Sunday, March 23, 2008

Florence Miller (1921-2008)

My grandmother was the most generous person I have ever met -- to a fault. People often took advantage of this throughout her life, but I made sure I never did. She could sometimes be stubborn, moody and difficult, but none of those things could ever hide her heart of gold. She worked for the Internal Revenue Service at a time when most mothers stayed home with their kids, and she loved her job and took full advantage of the fact that the IRS would pay for her to further her education. She gave birth to my father while my grandfather was fighting in World War II, so for the first few years of my dad's life, he had no father around; that my dad turned out to be such a good, caring person is a tribute to her. Though they didn't have much money, my grandmother made sure that all three of her kids went to college; my dad was the first person in his family to earn a degree. When money was tight while I was in college, my grandmother quietly paid for a semester's worth of my school -- and she never even asked for so much as a thank you. Over the past handful of years, I called Florence every weekend. We always talked about sports (we both had a soft spot for the Buffalo Bills), politics ("Why did your father become a Republican?" she asked me just about every time we spoke) and her life (as I have grown older, I have felt the need to find out as much as I could about where I came from, and she always had great stories). In October of 1988, two days before I turned 17, my grandfather suffered a fatal heart attack on his boat. His funeral was on my birthday, so not a single year goes by that I don't think of him when I am celebrating another year on this planet. Florence died March 18 (two days before my brother Billy's birthday), and her funeral was held on his birthday. I don't know if this is any more than just a coincidence, but I do know that each of us will forever reflect on the great times we had with Florence and George every October 13 and March 20. We were extremely lucky to have a set of grandparents as special and decent as the Millers, and I just feel terrible that my dad will live the rest of his life without parents. But I take solace in the fact that somewhere, George is reclining in a chair and enjoying a beer, while Florence is next to him, reading the newspaper and talking his ear off. I just hope they realize how much I miss them.

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