I knew when we saw Agnes last month, it would be the last time I said goodbye to my grandmother. She was 93, frail, had been dealing with a host of health issues from strokes to blood pressure to respiratory ailments. She was still feisty, and a little cranky but she was tired.
Anne Agnes Gorman DePasquale March 31, 1920 to July 1, 2012. Wife to Anthony DePasquale, who is still with us, bless his heart. Mother to three beautiful, talented, slightly crazy daughters (hi mom!). Grandmother to 12 grandchildren, great grandmother to 10 great grandchildren, if I have counted correctly. An artist, a golfer, an avid bowler, and one of the best dressed ladies I have ever known, she leaves behind a life that was not always easy but was definitely rewarding.
I have a few of her paitings in my possession, but by far my favorite is this one:
She generally did landscapes or florals and she usually worked in oils or acrylics, although this one is a watercolor. I have ZERO painting/drawing ability, unless you count my prowess with the Magnadoodle or whiteboard talent. I don’t. I can draw a super hero, by looking at an example, passably enough that my child can identify it and is impressed. But he is 5. The Louvre won’t be asking his opinion on art any time soon.
I asked her once about painting with watercolors, because the one time I investigated it, it seemed to me to be the hardest medium to use. You have to leave what is going to be white, well, blank, and paint in the darker colors to create that space and shape. It is the absolute opposite of what I think of when I think of drawing or painting. I think “Draw Spiderman” and then attempt to draw the shape of a dude wearing a giant red and blue body suit. Agnes acknowledged it takes a completely different approach to paint in watercolors well, and has she had gotten older, it was just too exhausting. She preferred acrylics, since you could just keep covering up mistakes or blending them into something else. Watercolors leave very little room for error, and show every attempt to correct something. So this picture is even more special to me in that it is so pretty, so serene and SO HARD all at the same time.
Much like the lady herself. She was pretty, she was complicated, she was hard to love sometimes. Quite literally a coal miner’s daughter, she was born in England, coming here at age 4 with her family to New York. She married my grandfather when she was 19. Life was not always easy, but I have memories of them traveling a lot, and in their later years, while still young but retired, they owned an RV that they would drive around and see the sights in. They often would go someplace for a month, to set up in an RV park with other seniors, and she would golf or bowl while he would take classes in stained glass, wood working and jewelry making. To say Agnes did not like flying is an understatement. So the RV offered them a way to travel and go places without causing TOO much stress. There was still stress. It was Agnes and Tony we are talking about. They loved each other, there was no doubt, but they also took the art of the argument to new levels at times.
My mother has said that the pictures you see above are the mother she remembers. She is the oldest of the three girls, and feels each of the sisters was raised by a slightly different mother. Which is probably true. We all adapt and change as time passes, and there are 10 years between my mother and her youngest sister. They grew up across different decades, decades that saw huge changes socially and economically for everyone. So it is not surprising to me that they might have experienced different mothers in the same woman.
Whomever she was to each of them, to each of us, she was an undeniable presence and force. I am sorry for my grandfather to now have to spend what time he has left in this life without her, as they had spent the last 73 years together. Recently he decided he was unhappy with the care she was receiving at one of the nursing homes she had been in, and was found in the process of busting her out of the place by my aunt. Nevermind he couldn’t drive. He was getting her out by god. At least now he will not have to worry about her.
I am glad Cooper was able to meet her, and in at a time in his life where he will likely remember her. She seemed particularly fond of him, possibly because he resembles her side of the family more than the DePasquale side, from a coloring perspective.
Safe travels Grandma Agnes. Thanks for the scrabble and card games, and for teaching me how to pump my legs on a swing.