, given the number of his friends that stopped by to pay their respects as well. It was nice catching up with his friends as well as meeting a few new ones that he recently got back in touch with who came by the funeral home as well.

The funeral was a family affair since most of her friends/neighbors didn’t have a way to get out to Long Island (which was about a 90 minute drive from Queens). The cemetery where she was buried was LOVELY – it’s a military cemetery in Long Island, and she now rests at the side of her husband, who passed away in 1989.

* * * *

The title of matriarch on my side of the family goes to my grandmother, who turns 97 years old in November. In late September my aunt had gotten word from a friend of my g-ma’s (we call her “GG” which is short for great-grandmother) that she was worried about GG. My aunt made a trip last week to check in on GG. Then my cousin dropped by a few days later to check in on her. And on Friday I packed a bag for CootieGirl and me, and we headed to Central Virginia for the weekend.

Overall, I’d say my grandmother is in good shape. You’d never guess that she is 97 years old. Her hearing is still amazing (she doesn’t wear hearing aids and hears clear as a bell – I whispered things to her occasionally and she ALWAYS knew exactly what I was saying). She had cataract surgery a couple years ago and can see well (she wears glasses only for reading). She can still walk fine although she did take my arm a few times to go up or down steps. Her house is the perfect size for her – four rooms and a kitchen, with very little upkeep needed. She got four phone calls yesterday from friends checking in on her, as well her weekly phone call from the unofficial grandchild that she took in several years ago to help him escape an abusive adoptive family (he was from Russia and they didn’t treat him as a cherished addition to the family so much as someone to work their farm for 12-15 hours a day – I’m happy to report he’s now a cherished member of OUR family).

We went for manicures on Saturday morning and the guy doing her nails was shocked when she told him how old she was (he said she can pass for 70, and he’s right). Anyone who didn’t know us kept assuming she was my mother, not my grandmother. Either I look old for 41, or she looks young for 97.

So despite the friend’s concern, I think she’s doing okay. My only hesitation is that her short-term memory is shot. Yesterday she frequently forgot that it was Saturday, and at one point when we were driving out to Red Hill and about 15 minutes into the drive she asked where we were going (this, despite the fact that technically SHE was taking US to Red Hill – not the other way around). My fear is that this short-term memory loss will manifest itself in negative ways – such as starting to cook a meal only to leave the stovetop on and getting sidetracked reading a book.

My aunt is going back after Halloween to check on her again, and I’ll be heading back (with CootieBoy this time) the following weekend. My goal the next time I go is to 1) clean out her fridge and 2) declutter her bedroom desk and dresser.

My grandmother has always been an inspiration to me – and continues to be. She’s amazing and I hope I’m even a 10th as healthy as she is if I manage to reach the ripe old age of 97 years old.

My Signature


  1. FYI, my mom and dad honeymooned in Bermuda. Were you getting poetic? Other than that, very nice tribute. Thank you, sweetie.

  2. I distinctly remember you telling me that they stayed in a hotel in Manhattan for their honeymoon. Or did they stay there for the wedding night and THEN go to Bermuda???

  3. Denis, your Mom was a treasure.

    GG is a hoot. Thanks for making the trip to check in on her. You get the brownie points for our branch of the family tree. 😉

  4. Denis,

    Please accept my condolences on the passing of your mom. My mom passed one year ago in July. I miss her every day. Cherish every memory you have. We will all eventually be reunited.

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