I remember nearly 11 years ago when I lost my first grandparent. My dad's mom, who was the only other redheaded lady in my family. She was a seamstress, a southern cook, and she liked to do the nightly crossword. So, you can guess why I liked her.
When she passed, I was sad. I'd put on sad music to cry a little, and when a truckload of her sewing supplies got shipped to my house, I pored over them with nostalgia and appreciation. But truth be told, I didn't really know her all too well. I had bits and pieces of her personality tucked away in my heart. I had memories that made me smile. But mostly I was sad that Grandpa was alone, now. That after 50 some odd years, he didn't have her any more.
So then this past summer when I lost both of my grandfathers, something began to fall apart in me. Wait - wait! Stop this. Stop the bus. I'd like to get off now. But the driver ignored me. And life went on.
It was a strange feeling. The grandparent/grandchild relationship can be so special. In the child, the relationship fosters love, acceptance, and a sense of history. And I wasn't ready to be losing them all.
But my Grandma Angela was still alive. My favorite of them all. My grandmother was a special woman. She had an award winning smile, an infectious laugh, and a love and joy for life that resonates with me. She was an artist, a lover of good coffee, and a health nut WAY before it was cool. ("Ew. What kind of chocolate is this, Gram?" // "It's carob. It's just like chocolate.")
As a child I visited nursing homes with her to help her with Arts & Crafts Hour -- she did that faithfully at many nursing homes for years and years. I was her assistant every Tuesday for a lot of my childhood, and she even had a custom name tag made for me. "Susana Lear -- Assistant". I still have the name tag in a special place on my shelf. It was my first job, and it fostered in me a love for the elderly that has followed me through my life.
She passed a couple of weeks ago; her body crumbled under the pressure of loneliness and age. She was suffering in her mind, so I know she's happier now in Jesus' arms.
I wasn't ready for her to go.
My cousin Niki said to me, after the funeral, "Okay, Susi. You win. You win the crying award." I was so sad to see her go. I was so mad that my kids wouldn't know her as I knew her. That it was up to me to make sure they understood what a wonderful person she was. Her passing has left me melancholy and sentimental. I mope around the house when I think of her. I cry quietly in my car on the way to work. I'm crying right now, for Pete's sake. It's still too fresh.
But life has its lessons. And whether we want to or not, we get to learn them. So here's my lesson. I realized that I wasn't the child anymore, who needed to be loved and accepted by the grandparent. (Okay, I get it. 32 is pretty old to realize I'm not a child. Leave me alone.) I realized that life moves on. I'm my mom now. My kids are me. And they have four amazing grandparents. Time is shorter than I thought. I needn't waste it.
I've moved up the generational ladder, and I'm coming to terms with that. Now it's my kids' time to know and love their grandparents. It's their time to build the relationships and the memories that will someday turn to sadness with their passing.
(But let's not go there yet. Please, God. Let's not go there yet.)