Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A life of fulfillment



Anyone who happened to meet Marian Amdur for the first time never stood a chance of accurately guessing her age. Whenever someone would ask how old my grandmother was and I replied she was 94, there would be a momentary pause and look of confusion.

Ninety-four?! No way. Not this woman who had the looks, the energy and the attitude of someone at least 20 years younger.

How many 94-year-olds do you know with that kind of busy lifestyle? Brunch with family at 11 a.m. Bridge with friends at 2 p.m. Then dinner and a show downtown. Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that, she had time to construct personalized, homemade birthday cards for all of her grandchildren. Hallmark never collected a dime from this woman.

The running joke whenever I'd return home to Phoenix would be if Grandma could find the time to squeeze me into her hectic schedule. Lunch on Wednesday? No, she already had plans. Dinner on Friday? Sorry, she already committed to attending an art exhibit. Maybe a quick stop by her apartment late Thursday afternoon ... after her regular bridge game, of course.

Or after she updated her Facebook status. Yes, my 94-year-old grandmother had a Facebook account. All of her grandkids had one. How could she be left out of the fun? Just show her how to set the thing up on her laptop, and she'd be good to go.

Truthfully, Grandma's only concession to old age was the acknowledgement she couldn't play golf or tennis anymore, two of her favorite pastimes well into her 80s. She used to play doubles almost every morning with much younger men and women. I remember trying to join her on the court when I was a kid and not even coming close to keeping up with her.

Grandma was forever trying to get me to play tennis. "I don't understand," she'd say. "You'd be very good at it. Serving a tennis ball is the exact same motion as pitching a baseball!"

I'd try to explain that the two really aren't that similar. (Though I'd leave out the part where I just don't like tennis all that much.)



Golf, on the other hand, was much more enticing to me. And as I started to pick up the game in my 20s, I always took advantage of the little nine-hole, executive course that surrounded her condo. By this point, Grandma couldn't really play anymore, a bad back having restricted her ability to twist and turn and walk the course. But we convinced her to join us one last time, maybe five or six years ago. Just take one swing on the first tee, we told her.

Little did we realize we'd set ourselves up for abject humiliation.

While my father, my uncle and I all shanked our tee shots into the ground, onto to the adjacent street or off some poor resident's patio, Grandma calmly took a smooth, picture-perfect swing and sent the ball flying onto the green. We all looked at her in slack-jawed astonishment. She just looked back as if to say, "What's the big deal?"

Everything came so easy to Grandma. A highly gifted artist who studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, her work was displayed in galleries for all to see, but more importantly in all of our homes. There isn't a member of our family who doesn't have an original Marian Amdur painting, watercolor or sculpture somewhere. (I'm admiring one in my living room right now as I type this.)

Did I mention she took dance lessons as a teenager from a fellow Squirrel Hill native who ran a small local studio before heading west to Hollywood in hopes of making it big? His name: Gene Kelly.

During my trip home last August, my sister was describing her Zumba class. Grandma asked what kind of dance moves were involved, then stood up and started mimicking them herself. Don't tell this woman she was too old for anything.

Because of all that, we probably took Grandma for granted. She lived alone in that same condo until only a few months ago, drove her car during daytime hours, went shopping on her own and would run into my mother at Costco. Every one of us was convinced she'd live to be 100. Never thought twice about it.

That made the events of the last week particularly surprising. She came down with what at first didn't seem like anything more than a common cold. That quickly developed into pneumonia, though, and despite the best efforts of her doctor and nurses, she simply couldn't bounce back. She died peacefully on Sunday, surrounded by family, having lived a complete life with no regrets or qualms.

I'm heading back home to Phoenix for the rest of the week to join my family in celebrating her life. We'll reminisce about her early days in Pittsburgh, how she fell in love with my grandfather after the two went ballroom dancing on their first date, how together they raised three wonderful children (Joni, Lois and Elliot), how she never lost her zest for life after Grandpa died 31 years ago and how she devoted her remaining three decades to her five grandkids (Julie, Elana, Mark, Eric and Traci), three grandkids-in-law (Matt, Larry and Rachel) and six great-grandkids (Marin, Arielle, Luke, Emery, Brian and Drew).

And though we'll realize we'll never get the chance to see her again, we'll take comfort knowing she's permanently imprinted in all of our lives. There are the paintings. There are the birthday cards. And there are the lasting memories of a Grandma who touched us all so very much by truly enjoying every moment of a most fulfilling life.

78 comments:

schlickw said...

My deepest condolences. She clearly was a heck of a lady.

Positively Half St. said...

My condolences, Mark. You've written a fine tribute.

MicheleS said...

Truly sorry for your loss Mark. Thank you for sharing your Grandma with us.

AndesAngle said...

Sorry for your loss, Mark. Sounds like your family was very blessed to be a part of her life.

Nats fan in NJ said...

Mark - May her memory be a blessing, now & forever. She sounds like a one of a kind lady. My condolences to you & your family.

AndesAngle said...

Sorry for your loss, Mark. Sounds like your family was very blessed to be a part of her life.

Unknown said...

Mark,

My deepest condolences on the loss of this beautiful woman, such a vibrant soul. Please travel safely and savor this time with your family as you honor your grandma. My pastor says something that I find comforting when loved ones die - that person is still with you in a very real way, inside you and your relatives. Her very blood courses through all of her descendants. Her DNA and all the wonderful qualities she embodies is somehow imprinted within you and your family.

What a beautiful woman! What a wonderful tribute! Thank you for sharing this with us despite your own deep loss.

Gonat said...

So sorry for your loss Mark. Very nice story.

original Nats Fan said...

my thoughts and prayers are with your family. She surely had a life worth celebrating.

sjm308 said...

Not just the words, but the pictures mean so much to those of us who come here every day. I hope this helped you in some small way deal with your loss. Enjoy your time with family and give and get lots of hugs. Laugh and cry and celebrate what was certainly a wonderful women. You are in our thoughts.

Constant Reader said...

What a wonderful moving tribute. Condolences from your somewhat odd, somewhat goofy, always loyal 'family' here at NI. Travel safely.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Mark,

My condolences to you and your family. This is the most poignant piece I've ever read written by someone I know.

May your visit be filled with celebration.

Joe Seamhead said...

Mark, my deepest condolences, but thank you for sharing her story and your memories with us.

Section 222 said...

Condolences Mark. Thanks for the lovely tribute.

Scooter said...

How wonderful that you can honor your grandmother with this beautiful tribute. My condolences.

TimDz said...

Wonderful tribute, Mark...
Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us...
I somehow have the feeling that your Grandparents are ballroom dancing now....

SlowPitch63 said...

Thank you for letting us belatedly celebrate her life with you. We join you now in mourning her passing.

NatsLady said...

Sorry for your family's "loss," Mark, but you "gained" a lot with this lady. Made me recall my own grandma, whose picture smiles at me every day on my refrigerator door.

TNealls said...
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TNealls said...

Grace and Peace to you and your family. May you embrace this week as fully as she lived.

SCNatsFan said...

You can feel the love in every word you wrote. Condolences to your family however you made this reader jealous that you had someone like that it your life... and reminds me of my Grandmother and how we felt on her passing many years ago.

3on2out said...

My family has always found comfort in the following excerpt from a sermon given by Henry Scott Holland at King Edward VII's funeral in 1910:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect, without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

I hope these words can offer some small solace to Mark and his family.

UnkyD said...

Beautiful piece, Mark. Thank you for sharing her memory with us. One is never prepared for the death of a loved one, but to live such a long, fulfilling life, and then pass so peacefully, with relatively little suffering, should be a great comfort to her survivors. May God bless and keep you, and your family, in your grief.

NatsJim said...

My deepest sympathies for your loss Mark. We lost our 93-year old Aunt a week before Christmas in a very similar manner - she was also living independently (in Pittsburgh 8), got what her doctors originally diagnosed as a "touch" of pneumonia, and was gone within a week. We had a long-standing "date" to dance at her 100th birthday party, and I was also convinced she was going to make it. All my best to you and your family.

UnkyD said...

Thanks, for the Holland excerpt, 3on2... Spot on.

NatsLady said...
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The Fox said...

My condolences to you and your family, beautifully written, you were very lucky to have such a wonderful Grandma and gotten so many years to enjoy her. Celebrate with your family all the good times you got to enjoy with her.

alexva said...

very sorry to hear of your loss, may you be comforted by loving memories. it sounds like you will.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

My sympathy, Mark. Glad you have such lovely memories of your grandmother. Best wishes to you and your family.

SonnyG10 said...

My condolences Mark. Thanks for sharing a beautifully written tribute to your grandmother's life.

NCNatsie said...

"...And to assuage the handicap of our mortality, you have given us families and friends, that we might, generation upon generation and idea upon idea pass on the genes, and the arts and sciences we possess, and thus, even the least of us, achieve permanence within the universe."

Your grandmother certainly exemplified that thought. How fortunate you are to have had her, and she you.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Sorry for your loss, Mark. My condolences.

GinaG said...

Wow, what a wonderful woman! And what a beautiful tribute to her. You and your family have my thoughts and prayers as your grieve and celebrate her life this week.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Please NOT Gio!!!!"

His father says it was he who purchased the PEDs, or something like that. Neither Gio nor his agent would comment, though, which means they are not denying the report. None of the other players or their agents are commenting, either - e.g. Melky Cabrera, ARod, et. al. Not the kind of names you want to be associated with.

It is a newspaper report about a clinic with a shady reputation. MLB not yet involved, but they certainly will be.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

Sorry Mark, for your loss. A lovely lady, like so many who make all of our lives the better for having them in it.

Gonat said...

Laddie, that is horrible news just being named. Where there's smoke there's fire.

Let just hope he is as clean as a whistle now.

Gonat said...

Marks title for his Grandmother: "A Life Of Fullfillment"

In some athletes careers take out the "f" out of Life. What irony.

Joe Seamhead said...

What do all say that out of respect, let's move the Gio story to the last post.

Faraz Shaikh said...

JoeS, agreed.

Traveler8 said...

Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts about your grandmother with us - she sounds like she was a lot of fun. My condolences to you and your family.

natsfan1a said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother, Mark. Thank you for sharing it with us. My condolences to you and your family.

Coincidentally, we traveled last weekend to be with my grandma-in-law before she passed. She was also 94, and we had been planning a 95th birthday party to rival the one we had for her 90th. She, too, lived independently into her final year and left behind treasured artwork in addition to many happy memories (in her case, these were beautiful hand-made quilts and afghans that warm both body and soul).

I wish you safe travels and a memorable celebration of life with your family.

natsfan1a said...
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UnkyD said...

Thank you, Joe... My thoughts exactly.

NatsLady said...

Agreed. Deleting my Gio post, and God Bless you and your family, Mark.

natsfan1a said...

I'm thinking that has to be Mark in the middle picture, on the left side of the photo (to grandma's right). And we all recognize the cutie she's holding in the last pic. :-)

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, NatsLady.

Tom in AR said...

Mark, thank you for sharing this with us. I pray for a wonderful time with family this week celebrating her life.

JD said...


Deepest condolences Mark.

LoveDaNats said...

Mark, I'm so sorry. What a blessing you have so many wonderful memories of her.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

MARK, condolences to you and your family.

.

sm13 said...

My deepest condolences, Mark, to you and your family. Your trbute this morning was beautifully written. Your love for this special woman shone through.

Cheryl Nichols said...

My deepest condolences, Mark. Such a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. I feel like I know her now. I only hope that I can live a life with as much zest as she did. Glad you have so many wonderful memories of her. Enjoy the precious time with your family this week. Safe travels.

greg said...

sorry to hear that, mark. but she obviously had a tremendous impact on your life and will be remembered fondly. we'll be here when you get back, take your time and enjoy reminiscing with your family.

NatsFam said...

I think we get more of a sense of where you get your balance and life attitude from. Thanks for introducing such a wonderful lady into our existence. Don't ever think of what you do as "just a little sports blog". You bring a reality to your readers that they wouldn't have without you - it's more of a blessing than you can imagine.

NatsNut said...

She sounds like an awesome Grandma. Thank you for sharing Mark.

ptindc said...

It's always a pleasure to read your work Mark. I am saddened by your loss, but I'm certain a grandmother as creative as yours must have appreciated all that you put out into the world. Your virtual family mourns with you.

BigCat said...

My condolences as well Mark. She sounded like a tough ol bird.

Tcostant said...
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MurrayTheRed said...

Mark thanks for sharing. She sounded like a wonderful and special lady. My condolences.

Murray

Kevin Rusch said...

Reading about your grandmother was a delight; people like her are rare. Thanks for sharing, and my condolences to your family.

Marc said...

My condolences on your loss Mark. Thank-you for sharing with your readers.

About ten years ago I lost my 96-year-old grandmother who similarly had lived independently and actively despite surviving her husband and siblings and having numerous physical impediments. I suspect that, like I have, you will find yourself inspired by the way she lived and approached life as you face the inevitable challenges it throws your way and embracing that part of her that lives on in you.

Doc said...

Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts on your grandmother.

You're excellent eulogy brought to mind my own exceptional gran who coincidentally, although born in Seattle, grew up on Squirrel Hill, a generation before Marian Amdur.

Marian was obviously an All Star, and part of her amazing legacy was producing a grandson who is one of the better sportswriters of his generation.

Avar said...

Condolences on her passing Mark but what an amazing woman and I'm glad to hear you say you'll be celebrating her life. Sounds like a life worth celebrating. A true inspiration.

David said...

Great tribute. Very sorry for your loss. My condolences to your entire family.

mo nats said...

Maark, what a wonderful description of a remarkable person in your life. My own father is 94 and the family is looking forward to celebrating his 100th in the future. Your grandmother's life makes one hope that he/she will be remembered so lovingly.

rmoore446 said...

What a wonderful life and a great tribute! My condolences for the loss of this wonderful lady

Jeff Zuckerman said...

Super sweet, Mark. We'll be there with you in spirit this week.

Uncle Zuffster

rdexposfan said...

My deepest condolences on the loss of your grandmother. Her life was long and full and we should take a lesson from it, to live life to it's fullest everyday.

Dave said...

My sympathies to you and your family, Mark. That was a wonderful tribute piece.

Section 3, my sofa said...

Sincere condolences to your family, and a standing O to your grandma for a life well lived.

I'm going to go call my mom now.

Ron In Reston said...

My condolences as well, Mark. My grandmother died just before Thanksgiving this past year at 105 and was also an avid golfer and bowler in her younger (into her 70s) days.

realdealnats said...

My sympathies Mark. Talk about someone who took a big bite out of life! I love that she met your Grandfather dancing. She inspired you and now you've inspired us. Indulge in all the memories this week...

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Deepest condolences to all the Zuckerman family. Mark, your grandmother lives on through you and the rest of your family. She sounds like quite the woman. Your beautiful tribute should be the anchor for what I am sure will be many memories and stories that live on. Your memories of her will only grow fonder and richer through the years.

Again, my deepest sympathy for your loss.

John D. Schulz
Bethesda, Maryland

jw said...

What a beautiful tribute! My condolences to you and your family.

peric said...

Sounds to me like she was more than a little bit of alright! Great inspiration! A full almost entirely no compromise life ...

Nice.

Great piece of filial piety Mark.

RickH said...

Amazing woman! My condolences to you and your family.

ehay2k said...

Condolences from our family to yours Mark. She seems like a person people would feel lucky to have known.

Ed King said...

Marian was my cousin. Her mother, Esther, was my Father's sister. Your tribute to her was really beautiful. I assume you live in DC, as does my son Bruce King. Perhaps we can meet some time in DC.

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