Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bonnie Jean MacDougall Purdin Russell

My aunt called on Tuesday, perhaps we should head to Dallas, unsure as to what was happening, and hating for us to miss our grandmother, she thought maybe it would be best for us to err on the safe side and get to Dallas as soon as possible. We left Kansas City the next day. And in Oklahoma City she called, my grandmother had died in her sleep that morning, and we were only three hours away.

The truth is that for the last few days she might not have known we were there. This cancer hit quickly; at 96, when everything moves at a slow pace, cancer takes over in no time. My frustration came at the diagnosis, in amazingly good health her entire life, why at 96 did she have to face cancer? Why couldn't she move on at her own time, on her own terms? Why cancer? In the end I believe she made her own choice, opting to step out before we arrived. My aunt believes she choose to keep the little girls from seeing her in such a compromised state and I tend to agree, that kind of selflessness in complete alignment with her character.

Bonnie was my mother's mom, and for too many years I followed my mother's lead, not making the trips to Dallas that I should have, not working on the closeness that we had when she died. It was Mary and Kate who brought me back to Dallas, and Jack, who pointed out soon after they were born that not every child born to a 37 year old mother has a great grandmother. At six months we were on a plane to Dallas, and we visited six times in the past four years.

My grandmother was exactly as a soft spoken woman from Texas should be, sentences took forever to complete and she struggled to understand my northern chatter, for years begging, "Allyson, please slow down". She never called me by my commonly used nickname, Ally, and she preferred to be called Grandmother, although I called her "Bon" as a child, and my girls "BonBon" which I think she actually loved.

Bonnie was a dancer and in 1930, amid depression, she opened the "Bonnie Jean MacDougall School of the Dance" where she taught dancing to children, often taking payments in reciprocal services. In a world where women had just been given the right to vote, my quiet grandmother opened her own business and operated it successfully for several years, shutting the doors after she married my grandfather Noel.

This past Christmas BonBon sent the girls tutus and ballet shoes, by far the most exciting gift opened on Christmas morning. Tutus and ballet slippers made the trip to Dallas with us, the girls eager to perform their never graceful rendition of Swan Lake for their great grandmother. That performance did not happen although I have to think that my grandmother would have delighted in seeing her great granddaughters flaying about her living room, in desperate need of a ballet teacher.

In recent weeks the girls and I have had many discussions about death and heaven, getting older and being young. And so it was on Thursday morning, when my aunt Dee called, that I had to tell my little ones that their dear BonBon had died; Mary clapped her hands, smiled and said "Hurray for BonBon! Now she gets to be in heaven with all the people she already loved!".

Thankfully my little girls brought me back to my grandmother and now they are teaching me how to say goodbye.


LMA said...

My condolences, Allyson. What you wrote here is beautiful. Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't see this sooner. Condolences a plenty! Mary got it ever so right! Love, as always, Peter's Mommy!!!!!!

BAC Student Development Blog said...

Ally, so so sorry to hear. I can only think Mary got it all right with her spontaneous cheer.


Margo said...

*sniffle* RIP Bon Bon. Beautiful tribute and yes, what Mary said.

(I don't really remember you talking about this grandmother all that much back in the day!)

My condolences.

northsidefour said...

Thank you all so very much! A


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