Today is grandparent's day. It is one of those days when I reflect with bitter sweetness on the love I received from my grandma. Here is to my grandma!
I love you so. I miss you something terribly. I think of you often, whenever there is something going on in my life that I would so like to share with you or when I think of something you once said to me. Some of those sayings and things that would just fly out of your mouth. I am a grandma now and your wisdom still amazes me.
I want to thank you for the love you gave me. I never felt judged or condemned even when I probably deserved you just hugged me and said something supportive to me.
Thank you for coming in what my dad calls one of the worst snow storms in 50 years in New Jersey to be with me after I was born. My mother doesn't remember my birth. I don't know what happened as she remembers the other siblings being born. Thank you for taking me out of my crib and holding me close to keep me warm. Dad says it was very cold. Thank you for staying those first 6 weeks of my life. I needed you so. No one knew then that my mom suffered from a severe mental illness. She didn't know how to be a mom or to be nurturing and gentle with children. You were my first experience in the world with love and kindness. Thank you for bonding with me so that I could later bond with others. I miss you so.
Thank you for being so stable. My parents moved a lot around the world. I thought it was because dad was in the service but even after he was out of the service they still moved a lot. My mother's mental illness drove out lives and kept the family in chaos. However, no matter where we were when we came home to see you, you were always there waiting to see us with a hug and our favorite food. I remember how you would cook something for each one of us, our own special dish.
I remember how we would run in and measure ourselves on your small 4'10" frame to see how we had grown. How you would wait patiently and then give us such a hug. I miss those hugs so much. I remember how when we came to dinner we had our own little table. It was just the right size for our feet and legs. We had the right size silverware waiting for us on that table because you said we had small hands and our hands needed the right size silverware so we would be able to feed ourselves. That regular silverware was for bigger people. I know now that you thought about these things because you were a small person. At only 4'10" the world was made for taller people and you were sensitive to how hard it was to handle everything in life made for people so much bigger than you and now us I remember the small cups and plastic glasses that our little hands could grasp. I often thank of that when I am watching small children who are spilling their drinks. I remember you saying that accidents were called accidents because the were things we did when we still learning to use our arms and legs and our brain to tell them what to do. You were my first lesson in kindness and gentleness of spirit.
I remember how you sewed on the treadle sewing machine. Those amazing creative quilts that you made. No one makes quilts like you did, no really, I have seen many quilts and none like yours. You sent me baby quilts when each one of my children were born. I wish I had them still only they dragged them around and slept with them until they were just threads...your works of arts kept them cuddled at night.
I remember later how your precious hands of love would swell with arthritis and you would tell me that you keep going because once you got going your hands would work better. You taught me perserverance. That sometimes I had to push pass the pain in order to get where I was going. Thank you grandma! Thank you for those precious hands and all you did to show your love.
I remember how you would sit and play Chinese checkers with me for what seemed like hours on end. How I thought I was so smart because I would win you once in a while. I remember how when I wanted to be a reporter when I grew up you brought me a small spiral pad and a pencil and told me that all good reporters had to have their pads to write things down when they came to them.
I remember watching the birds from your kitchen window with you. How you had all those picture books with the different types of birds. You would watch out the window over your backyard and the playground down at the end of the alley looking for different birds. They loved the birdhouses and the feed you had out there for them.
I remember going outside with you as you "puttered" in your garden. The grapes and other fruit vines that climbed your yard fence. The flowers and the vegetables that grew and the compost pile that you kept at the lower end of the garden by the pass through between the alley and the city park. We knew when you were gardening that soon all those lovely fruits and veges would soon be in your pantry canned and ready to serve when we came around again. I especially loved your apple pies and applesauce that you made from the old tree new the water well. How we all grieved when that tree finally died and had to be cut down. Another of my favorites was the rhubarb pie that you made. Marie Calendar's just doesn't come close to the pie that you made. I think it was all the love you put into it that made is taste so special.
I miss sitting on your porch screen watching the cars going by. That little town with only one main road going by how you use to say if we sat there long enough we would see everyone in town passing on...
I miss sitting there watching the nightly news with you. It wasn't the end of the day until you had watched Walter Cronkite. When he left the nightly news it made me cry. I missed you so badly.
It was because of you that I went back to school when I was 28, divorced and little children in my care. I called you one day to whine about how afraid I was to go back to college. Afraid I would fail, afraid I wouldn't measure up next to all those youngsters coming straight out of high school, just fearful I was at the prospect of going back to college. Feeling so alone.
Here you were on the phone sharing with me how you had gone back to school and got your High School diploma. I knew it was because you had more time on your hands since grandpa had passed away. First you had gone and gotten a driver's license. I was so amazed because you were so small you could barely see over the steering wheel. Then the HS diploma and now at the other end of this phone you were sharing with me what you were learning in your college classes at the local community college. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. It was too much picturing you in your long granny dress going to school at 70+ and sitting there with all those younger students taking classes. I felt silly and whiny and wouldn't tell you much about why I had called other than to say that I loved you.
I signed up for college the next day. I graduated 4 years later with my bachelor's degree and 8 years later with my Master's. Who knew then that I would pass my prelims for a PhD some 20+ years later when I too was a grandma.
That is not what is most spectacular in my life. I want to thank you most of all for giving me an example of what being a grandma was all about. I am a grandma now and I want my grandchildren to feel the LOVE you shared with me. That unconditional, no matter how I messed up love that said I know you are a good person and you just had a moment you will recover. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When we came to town you took me to Sunday school. I knew that you wanted me to know about the Bible and church yet you didn't use it to shame me or humiliate me when I did something that wasn't in my best interest. Thank you for that. I have a different perspective of myself and how I feel about my spiritual life. My connection to God is very passionate and very personal.
I remember once when I was an adult and you asked me a very pointed question and I lied to you. I lied not because I was trying to be dishonest, I lied because I knew the answer would hurt you, it would have disappointed you so. I think I convinced myself that you bought my answer. Now as a grandma I think differently. You were just too smart to push the issue. You let me work it out on my own and several years later when I came back and told you that I had lied, I remember your shoulders drooped a little and then you turned around and said, "Isn't God's love wonderful? It is so big that it can forgive anything we do." Oh grandma I don't know if you could possibly know what that meant to me. Life at home was not that kind or loving. Those times, those stolen moments were what gave me strength in the night, in the despair and in the anguish of growing up in a home with lots of chaos and pain.
I remember how jealous my mom would get because she knew I loved you so very much. I couldn't help myself. You were a loving and kind woman. There were things I didn't get to know about you until after you were gone.
Last year I went 'home.' Of course it wasn't the same except that by some stroke of luck your younger sister lives in your house. So I got to visit her and sit on the porch and wander through the house. Remembering all that you meant to me. I was there with my grand-daughter and we went out on the back porch, down the stairs and through the yard as I told her how special you were to me when I was a little girl. She was probably more interested in the swings on the playground where I use to play. So off we went to swing.
While I was swinging with her and young woman and her young child were swinging next to us. On a whim I struck up a conversation with her. Told her we were visiting here that my grandma use to live up in that house (I pointed to your house) and she said oh Ethel D. and I said yes. Oh she said that you were so special to her. That you had been in her brownie or 4H club. That you taught Sunday school and that you were very special to alot of young women there who had grown up with you volunteering your time to teach them all sorts of things like quilting and sewing and canning, etc. I could hardly keep my composure as she talked on and on about you. I was so PROUD to be your grand-daughter.
Thank you grandma. Thank you for teaching me about love. For giving me enough love in the little moments we had together that I know how to love and might pass it on to my grandchildren.
I love you forever, and forever my grandma you will be.