Growing up, I was blessed to have eight grandparents involved in my life; four grands and four great grands. I had strong, close relationships with all of them and they all lived close enough for frequent visits. And even though there were many MANY cousins on both sides, somehow I never felt forgotten. They were all everything a grandparent should be, they spoiled, they loved, they supported, they listened. They broke the rules-just a little-and were amazing examples of how marriages and families work for the long haul.
But then, in a single, terrible year, we lost three.
They were my first real losses and it took time to process. That year I felt like we spent so much time in stuffy rooms full of grownups dressed in black smelling carnations and eating off of slightly old sandwich trays. I couldn’t take another graveside service, I really couldn’t. My maternal grandmother, in particular, was so well-loved that the funeral home had to open a second room for mourners and then a third room just for the flowers. It almost made it harder for teenage me. She had felt so special and personal to me, and suddenly there were so many people claiming to love her that it was standing room only.
After the dust of that year settled, we had peace for a while, but time keeps marching on and one by one my most cherished cheerleaders and safe places were gone until only one remained. I clung to my maternal grandfather with all that I had. I danced with him at my wedding, I never passed up a chance to watch baseball or play cards with him, and I did my very best to visit often and make sure my kids got to know him as best they could. I was aware our time was waning. I knew it was precious. I tried.
When it finally happened though, I found I wasn’t prepared like I thought. No matter how intentional I tried to be, no matter how many times I visited, or how long my hugs were, it still hit like a sack of bricks.
I’m nobody’s grandbaby anymore.
Nobody will else ever brag about me to their Bridge club, keep my senior picture on the fridge, or remind their neighbor Gladys that I’m getting married to a man from Louisiana, can you believe it? No one else will ever send me a birthday card with a five-dollar bill in it, feed me when I’m not even hungry, or let me have chocolate ice cream for breakfast. I suddenly felt so…ordinary. Like all good things, I had never truly realized how profound an effect a good grandparent had until they were all gone. They warmly support you, fiercely love you, and offer endless grace, all while giving you everything you don’t deserve.
So, how do I move forward? How do I believe in myself without them? Well, if they thought I walked on water, I must at least be ok. Their old-fashioned values rubbed off over time and their amazing stories of love have helped me choose my circle carefully. I may have depended on them to know I was special but don’t I at least owe it to them to believe what they said? They helped build who I am with their endless devotion, and I’ll choose to pass on that blessing to my own family. I’ll tell their stories, hold up their legacy, and maybe even let my parents give my kids chocolate ice cream for breakfast…but don’t tell Gladys.