My takeaways from life with my Grandmother
My grandma is dying. My sainted sister has taken her home from the nursing home to die with her family surrounding her. She is 96 years old and has been a victim to the isolation of COVID-19. She was healthy in March, her memory only slightly affected by her age. But now, she is bones and skin, confused and uncomfortable every minute. Her rare and fleeting smile is a reminder of the thousands of beautiful days and memories with her.
My grandmother is the person in my family I am most like and I am more than proud to say so. Many of her strengths and weaknesses are mine as well. I hold the natural world with highest regard, and look for ways to connect with the earth. I am slightly obsessed with trees and birds. I love to experiment in the kitchen and never make the same thing twice. I love my spiritual life and have always seen that as a defining part of myself. I love to facilitate growth in myself and others. I love to see others happy and contented. I love making my home warm and inviting, even if it is rather small. I love touching people with kindness. She was a gifted hairdresser. I am a hand and foot massager and hugger (not by trade). I enjoy learning about other cultures and inviting people into my life that teach me and grow my perspectives. I value all of my relationships. Most of all, she and I share the love of music; the way it makes your toes tap and makes you start singing whether you like it or not. She bought my first violin at age 4 and was the talent behind my vocal experiences to this day.
But, on the other hand, I also married a man who was abusive. I tried my hardest for decades to “make” him happy. I have major anxiety disorder and tend to choke easily. My thyroid and I have a complicated relationship and my body registers emotional pain as physical pain.
There are always the good and bad characteristics that come with nature and nurture. I happen to see where I come from very clearly. There are some things that I feel I have failed at, if I were to be “just like grams”, but I am reconciling those daily. The most important of which is that I, unlike Grams, finally filed for divorce after 16 years of manipulation, gaslighting and a relationship that would not mature past what a teenager might think was meaningful. Grams never gave up. I realize it was a generational difference. I realize that we live in a different world now. But I am glad she did not give up. I loved my grandpa. He and I ate braunschweiger and liver and onions together. He and I listened to Bing Crosby and watched Lawrence Welk together. I might have missed out on those times with him had she walked away for her own good.
I don’t regret leaving my husband. Not for one second. But I do regret the repeating of the pattern. By breaking the cycle, I give my girls-especially my youngest who is most like me-the permission to go down another path entirely; a path with less innate pain, suffering and confusion.
Grams knew who she was. She could keep herself separate from my grandfather’s low level depression and self inflicted misery. I didn’t inherit that. Her love for Jesus and connection with the spirit and her church group of ladies was something that I always watched with admiration. I loved that she had that. I had no idea that I would create that same kind of group-outside of a church-in my 40’s. Grams and I have the same God, just a different flavor, perhaps. She trusted God to take care of her as she took care of everyone in her life. And she saw that God did that. There was never doubt in her eyes. She simply trusted.
She was the one-the only one after the miscarriage that almost killed me at age 20-that knew I would recover. She listened to my grief with patience and compassion. She held my hand as I cried over not only the loss of a baby, but the loss of trust in my body to take care of me. That was a huge loss indeed. I was terrified of doing what everyone said I must do; get back in the saddle and try for another baby. I could not do it. And I didn’t, for 5 years.
One funny thing about Grams that I still don’t quite understand is that she would spell my name differently every time she had a chance. She would write Kristi, Kristy, Christy, and Christi. It always made me laugh, though. I just gathered that since it wasn’t my “real” name, that she could spell it however she liked. Funny lady.
There are so many other memories that I hold, but these are a few things I know about myself because of my grandmother. I love my Grams. The world will lose an incredible person when she passes. I truly believe she will never really be gone unless the memory of her fades. My siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunt and uncles and the hundreds of others she loved well will make sure that does not happen.
Till we meet again, sweet, sweet woman.