Melba Louise Ryan aka Noonie with Willie (Willis Porter Ryan)

We called my grandmother Noonie. That was her special name. She was born on October 16, 1922 and her name was Melba Louise Ogle Ryan. My grandfather, Willis, had been with her for 68 1/2 years, if you count the time they were together, dating. They married on June 26, 1943, and just celebrated their 65th anniversary. I haven’t seen Noonie since 2002. Moving, transportation issues, and a slew of other things got in the way.

Today my grandmother passed away. She died a little before 2 AM. She was in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, and her nephew’s wife (my cousin Pat’s wife, Lori), who works for Hospice, was with her when she died. My grandfather was woken at 2 AM, to be told his beloved Melba had died. I received a phone call at 1 this afternoon from Willie (what I call my grandfather).

Twelve years ago today, Noonie was sitting in a hospital room, for 14 hours, waiting to hear if I made it through Spinal Fusion surgery. The surgery saved my life, but ultimately, this was the last day I ever walked. It’s a day of many endings for me, and a day that I will remember for quite some time.

Noonie was a tough old cookie. She had many health problems throughout her life. She was a fighter though and many people attribute her to giving me her fighting spirit. She could be feisty-mean, and I recall getting chased around with a wooden spoon, when I was little and behaving badly. She could also be very loving. The last time I spoke to her, on Thanksgiving, she kept telling me how much she loved and missed me. Even though she was bed ridden, she wanted to take care of me.

That’s what Noonie did. Take care of me and her other grandchildren. My parents weren’t around a lot when I was a kid. Work, school and other things occupied their time. My grandparents took care of me. They took me to the doctor (a lot) especially when I had to go to the hospital for breathing treatments when I had pneumonia. They took me to the MDA Clinc, to Sea World, on vacation, to the movies, to preschool, shopping, out to eat, to charity events when I was the MDA poster child (goodwill ambassador) and pretty much every where else you can imagine.

When I went into a wheelchair full time, Noonie and Willie, took care of me. I had a very rough recovery, and they came over every morning, spending the whole day there, trying to help me to eat, change clothes, go to the bathroom, and just spend time with me.

In essence, Noonie and Willie practically raised me. I remember nearly every holiday spent with them, and often they’d come over on weekends, once I was older and couldn’t go to their house much (their house has steps and narrow doors). In my younger years, I practically lived at their house in Toledo. When I had trouble, Willie would lift me up the steps, but eventually he couldn’t do that. He did build ramps so I could get into his living room, just in case I did come over.

Noonie taught me to sing, when I was two. Noonie and Willie were the two biggest supporters of my acting and singing (excluding my dad – who was a big fan of mine). They were always there to cheer me on when I was in musicals. They even came to a show I was in at Wright State, about gay men with AIDS (I played a doctor), which Noonie didn’t really understand (she had a lot of trouble with her memory). The fact that they came said a lot.

Sure, we had our rough patches, but that’s all families. I hope she knows I didn’t stay away because I wanted to. I would have loved to see her one last time before she passed away, and for that I will always be sad. Right now, I’m missing her, because, despite any differences we had, and any problems we had, I know she loved me, and I loved her.

So, to Noonie, I ask you, my friends, to keep your thoughts and to Willie, who I know is hurting. Give him strength to carry on, during this very sad time in his life.

[tags]Noonie, Grandmother, passed away, missing, Dominick Evans[/tags]

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