You would be turning 99 today. Happy Birthday! It is our first year without you here to call, send cards and gifts to and it just feels a little sad. I know you were ready. It still cracks me up to think about how you greeted Aunt Glenny when she came to say goodbye on your last day: “What the hell’s taking so long?” But 47 years is a long time to love a grandmother. It’s a gift few people receive. And it just makes the loss a little greater, the memories a little sweeter.
When Grammy died 17 years ago, I began a tradition that I’ve continued as each of my other grandparents have passed away. On each of your birthdays and death days, I do a little something to honor you and commemorate something that is special to me about you. It started with making the ancient family secret crescia bread for Gram. It is gardening for PopPop and playing a family game of Monopoly forPoppie. But for you? Hmmm. Well, this very missive is part of it!
You were the Greeting Card Queen, remembering every birthday, anniversary, holy sacrament, and other Hallmark holiday with a hand-picked card and your straight print signature. You were a big influence on my penchant for penning little notes to people over the years. I cringe now to think of the money I spent at the Cornell Campus Store on sappy expressions of friendship and romance and bust-a-gut two-liners for the younger and older generations. Yes, you definitely planted a special seed in me and I am now proud to carry it and grow it in this way!
And you were so charitable- giving to this and that organization with commitment and passion. Guiding Eyes for the Blind would always send adorable notecards with dogs on them in acknowledgement of your contribution, which you then bequeathed to me! I miss them. I’m sure there are still a few kicking around in my secretary but I’ll probably hold onto them for sentimental reasons. Giving was what you did best, whether it was advice or humor or goodie bags at Christmas or outright donations. So, that is the other thing I did to honor you today. And what an adventure it was! I might as well say now that Phyllis gave too; all day long , she stayed with me through the process and I’m so grateful for her support!.
I only learned about plasma pheresis a couple of weeks ago, but today I donated plasma. It’s becoming the rage. The donation center draws from about 1,300 people per week and they aren’t even open on the weekends! Basically, they assessed my vein quality, checked my health, and drew my blood, spun out my plasma, and returned the red and white blood cells, platelets and some saline back into me. They ultimately took about two pints of plasma from my body. With proper hydration and healthy eating (which you also taught me), my body should recreate that plasma within two days.
It was an absolutely fascinating process from start to finish. It takes about four hours for first time donors but should only take about 90 minutes subsequently. There were a lot of forms, educational videos, and screenings. I am proud to report that I am as healthy as a horse with excellent vitals, blood cell and protein levels. Everyone I interacted with was incredibly thorough and professional. The business was organized and efficient. The actual extraction and return infusion process was painless. And I feel so darn good about doing it!
While I did it partially to honor your legacy of giving, I was also able to help so many other people in the process. Plasma is now a key ingredient in many of the medications and protocols used to treat a host of immune diseases and disorders that afflict people all over the world, like hemophilia, ITP,and CVID. Researchers are on the verge of releasing a new plasma-based treatment for blood clotting and pressure disorders as an alternative to Coumadin. With the presence of certain antigens in the blood, a pregnant woman with high-risk negative Rh factors can have her blood exchanged for healthier blood that will ensure the proper development of her fetus. The whole thing is amazing! Because the etiology of my vision loss was auto-immune, I am particularly attuned to the mysteries and research being conducted to combat them.
Plasma pheresis is simple and safe but significant in improving the quality of life for millions of people living with these conditions. Whether I end up doing this monthly or semi-annually, it will be a Nannie-inspired gift that will make me proud and grateful for my own strong constitution and the beautiful, healthy almost 99 years you had ! So, happy birthday, Nannie! I miss you!