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Thursday - April 7, 2011

Frances M. Castillo, RIP

My grandmother had a stroke on Saturday and passed away this afternoon. This is my favorite photo of her:


That's my niece Christy with her. I took that photo about 20 years ago. On my old trusty Minolta X-700 SLR. Note the lack of a "D" in that SLR tag. I was trying to figure out how long ago I took the photo and Jennie suggested I just look in iPhoto...surely it would tell me. And, then I reminded her: 20 years ago. There was no iPhoto. I suppose there might be some clue on the actual print. But, I'm not sure where it is right now. I scanned the photo 3 or 4 years ago and I didn't feel the need to go digging for the original since I had a decent scan. But, Christy just turned 22 and she looks about 2 in that photo so I'm going with "about 20 years ago"...I hope that works for everyone.

My grandmother turned 94 in December. She was proud of her age. She was a cool lady. My grandfather died when I was a baby and she finished raising the children still living at home and then lived on her own until she was 90. At that time, she had to give it up and moved into an assisted-living facility called Westwind House. Her brain had started betraying her. She couldn't quite remember if she'd taken her medication or not. She made herself sick enough to be hospitalized a couple of times by taking too much medication. So, to Westwind she went. Most of the time she tolerated it fairly well. Sometimes she even enjoyed it. She played a mean game of Bingo every Monday and Thursday. They'd win a quarter for every Bingo and a dollar on the last game of the day when they'd play blackout. I'd always talked to her on the phone a lot but I started calling her 4 or 5 times a week when she moved into Westwind. And, I've done that for the last 4 years. On Mondays and Thursday's I'd ask how much she'd won and it would inevitably be at least 75 cents. She was always so pleased. Her two youngest daughters (my aunts) lived 5 and 10 minutes away and visited her daily. One of them asked me this afternoon what we would do now. I said I didn't know and she said I could just start calling her instead. Heh.

I made a habit of visiting my grandmother every summer once I got out of college. I don't think I missed a single summer. She lived in New Mexico. And, it was always a good excuse to visit with her and the rest of my extended family. She had 9 children...and something along the lines of 35 or 36 grandchildren...and I-don't-know-how-many great-grandchildren (but I think the number is greater than 40)...and there are even a few (maybe 10?) great-great-grandchildren kicking around. That's a heck of a legacy. And, she was proud of that, too. I can see her smiling about it now.

She saw a lot of change in her 94 years (plus some, she'd be quick to remind you) on this planet. I asked her a couple of years ago what she thought was the most amazing change she'd seen. I didn't really know what to expect but was very surprised at the answer which came very quickly: "I never thought I'd see an indoor toilet! Can you imagine? I just never thought I'd see that."

I loved my grandmother. I hope she's at peace now.

UPDATE. My mom reminded me of a summer I spent with my grandmother. I guess I was about 15 or so. My cousin Delphine and I both spent that summer with Grandma. I wonder where David was? I'm sure Jennie and Larry were home with Mom and Dad. Delphine was older...old enough to work on the county road crew. She spent her summer holding a STOP/SLOW sign as she directed traffic on the road between Magdalena and Socorro. I spent my summer painting the church and the statues and the Stations of the Cross in the church with my grandmother. Grandma had great designs in mind for me and her church. They didn't pan out quite the way she hoped but it was an interesting summer.

UPDATE #2. My "guestimate" on numbers of progeny were just a bit off. It appears that some of my cousins and their children have been much busier than I'd ever realized. Here are the grand totals of my grandmother's direct descendants at the time of her death (not all of them survive her, by the way): 11 children (9 reached maturity), 32 grandchildren, 76 great-grandchildren, 49 great-great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-great-grandchild. For a total of 160 direct descendants. Amazing.

UPDATE #3 (April 13th). I didn't end up going to my grandmother's funeral. I decided, instead, to go visit my family in New Mexico this summer...the way I always did. The Rosary was last night. And, the Funeral Mass this morning; it's going on as I post this 3rd update. Last night, while roughly 350 people were at the funeral home for my grandmother's Rosary, I went to the Texas baseball game. I'm sure she would've preferred that I'd prayed a Rosary instead. But, she would've probably understood my decision to wait until this summer to go visit my aunts. I hope so at any rate. When I got home, I spent some time thinking about her. We were talking on the phone a couple of weeks ago and I'd told her about whatever Texas game I'd been to earlier that day and, for some reason, I thought about the time when she'd played softball with her "Senior" group and asked her about it. She didn't remember having played and I assured her she had. She laughed at the idea. But, she ended up deciding it must've been true...that I wouldn't lie about such a thing. Although, I kinda think that deep-down she still didn't quite believe that she would do such a thing. Heh. And, when I finally got to my computer last night, I found that my mom had posted a photo to Facebook of my grandmother taking a big whiff:

[Grandma taking a swing]

On the back my grandmother had written: "I lost it. Ha!"

That really makes me smile. I'm guessing they played these games about the time I would've been in college. Maybe? I dunno. But, likely about 30 years ago or so. What an amazing lady.

And, just for fun...two more photos. I took these last summer with my iPhone so the quality isn't the best. But, they seem to fit with this story.

First, here she is, playing Bingo (note how she's keeping track of 3 boards at once):

[Grandma playing Bingo]

And, here's a shot of me and Grandma:

[Me and Grandma]

Please forgive the blur. It's the best I could do.

Posted by Joanna at 9:49 PM

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