I was able to email most of you, but below is what I wrote earlier. Rosemary “Nani” Bogaerts passed away this morning during complications persumably from side effects from her hip replacement surgery.
I am tired right now, so I’ll definitely write more later.
So here are a few thoughts strung together to create a snapshot of the grandma I knew.
While Nani was a bit crazy sometimes, she ultimately wanted to make everything beautiful. Even with her Parkinson’s disease and bad hip, she continued to paint and sew, giving away clothing and paintings like other grandmas make cookies. She kept a sketch pad next to her easy chair and drew figures and sketched flowers during TV programs – her hands were always busy. One of the saddest things I noticed in the last few months was that arthritis started to plague her left hand and had created a large mass on her joint. But still, she continued to paint and sew.
Growing up, my sister and I loved to go to her house and paint with her in the basement or play cards with her and Papa. The unforgettable Nani smell was an odd mixture of mothballs and perfume mixed with a hint of whatever she was cooking.
She loved when her whole family was gathered around the dinner table eating steak and Belgian frites and mayonaise salad (don’t knock it until you try it). She was responsible for organizing many memorable family events and made sure that every birthday was complete with a cake large enough to feed 22 hungry family members.
Not too long ago, I watched some old home movies that were loaded onto DVD. The movies were from the ’60s and the ’70s – family vacations and visits to relatives in Detroit. Nani was a beautiful young woman – a model when she was younger – and a total flirt. Her favorite person to flirt with was Papa. I remember walking in on many middle-of-the-kitchen-smooches when I was little. Of course I always said, “Ewwww, gross!!”
The first time I was grounded was because I told Nani and Papa to go home when I felt they had overstayed their welcome. I was 4 years old.
Nani kept house and was given an allowance with which to run the household. Before Papa died, he was moved to tears as he described how she took the meager amount of money he had groceries and stretched it out over a week. Nothing went to waste. She loved clothes and learned to sew so that she could custom make the latest fashions. Nani’s haute couture.
When Cait and I stayed with Nani and Papa, she always made the fold out bed just right and tucked us in. Her hands deftly made snug corners on the bed sheets that never came untucked. If we stayed over a Saturday night into Sunday, she always took us to church the next morning (7am!) and then to breakfast. While Papa closed his eyes and “memorized prayers” (ahem, took a nap), Nani kept us in line (“you cannot use the kneelers as a balance beam!!”). Unfortunately, as her Parkinsons got worse, she stopped going to church, but church came to her. And she still painted all of the portraits of the pastors in our parish.
The way Nani said “I love you” was by painting your picture, making you a dress (she swore by polyester and it was hard to convince her to try something cotton), or fixing you a delightful dinner (usually overloaded with onions… but still good). I think that if she ever got to a point in her life where she lost her will to do these things in spite of her Parkinsons, that would have been devestating for her.
The last time I saw Nani, we sat in her new bedroom in my parents’ new home. She made some nachos in her new microwave in her bedroom (it was too hard for her to go up and down the stairs with her hip). We talked a little bit about life. I taught her how to write a letter on the computer. She gave me a blue and white vase (her favorite color combination). While she was thinner than she’d ever been, she was not frail. She seemed to be in good spirits. I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her when I left.
So that’s it – that’s my sketch of my grandma in the only way that I “sketch.”