Oops! This past Sunday was a holiday and I totally overlooked it. Grandparent's Day. What makes it even worse; we spent Saturday afternoon with my son's one set of grandparents. You'd think I could have managed a "Happy Grandparent's Day!" But, I didn't. So much for being more thoughtful and caring. What made me remember was a fellow blogger posted a story about her grandparents and asked others to add their own. So, I donated Ode To A Grandma and that has me thinking about my other grandparents.
I was never given the chance to know my mom's dad. He was killed in an accident at his job when I was just a baby. I wish we had been given some time together. There are enough pictures of him riding in a wagon, while my brother and cousin drove the tractor pulling him, that makes me think he was a fun guy. He gifted family with ponies, kept trains set up all year in the living room, allowed my mom and aunt to keep a lamb and raccoon as household pets and held toy car races across the kitchen floor with a purse of a penny. During World War 2 he fought at Iwo Jima as a Merchant Marine. Injured when a land mine blew up, he came home to my mom and Grandma, settling into the life of a farmer. Hence the ponies, lambs and cows that would come down to stare in the kitchen windows at dinner time. It's been almost forty years that he's been gone, but people still talk about him with a smile on their face.
Seanchai is Irish for “storyteller” and it isn’t just something someone did, it's something someone was. That was my dad's mom. A storyteller if ever there was one. And like any true bard she adhered to the main rule: enlighten and entertain. Which she did. With a devilish twinkle in her eye. And she never let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a great story. My Grandma swore the cookies she kept in her jar were a secret family recipe and could only be passed down in a last will and testament. They were Nestle Tollhouse. How I hung on her every word, this lady who had the right to boss my father around. She spun tales of pets, a cussing parrot that scared off a burglar and my father as a misbehaving youth (in direct conflict to his claims of being a perfect child). Right before she got to a really good part she would lean forward, a gleam in her eye. That was my cue to listen up. Something good was coming. And it always was. When I was in sixth grade she told me that I was lucky to be growing up in this day and age. Free to choose anything that I wanted to be. Not like when she was a girl. Become a doctor or lawyer, she advised. Take advantage of all the options. Looking back I wish I would have thought to ask her what she wanted to be when she was growing up. But, I was young and never thought about things like that. Now, it's to late and I'll never know that about her. When my Grandpa, her husband of over fifty years passed away she hugged me as I cried. There was no twinkle in her eyes that day. Or any day there after. Within a very short time she would join him. Memories are all that's left. I know she kept Nutter Butters in her house at all times. I know she smoked Kool cigarettes, drank Sanka and always kept her fingernails long and painted. She wore bright red lipstick, dressed to the nines and opened up her home to foster children. Grandma hasn't been a part of a family celebration in almost twenty years and yet I see reflections of her everyday. There hangs in my kitchen a framed print that once hung in hers. It reads:
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
An Irish blessing. Which is what she was to our family.
Days after I turned sixteen I had to say goodbye to the only Grandpa I ever knew. He never talked much. My grandma did the talking for them both. Once, during a game of pool, he beat me in less than five minutes flat. You might have thought he would go easy on his young granddaughter. Especially since it was Christmas Eve. Nope. If I wanted to beat him I had to do it because I could do it. When I was a girl scout and trying to earn a badge he let me help him out at the grocery store. I was supposed to push the cart for him and help lug groceries. Instead I spent more time throwing in candy for myself and treats for my dog, Brownie. He indulged my every whim that shopping trip. The only time I spent some one on one time with my Grandpa. That memory is a treasure. My grandpa was a slick dresser. He wore fedoras where ever he went, paired with a long trench coat. He was one of eleven, and when his dad died suddenly he had to take over as head of the household. Taught that family was everything he remained close to his many brothers and sisters and as a child I spent a lot of time at family reunions and picnics. His youngest sister was my godmother. I have lived more years without him then I have with him. And yet, he remains part of my life. I have a picture of him in my office. He's sitting at the kitchen table, smiling at me and my new camera. As long as I am alive I will remember him that way. From that day. When the end was closing in on us, though we had no idea. When we knew no better, so we were just happy.
All grandparents are important to their grandchildren. They are the ones that get to do the spoiling. Their parenting days are behind them. They have only to worry about loving, not imparting life's lessons. Still, both are accomplished. Long after a grandparent is gone, their echo is heard through the years. In the smiles, the look in an eye, the stories that are shared by and with their grandchildren. They are one of the strongest links in the chain that is family.