Friday, April 11, 2008
Friday, June 08, 2007
May 17, 2007
The blog – and it is extraordinary – started a year ago January when Joanne Clemente told a friend another funny story about her grandmother. It was about the time Gramma filched popcorn from the bag of the woman in front of her in the movie line. That's it, the friend said, time to start writing down all these great stories.
And that was the beginning of thefeistyfinagler.blogspot.com.
The relationship it details began in 2003 when Joanne, a newly minted MBA grad whose parents had moved to California, needed a place to live and so moved into the Thornhill condo of Billye Maver, her then 96-year-old grandmother, who had been widowed for 10 years.
"I thought it might not work," said Laura Culley, a friend of 50 years. "But they had an incredible relationship and it wasn't just a matter of duty with Joanne. (Billye's) friends here looked on with awe."
An avid bridge player, the de facto head of the condo's stitch 'n' bitch group (its proper and unused name was the Ladies Craft Group), Maver had always been a people person, a party person. Family photos show her hamming it up – posing model style on stairways with her adult son and his family with that trademark big, wide, mischievous grin.
She danced along to American Idol. Loved the Blue Jays and going to movies. Always watched The Bachelor because she preferred men under 50. (She refused to join an over-50 church group when she was almost 70 because she didn't want to hang around old people.) Loved reading trashy novels, the kind with Fabio on the cover.
Still told jokes, stories and talk sprinkled with salty "hells" and "damns" spoken in the accent of her native New Jersey. Lied about her age to the point that her friends were totally baffled when they discovered she was receiving an old-age pension. Told people what she thought of them. Drove until she was 93 and long past the point where she obeyed stop signs. "If there's no car coming, what's the point of stopping?" she told a startled Culley, her passenger at the time. Still sported a honey brown cap of hair, even at her 100th birthday party in December, courtesy of her hairdresser of 40 years.
No ordinary grandmother; no ordinary roommate.
Marc Clemente, Joanne's future husband, was understandably nervous when he met her. Gramma pronounced him okay, but added – loudly – that his moustache and goatee would have to go. Nevertheless, after they married in 2004, Marc, still with his facial hair, moved in with Gramma. "We were a package deal," his new wife said. "It wasn't an option."
"I was nervous but I adored Gramma," Marc said.
Their first Halloween together, Marc was a pirate and Gramma, giggling, put on a clown wig. "She was such a ham," said Joanne. "From then on we did crazy things. Every holiday we would dress up."
Flag hats for Canada Day, Italy shirts for the World Cup, Christmas cards featured the threesome in Santa hats, reindeer headgear and this past year, elaborate elf hats. The blog was full of photos of Gramma in her jerseys and headgear, with family and friends.
But Maver's health was declining and gradually the relationship changed. "There was a point where the role of grandparent and grandchild changed," Joanne said.
And that's when it started becoming beautiful.
"The way they looked after her, they way they treated my mother – they felt the same joy at seeing her the way you feel with your small kids when you come home from work. It was clearly a relationship of total enjoyment," said John, Maver's only child and Joanne's father. He and Joanne's mother and her two siblings all live in the States. "But it stems from my mother."
The eldest of six kids, Augusta Rummler was 11 when she unilaterally decided to call herself Billye after a revered grandmother. She went out to work after Grade 8 at Prudential Insurance, where she later met her husband, Jack, who was 10 years her junior and at one point, her employee. They married in 1943 when he was home on a three-day pass from the Army. Their son was born when she was 40 and in 1950 they moved to Thornhill.
On the surface she was the archetypal suburban housewife – a stalwart of the country club and of the Thornhill Presbyterian Church and its choir, member of the Scouting auxiliary, home and school association, a regular at all her son's teams games. But also fun, she was always fun. "She bought a pink shag bathmat for the bathroom, cut a foot off it because it was too big and made a hat out of it that she wore to church with her mink coat," recalled her son.
She had breast cancer and a mastectomy in 1960, prompting her and her husband to join the Thornhill branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, where she visited other women with the disease. She visited psychiatric and mentally ill patients, taking them on outings every two weeks after her own sister was institutionalized for the rest of her life after suffering postpartum depression.
She and Jack sold their house but stayed in Thornhill, moving into the Gazebo condominiums, where she enjoyed bridge and a strong sense of community. In fact, Marc and Joanne postponed buying a house because she was so happy there. But with a baby on the way (Ryan Jack is now 3 months old), they moved to a new home in Whitby this year that they had re-designed to accommodate Gramma.
Before leaving for work, Joanne gave Gramma photos of her caregiver, and of Gramma with the caregiver, so she wouldn't become confused. When they came home at night, they would prepare and feed her dinner, often singing "You are my –" and waiting for Gramma to supply the word "sunshine."
"The definition of a best friend is that both sides feel they are getting the best end of the deal and Joanne and Marc believe that they did," said John Maver. "They are an inspiration on how to enjoy the elderly as opposed to put up with the elderly."
Gramma was hospitalized on April 5 with pneumonia; she was 100 when she died on April 11. Joanne had posted photos of Gramma on Easter morning in rabbit ears, lying beside her newborn great-grandson. Then she posted the death notice. The response astonished her.
"I am just a random blogger from Nunavut who found this blog quite a while ago and have loved the stories you shared about your Grandma, wrote one reader. "I, who have never met Gramma, will miss her very much," said another. And: "She showed us that growing old does not mean old."
The blog has received more than 11,000 hits from everywhere from Wack Wack in the Philippines, to Thailand, Australia, Belgium, all over Canada and places like Augusta, Ga.
"It was just to share the stories we thought funny and we were always surprised that other people thought so too," said Joanne, who always signed her posting as A Proud Granddaughter.
"I won't add anything to the blog but I won't delete that one ever."
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Maver, Augusta "Billye"
On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Billye passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 100. Billye was the beloved wife of Jack; caring mother to John and his wife Diana; doting grandmother to John (Jill), Joanne (Marc) and Marilee (David); and loving great-grandmother to Hannah, Zoe, Andrew, Ella and Ryan. Billye's infectious laugh, feisty nature and compassion brightened many lives. Her positive personality, willingness to help and her ability to make you smile made her a force with which to be reckoned. She was youthful throughout her life and was deeply loved. Billye will be sadly missed by her family and her many friends. Enjoy more about her at http://www.thefeistyfinagler.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Rest in peace Gramma. We love you and miss you. We will always have you in our hearts.
Augusta "Billye" Maver December 20, 1906 - April 11, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Everytime there was a call for a nurse Gramma's speaker would go off. Gramma wasn't really paying attention, so always assumed they were talking to her.
Speaker: "Nurse to room A."
Gramma: "Yes, I definitely agree." :)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Yup no egos in our house. :)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I'm going to bring her into the room for all diaper changes so she can remind him of this fact.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Me: Gramma, guess what we are going to name the baby?
Me: No Gramma, RYAN.
Me: No R-Y-A-N.
Gramma: Oh Brian....
This went on for awhile, so finally we said "Gramma it is Ryan with an 'R'."
Gramma responded with "Oh Ryan!"
Me: "Yes, Ryan Jack Clemente!"
(Relieved and excited that she finally got it.)
"GIANT BLACK CLEMENTE?"
She looked at us like we were nuts.
I have never laughed as hard as I did that night. So for months afterwards, Marc and I would refer to Ryan as "Giant Black" and laugh.
Here's the photographic proof...
Gramma wakes up to a surprise in bed.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Once we were admitted to the ER, we were put into a slot with curtains on either side of us in one of the rooms. There were five other people all in a row next to us. Gramma for whatever reason really wanted to open the left curtain so everytime I turned around, she would try to whip the curtain back. I had to keep telling her to stop as there was a woman on the other side would would have been quite surprised to see the two of us peering in at her.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I asked her if she was happy about the baby coming she said yes. She said that she was going to teach him everything she knows, but it might take a long time.
One would say that if you had 100 years on someone, it would indeed take a long time to tell them what you know. :)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
She had the biggest smile on her face when she had eaten it all.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
As we were leaving the room she said, "It's a good thing I know what's good for me."
We asked her what she meant and she replied, "I need to go to sleep."
I wish all things were so easy.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
The two of them are quite a pair.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
She was clearly not going to wake up for anything less than the best. :)
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Top Ten for Gramma:
- Her real name is Augusta. She decided when she was 11 that she didn't like her name and was to be called Billye. (I don't know why she chose that name or spelling but it stuck.)
- She was born in New Jersey.
- She has outlived all of her five other siblings. (She is/was the oldest.)
- She has had the same hairdresser for 40 years.
- She loves chocolate.
- She loves to sleep.
- She is a people person and has always been chatty.
- She was addicted to crossword puzzles.
- She had her only son at the age of 40.
- She got married at the age of 37.
My dad posted these in comments, but I thought they were kind of neat so I am adding them to the post.
- Gramma used to throw dance parties in NYC and charge money.
- She worked at Prudential Insurance.
- She had a higher position than her husband and got paid way less!
No thumbs up from her!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Before falling asleep, she started asking for ice cream (for the à la mode I guess.) We didn't give in this time though.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Sunday, December 31, 2006
The birthday girl with Marc:
Some close family friends with my mom and Gramma.
My brother, nephew, dad, and Gramma.
Some of Gramma's closest friends:
Her certificates from the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the Mayor, her MP, the Social Security Office etc. :)
My father-in-law made an amazing slide show of picture that he had scanned from Gramma's old albums and we put up posters around the room with other pictures of friends, family, and my grandfather with Gramma. Marc found a copy of the Toronto Star from the day Gramma was born and blew it up so that all could see just how different times were 100 years ago.
I'll add some pictures later, but I was so touched to see the outpouring of love for Gramma at her party.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Once we were all up, it was a flurry of excitement. Presents to unwrap, stockings to see. Marc found the perfect gift for Gramma.
"What? You don't believe I'm a champion? I will intimidate you with my stare and show you my award-winning move - The Gramma's Elbow."
All in all a good day. After all of the craziness of the morning and in order to rest up for the turkey dinner, Gramma took a wee nap.
Happy Holidays from all of us!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
We went to the Keg for a nice steak dinner tonight and brought one of the "Happy 100" balloons with us. People kept coming up to her to say congratulations and commenting how they had never met someone her age. Everytime someone approached her, she got the biggest smile on her face.
All in all it was a great day!
Here is a picture of her as a little girl (it is the earliest I could find). She is the little girl on the left.
And then another one of our faves. :)
It has been quite a year here and I know that the next year will bring even more excitement for everyone. I can't wait to share it with Gramma. I also hope that I can have the same feisty attitude and spunk that she has when I am even close to her age.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
What other evidence do I have to confirm this?
Yesterday, I was baking some cookies for Gramma's birthday party while Marc went to pick her up from the hairdresser. Their conversation proves her secret identity. ;)
In the car he asked her how many cookies she was going to eat when she came home. Gramma:"I'm going to have everything she's got."
Marc: "Gramma, she's made about 100 cookies!"
Gramma: "Well, then I am going to eat them ALL."
Marc: "I guess we'll have to get her to make a new batch."
The first words out of her mouth when she walked in the door (she may have had some coaching...) were: "It smells good in here, now give me a cookie."
See... Gramma = Cookie Monster.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I asked her if she thought she would be a good great-grandmother to him and she promptly responded with, "And how! I'm going to teach him lots of things."
Sunday, December 10, 2006
You have to laugh.
Friday, December 08, 2006
It amuses me to no end.
Her one and only question was, "Do I have to do anything?" I responded that she just has to sit there and look pretty. She responded with, "Well that's pretty easy."
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Me: "Too busy? Doing what?"
Gramma: "Too busy doing nothing." And then she game me a wink and a smile.