Wednesday, May 9, 2012


One of my friends is going to be taking his 9 year-old son overseas to meet his grandfather. The gentleman is in his 90's and, while still in reasonably good health, you know, in your gut, the earthly days are drawing to a close. The child and his great-grandfather have never met. It's time.

I was blessed to have a set of great-grandparents alive well into my early teens. The memories of them, great-grandma, Rose, and great-grandfather, Alfred, are treasures.

My grandmother was an interesting person. She had a difficult life in her middle years. She was a divorced woman at a time when that wasn't socially acceptable. Only "Hollywood" people did things like that. What people thought about her mattered to her and this was a slap in her face. Still, she got a good job and stayed with that company for 40+ years. They took care of her, too, after she retired and her lifestyle never really changed.

When I became pregnant, this was a huge badge of honor to her. One of her friends had announced at bridge club, just a scant 2 weeks before we announced our pregnancy, that she was going to be a great-grandmother. There had always been a rivalry between the two women. I often wonder what the other woman thought of my grandmother because I know what my grandmother thought of her. It would be interesting to find out that the other woman was totally oblivious to my grandmother feeling she was always being upstaged. The milestones in the lives of her grandchildren were milestones for her too, to be used in a "see how great my grandchildren are contest" with her friends. We, of course, didn't know this until the end of her life.

She worried incessantly about Carole. I was a good mother, but was I feeding her enough? Did she have enough clothes? In the winter, was she warm enough? In the summer, was she cool enough? If she had a cold, had I seen the doctor yet? At times, it was hugely annoying. You want to do right by your kids but you also want it to be assumed you know what you're doing. My grandmother's concerns were born out of a different place and time. Seeing those for what they were helped me to let the comments roll off my back.

When she was dying of cancer, it was hard to know what to say to her. Things had to be just so and, in her mind, knowing she was near the end of her life made hanging on difficult. "I don't know why God doesn't just take me." What do you say to that? I tried to change the subject to the weather but she would have none of it. Things had to be done her way and that included a challenge to God to get the dying part over with. My grandmother passed away in 1992. Carole was young, in 3rd grade. It's still old enough to form solid, if fleeting memories of the lady with white hair who had the patio at the back of the house.

I value, very, very, much that I had grandparents and great-grandparents when I was young. Their influence, their lives, their legacy shapes how I view my life. My friend had the opportunity to spend summers with his grandfather, memories that are hugely important to him. It will be an awkward meeting, great-grandfather and great-grandson who don't know each other at all. It is, however, one of the best gifts he can give his son and his grandfather.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


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