My Grandmother would’ve been 100 today. We had a special connection, my grandma and me, a deep and spiritual bond, a unity of our hearts. My Gramps, too, was a main character in the scenes of my story. My life, and the lives of my sister and brother, were immeasurably impacted by our relationship with our grandparents. Across years and generations, something magical transpires. Grandparents are important to kids.
I feel incredibly thankful to have not only known my grandparents, and to have enjoyed years of a close bond, but we also had the privilege of my own children building a precious relationship with their great grandparents.
Our oldest daughter is named for my grandmother, Alessandra, a name she was never called. As a child in a New York City Catholic school, a nun pronounced, “What a long name for a little girl, you will be Alice.” And she was Alice for the rest of her life. Her Mom had called her “Sandy” for short, but in her Italian accent, it sounded to other’s like she said, “Sunday.” Ali loves the story of her namesake, and Grandma cried when she heard what we had named her first great grandchild.
My children have their own memories with my grandparents, some all their own (carrying armfuls of bananas to their room when they’d moved into a retirement community) and some that mimicked my years growing up with them (playing “Open Sesame” with Grandpa as he laughed and waited for the magic words).
When my siblings and I were kids, we spent a lot of time with my grandparents. Every sleep over, we would go to the kitchen on a commercial break (remember when you used to have to hurry back or miss the show starting again?!) to have popcorn and ice cream. Gramps would carefully scoop the ice cream and dip the scooper in a glass of warm water, and every time, he would give one of us the tiniest smidgen of ice cream and pretend that was all we got.
Another food memory which also speaks to their unconditional, unending devotion to us is Grandma’s chicken soup. There was more than one occasion that I had to come home sick from work in New York City and since we only had one car at the time, I’d call Gram and Gramps and tell them what train I was on. Grandpa would drive the 20 minutes to our town and be waiting for me with Grandma’s chicken broth neatly packaged to take me home.
We are full of treasured memories: Grandma calling “yoo-hoo” whenever we arrived and her horrible sense of direction, the secret color-coded Christmas presents, the tin foil New Year’s Eve ball, working with Gramps at the family company, bringing rocks back for Grandma from every place I visited (they had to be labeled with place and date), the long distance calling code when I was away at college: ring twice and hang up, swinging in their hammock, their tidy attic, their tidy basement, their tidy garage, we knew and were comfortable in every nook and cranny of their tidy home.
Grandma and Grandpa taught us work ethic and responsibility: if it broke, it got fixed, if it was taken out, it got put away. They taught us to love before all else; they taught us through example to have compassion for others and to try to see things from another’s perspective. They taught us frugality in money and investing but also through their saving plastic bags and composting long before it was fashionable: “waste not, want not.” Gram taught me to knit one year … I remember a very very very long purple scarf.
Grandma always appreciated everything and saw the love behind any gesture. Even those awful loom-woven potholders I made her! I always felt so special in their presence. Grandpa’s favorite mug for decades was the one I gave him when I was little that said, “If all else fails, ask Grandpa.” That expression turned out to be more true than I ever could’ve expected!
Grandma would’ve been 100 today, September 14, 2012. A year and a half ago, at age 98 1/2, she joined my Grandpa, who died at 97 in 2008. I think of them daily, they visit me in my dreams, my kids remember them in their stories and prayers. I am so thankful that I had them for so many years, so thankful for the closeness we shared, for the friendship and the precious bond. They are truly still with us and present in our lives and I am grateful that our three kids are building beautiful relationships with both sets of their grandparents. Grandparents and grandkids – it’s a connection like no other.