I had a really hard time finding this article that was written about my nanny after her death in 2011. I’m putting it here so I never lose it again.
There may be something to it, if you believe in such things. Nearly every culture on Earth believes ladybugs bring good luck, probably because they eat harmful pest – aphids, mostly. In some countries, ladybugs are said to omens of good crops. Some believe they can grant wishes. The French believe that if a lady bug lands on you and flies away, it carries all of your ailments with it.
Evelyn didn’t go that far. She did believe they were good luck and she was crazy about them. She had ladybug pins and earrings. And, of course, her good luck token.
But don’t let that lead you to believe that she was some woman doting over ladybugs. Her grandchildren all called her “Nanny,” conjuring images of a kind of Norman Rockwell grandma, sitting in her rocking chair or baking cookies. That wasn’t her style.
She was kind of a free spirit. One of her daughters, Linda Hess, described her as her BFF, that she was a good friend and a mother. One of her granddaughters, Meagan Hess Feeser, described her as “badass.”
She and her granddaughter would try to outdo each other when it came to stringing together colorful chains of expletives, holding contests to see who could be more obscene, who could stretch the envelope further. Evelyn won a lot. Her favorite expression was “damn good.” Ask her how she was doing, or how her sandwich was, or how her cup of coffee tasted, and she’d say, “Damn good.”
For her 69th birthday, her granddaughter threw her an adult-themed party. She enjoyed it.
When she’d get together with her daughters and granddaughters, she was just one of the girls, going shopping or taking weekend trips to Cape May, a place she loved like no other. And she relished beating her daughter at cards – 500 rummy – something she did frequently.
Her daughter said she was always fun to be around. She knew how to have a good time and never passed up the opportunity to do so.
She first got sick in the summer of 2010. She started getting headaches and wound up at the doctor’s office. Some tests later, she got the bad news – she had a brain tumor. She didn’t make a huge deal about it. Even after the diagnosis, she still mowed her own lawn and took care of herself. She wasn’t one to mope.
She had surgery in October 2010 to have the tumor removed. She was recovering from that when she got sick again, this time, cancer. In the spring, as the ladybugs were returning, she had hospice care in her home. Her family took care of her, round-the-clock for 18 days, right up the end.
She died April 28. She was 74.
Her granddaughter Meagan wanted to memorialize her with ink. She’s a marketing professional in Owings Mill, Md. – she commutes from York – and is not heavily into tattoos. She does have another, the Hess family crest, which she shares with her mother and father.
Her initial thought was to have the words “Damn Good” inked on her body. She mentioned getting a tattoo to memorialize Nanny to her aunts and cousins and they were all for it. But some of them balked at having “Damn Good” permanently affixed to their bodies.
Someone suggested a ladybug.
It was perfect.
So during a Mother’s Day weekend trip to Cape May, the women, six of them altogether, spent eight hours that Saturday in a tattoo parlor, getting ladybug ink. The toughest sell was Linda Hess’ sister, Donna Wolfgang. She has no other tattoos and wasn’t crazy about getting one. But since everybody else was doing it, and mostly because of Nanny, she went ahead with it.
The next day, Mother’s Day, they gathered on the beach and spread Nanny’s ashes.
And not long ago, another of Nanny’s daughters, missing her family, moved back to York County from Florida. Her family had a party on the deck at Linda’s house to welcome her home.
Someone noticed that a ladybug had crawled onto one of the benches and stayed there. It sat there all night, as if it were hanging out at the party, as if it were taking everything in.
“It was like Nanny was there with us,” Meagan said.
Mike Argento’s column appears Mondays and Fridays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 771-2046. Read more Argento columns at www.ydr.com/mike or visit his blog at www.mikeargento.com. Or follow him on Twitter at FnMikeArgento.