Grandmothers

I know it’s Valentine’s day and the worlds marketing companies would like you to focus all your energy and money on that special someone… but like my friend Chrisselle would say: today is just a day; the same as tomorrow. The question is why aren’t you showing them that you love them every day?! Well, for some reason… today… I’ve been thinking of my grandmothers all day.

Grandmother A died of cancer in 2007. As much as I miss her and wish I could have another conversation with her, I’m really glad for the time we had together. She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and less than 3 months to live… that was a year and a half before she died! Morphine is a great drug but even that looses its effects after a while. I’m really glad she is not suffering and for the great memories I have of her.

I’ll always remember my excitement when they came to visit. Not because they brought me teddy bears or presents wrapped in shoe boxes but because they loved me. I could see it when I was still in preschool and even the last photo I have of us together it is clear that they loved me and each other. I’ll remember her as the women who took me for walks on the beach at 5am and made me sit on the bench [for what seemed like hours] so that I could watch the waves as she taught me they were all different, yet perfect in their own right. As a 3 year old I didn’t get it and figured she just wanted to get me out of the house so that I wouldn’t wake everyone else up [which is probably partially true]. But as we walked on the beach, my grandmother noticed that I was throwing some shells back and she asked me why I didn’t keep all of them. I simply pointed out that they had holes in them and weren’t perfect anymore, so I didn’t want them. Right there and then my grandmother stopped and showed me the beauty in each of those ‘faulty’ shells. In the beginning I didn’t get why she was making such a big deal about finding the perfection in everything, after all I was only 3 years old. When I was about 11 I asked her about it because I was convinced she did it to be all philosophical and stuff but couldn’t figure out why she only did it with me. She just laughed it off and we never really had that conversation again until I was 18 and her sister’s husband came to visit us. He suffers from OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] and because she saw the signs of early OCD in me and had knowledge of how to handle it, she taught me how to retrain my brain in a sense. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to walk into most rooms without freaking out. Through those 5am conversations we had during the years, I learned how to find the perfection in everything and focus on that instead of everything that’s wrong. The only 2 side effects are the fact that to this day I still only pick up broken shells because to me they are truly beautiful and the other being that I see the compliment in every insult so you practically need to use neon boards and spell it out for me. Small price to pay for living a fairly normal life.

The thing I miss most about my grandmother is her majestic composure and incredible ability to unite our family only through love. The conversations we had will remain with me forever. I remember when I was also about 4 years old and I said something about our acting president that my aunt and grandmother did not like at all! They stormed out of the room and rushed off to yell at my dad for allowing those thoughts into my head. That fight taught me that it’s alright to disagree with the people you love and have your own opinion. I will never neglect her memory by pretending that my opinion is worth nothing. Even as I was growing up, we had very adult conversations and a part of me believe that she knew she’d never have the opportunity to have those conversations with me when I was actually an adult. I love her for every hug and miss her for every comforting word of wisdom.

But as I’ve said before: I’m very lucky! My dad’s mother [Grandmother B] is still alive. I remember her as being the first person to let me brush my own teeth. Again I was about 3 and I went to stay with her for the weekend. My mother was very over protective and didn’t want me to do it wrong, so she just did it for me. So when my grandmother asked me if my mother allowed me to brush my own teeth, I did the logical thing and lied! Still feel a bit bad about that and should probably apologize but I’ll never forget that sense of independence and having my grandmother there to share it with me. She was also the women who explained to me that the reason my dad was crying was because my baby brother went directly from my mommy’s tummy to heaven. I wasn’t even 4 years old yet and I hadn’t even known my brother but my grandmother didn’t see me as just a little kid, she saw me as the person with all my dad’s wisdom and all my mother’s experience. She explained death in such a way that even though I still [to this day] miss my brother, I was actually really excited for him at that point since he got to go somewhere I haven’t been yet. Somehow in those few simple words she gave me, a 4 year old girl, the strength to support her parents in their very different states of grieving while still allowing me to feel safe and vulnerable every time she placed her arms around me.

I actually looked forward to seeing her mostly because of her hugs and wet kisses. She may have always seen me as the adult I am right now but she still makes me feel safe and cared for like back when I was still a toddler. I even sat on her lap until I was 14. I know that’s a bit much but I still can’t get enough of her hugs and if I didn’t believe that I would squash her, I’d still sit on her lap today. Contrary to Grandmother A’s 13 grandchildren [14 in 2 weeks time], Grandmother B only had one, me. They only had my dad and his brother, who happens to be gay. Yes, they all spoiled me! And even tried to buy my love but I had a conversation with my grandparents about that when I was 12, making sure they knew that I loved them and not the stuff they bought me. The not buying my love thing lasted quite a while, until my dad died in 2006.

My mom and I were visiting them for the day with a couple of friends. We barely left them ~ didn’t even make it to the highway yet ~ and my phone rings: it’s my grandmother. “We didn’t give you any pocket money” and I practically started laughing and said: “uhm… ok…” but my grandmother insisted: “We didn’t give you any money and I thought your grandfather was giving it and he thought I was giving it and….” She breaks down in tears. So now I’m sitting in this car trying to convince my grandmother that money really really really doesn’t matter to me while she’s crying and afraid she’ll never see me again. So we pulled over so that my grandparents could give me money. To this day that still seems extremely weird to me but I understand why they felt so strongly about it: they had just lost their son and were afraid that they’d lose me too. They may have even thought that my mother would poison me against them or keep them from me. Logically since I was already 18, that wouldn’t have happened but see with grieving, logic seems to fly out the window and I love them for showing such intense desire to love me.

In the last few years I’ve been relying on my grandmother’s recipes for Christmas dinners and pretty much everything else because her years of experience and tweaking has made them idiot proof! I also admire her devotion to my grandfather and how strong she was when he died of lung cancer last October. She is a hard working woman and keeps ploughing along, no matter what life throws at her or how many times her path seems to have changed. I admire her love for her son even though she doesn’t fully comprehend how he could be happy being gay, yet she [nor my grandfather] ever loved my uncle any less! The amount of love we had in our tiny family was just as great as that of my mother’s side of the family.

I love my grandmothers and my grandfathers for that matter… actually my whole family and each of you have made a huge impact on my heart and the way I live my life. Now that I am in Zimbabwe I’m meeting a whole different part of my family and because of the values my grandmothers taught me, I fit right in and it’s like we’ve know each other forever.

As I wrote this I couldn’t help but think about my little unborn cousin, Rose. She’ll never get to meet our grandmother but she has 13 cousins who’ll make sure she learns the same lessons we did and get to have the same conversations we did. There really is no greater love than that of a family. And I love my family.

AM

PS: The names of my grandmothers actually start with an ‘A’ and a ‘B’… I don’t rank the people in my life. They are all important to me in their own way.

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