And I realized…It’s not every kid who gets to grow up with her grandmother in the very next room. It’s not every kid who gets to know their grandmother on such a personal and intimate level. It’s not every kid who gets to see the good, the bad, and the ugly in their grandmother and have her see those things in you.
Today marks two years that have passed since we listened to her beating heart enter into a final place of rest. But until her death, my grandmother had never missed a birthday or a Christmas by our side. But I think I speak for all my siblings when I say that our relationship was so much more than that. It was so real – there was so much more depth than just knowing her as a nice elderly woman with soft graying curls and a pearl necklace who kisses you all the time. She was a real person. With real emotions, real passions and dreams, real fears and frustrations, and real issues that she was working through and we got to see those things. Many people know their grandparents as just that – grandparents…but my siblings and I, and anyone who has ever lived with a grandparent for 13 years, knows them as people.
Anyone who lives with their grandparents knows the reality of being called upon constantly for things
like carrying in groceries, vacuuming rugs, reaching the bowl on the top shelf, changing a light bulb, and especially helping with anything electronic – the TV, the phone, the computer, the new confounded keurig machine, the toaster oven…you name it. And if they are especially elderly, having to help with those same things multiple times a day, every day, for months/years on end….Well it’s a given that we must learn the art of patience and gentleness. How many different times can you explain how to use the remote without losing your mind? And of course there were moments when I’d lose myself in the frustration and all attempts to veil my impatience were lost…but I tried daily to let myself see that every opportunity to serve my grandmother was a moment to really get to know her. And while I was sitting there teaching her how to use her remote or phone for the 8th time that day, knowing the 9th was just minutes away, she was teaching me all sorts of things in addition to patience and gentleness.
She loved classic films and taught me how to appreciate movies like Singing in the Rain and The Glen Miller Story. She loved music and taught me to appreciate Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. She loved to dance and taught me the Lindy. She loved to laugh and taught me the art of sarcasm. She loved to cook and taught me how to make lasagna, sausage and peppers, pastina and chicken soup, and the best way to roll a meatball. She loved people and taught me how to really slow down and listen to people, to genuinely care about what’s going on in their lives, and to find sincere ways of encouraging them. She loved her family and taught me that it’s better to forgive and have them in your life, than to hold onto offenses and be separated.
But I think overall, she taught me how to truly love another person. As mentioned, we saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in each other. My grandmother is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met and was by no means easy to deal with. She was as imperfect as the rest of us. And there were a few times when both our frustrations would go flying and we’d go head to head and wind up saying things we later regretted bitterly. But after those moments, she’d come to me and tell me that I was too important to her to fight with. She’d say she had been wrong. She’d confess that she wasn’t angry at me, but frustrated with herself or her situation. Especially towards the end of her life, as she was battling cancer, those harsh words would quickly turn to sobs and she would ask for forgiveness. Then she would share her fears with me because of everything she was walking through and I’d hold her hand with her head on my shoulder as she cried. I told her I had already forgiven her and it was forgotten and that I was sorry for not being more patient. That I loved her regardless of anything she would ever say out of frustration or fear and would always be there for her as she had been there for me all throughout my life. Those vulnerable moments when she thought she was weak, were moments when I had never thought of anyone as being so strong.
It’s not every grandmother who can get that real with her granddaughter. It’s not every granddaughter that gets to return the favor of all the comfort her grandmother has brought her throughout her life. For all those times she’d let me sleep in her bed when I got scared at night, for all the kisses on scraped knees when I was hurt, for all the bowls of chicken soup when I was sick. Being able to be there for her in the “weak” moments and being able to witness her in those moments was what really strengthened our relationships. I got to see how, in spite of her fear those last years, how she kept laughing, kept caring about people, kept thinking about others, kept praising the Lord, kept persevering. And those things made it so easy to forgive her rapidly. To move on from the hard moments. She was quick to forgive because of the value she saw in me, because she cherished our relationship, to look past my failures and flaws and love me and she taught me how to cherish her even though she would frustrate me or hurt me at times.
And I’m so glad that we walked that road together…my family and her. There were so many little in-between moments that we got to share throughout those 13 years of living with her. We cherish those years, as hard as they were at times. It was an honor to know her as intimately as we did. To see God’s hand of faithfulness in her life. She wasn’t dealt an easy hand in life and she had a lot of baggage to sift through, but every morning I’d see her underlining a verse in her Bible that spoke hope and freedom into her life. I watched her as God renewed her life through daily struggles. A progression of change that requires unending humility as God removed ugliness from her life. So thank you Grandma for allowing me to love you even in your ugliest moments as you loved me in mine. You brought so much joy, comfort, and love into my life and I wouldn’t have traded those years for anything.
So to all grandchildren out there, I would encourage you to really know your grandparents as much as you can…there is so much richness in it…and you won’t ever regret it. There’s so much to learn.
August 22, 1927 – March 2, 2013