Peggy Rice, whose favorite number was 19 (born on June 19th, 1919), passed away peacefully in her home on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014. I almost feel selfish to say that she was my grandmother, when she was so many things to so many people. But, still, she was my grandmother, and I and everyone else loved her to pieces. Here are some of the things that stood out about her:
1. She was an incredibly social person. If you wanted to have lunch or dinner, it quite often needed to be scheduled with her several weeks in advance. She was also an avid traveller, and was making trips around the world even in her 90’s.
2. She was incredibly independent, and went shopping, for walks, and to the movies by herself (it was the only way she went to the movies, actually) up until her last days. And her movie reviews, though brief, were always useful.
3. She went to see all the Broadway shows – I think once she told me that she had seen every cast of Carousel – or maybe it was Oklahoma – since 1940.
4. She had the largest collection of Little Red Riding Hood paraphernalia in the world. I believe it is being donated to a museum. She also collected suns, jars that said “Rice” on them, and Pug dog things.
5. She had four kids, two step children, nineteen grandkids, five great grand kids, and survived three husbands (all who passed away – no divorces!). She wore a bracelet on her wrist that had a charm with the name of each of the grand and great-grand kids on it.
6. For thirty years, she ate the exact same breakfast. Two weeks ago, when Jocelyne, Lili and I went over for lunch, she confessed that she was changing her breakfast cereal, so we brought over three boxes of Lili’s favorites. We ended up all having the same favorite.
7. She was incredibly open minded. You could talk to her about anything, and she would listen very closely, and give great advice.
8. Her memory was phenomenal. She remembered everyone’s name, and all of their kid’s names, and would always remember to ask about everyone and how they were. If Lili brought a friend over to visit even one time, Puggy would remember her, and keep asking about her even years later.
9. Her name was Margaret, she liked to be called Peggy. My older sister Kara christened her Puggy. Her third husband, Henry, called her Puggles. I loved that nickname.
10. She loved pug dogs.
11. The past few months her hip started bothering her. The last time we saw her, I offered to come over once a week to do some light yoga with her. She said that she would love to, but what she was really interested in was breathing. She said “I am really curious about breathing, and would like to learn more about how to breathe.” Jocelyne and I found that so fascinating, I would have never expected her to say that.
12. She took great delight in everything creative, funny or original. It made Christmas and her birthday a treasure hunt every year.
13. She remained close with my mother long after she and my father got divorced, and both remarried. She and my mom had lunch practically every other week, and my mom was invited to the special events in Puggy’s life. I found that so amazing.
14. She was born in New York City.
15.This was her last day: she had a big breakfast of cereal, and did some office work (Wednesday was the day she signed checks), and she went out for lunch with her friend Sue; came home with a sandwich for her housekeeper, Agnes, and told her she loved her. She went into her bedroom, sat on her bed, and made a phone call. Sometime before, during or after the call, she passed away. A couple of minutes after Puggy went into her room, Agnes came in with the mail, and found her. Agnes called my Dad, who then called his sisters, and then all of his kids. Puggy had made plans for dinner, too. It was a lot for one day, but she died how she lived, social and fiercely independent. She lived and died on her own terms.
Puggy was like a planet that we all orbited around. She knew everything that we were all up to; we would give her all of our news and she would pass it along to the rest of the family, and that way, we would all keep abreast of the family news, the comings and goings of all the grandkids. She was our hub, our pug-hub.
The morning after she died, I was up, as usual, at 3 am, and as usual, opened the computer while having some tea, and the first thing that I saw was updates on my twitter feed. NASA had discovered that the day before, the planet Saturn had given birth to a baby moon, and they had nicknamed it Peggy. Even though the baby moon was nicknamed after the mother-in-law of the researcher who discovered it, for us, it was a sign. Peggy, Puggy, Puggles had left the earth plane, but now she was a moon, orbiting the rings of Saturn, gracing the firmament with her grace, elegance and beauty. We will miss her dearly, but we know that for sure, she really and truly is in the heavens.