Early this morning I received a call from my father in
Los Angeles, letting Sara and I know that my grandmother, Jean Schiller, passed
away last night in a hospital near her home in Laguna Beach. My grandmother was
94 when she died last night. She lived a very long, eventful, and wonderful
life. While I am very sad that she is gone, I’m comforted to know that except
for the last few weeks, she lived her life without pain and without suffering.
My father told me that she was singing a song last night before she died. I’m
glad he told me this because now I know that she was “okay” when she died and
that she wasn’t scared. While none 0f you knew my grandmother, many of you know
me. And if you know me, then in a way you know her. She had a lot of influence
on my life when I was younger and I loved her very much. Her passing for me is
the loss of an era, as she was my only surviving grandparent.
morning as I was packing for the airport, I found the photograph above. The
photograph is over 35 years old. I like it a lot. My grandmother is on the left
of the photo holding her dog. I think the dog’s name was Topper but I can’t
remember for sure. My sister is next to her and I’m next to my sister. That’s my
grandfather on the right. His name was Ted. He died when I was 13. I loved him a
lot too. He used to take me to the USC football games in LA when I was a kid. We
would sit in the last row in the stadium and he would drink whiskey out of a
small flask he took to the games. (I liked that a lot for some reason. Maybe
it’s a guy bonding thing although I was only 10 at the time and he never gave me
any. But I liked that he enjoyed it so the feeling I had was the same as if we
were drinking it together) Behind us is my mother, Judi. My younger brother
Howard was not yet born, so he is not in the photo. My father, Larry, was behind
the camera taking the photo.
My grandmother was a very tough woman.
She lived a very hard life when she was younger. She cared for her two brothers
after her mother had died suddenly when she was very young. She told Sara and I
that her father was very strict and forced her to take on the responsibilities
of caring for her brothers because he was the “man” and wouldn’t do it. She was
too young to do this but she took on the responsibilities and became the mother
to her brothers. I think that this traumatized her when she was a kid and it had
a strong impact on her in her later life. She was very loving but she was also
very tough. But as she got older, she softened very much. She loved tennis and
until a few year ago I would call her every time there was a big tennis
tournament on tv. We both hated Pete Sampras with a passion and we both loved
Jimmy Conners and John McEnroe. Because of this she was okay by me.
/>As a kid, I remember being a bit embarrased to say “I love you” before I would
hang up the phone from my family or sign off on a letter that I would write. I
guess it was a male macho thing and I didn’t want to show too much emotion
because then I would then be vulnerable. I’m glad that my grandmother and I
lived to an age where we were both were very comfortable to tell each other that
we loved the other one.
I loved my grandmother and will miss her very
much. I’m glad that she was able to meet Sara before she died. She couldn’t come
to our wedding because she was too old and frail. But my father told me this
morning that she had put a copy of the wedding photo of Sara and I on the wall
next to her bed. I wonder if sometimes before she went to bed she would look at
the photo of Sara and I and if it would trigger memories of when she was young,
in love, and very happy. Like Sara and I are now. I really, really hope that
this is why she had the photo near her. That would make me very happy.