Momservation: “No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” ~ François Mauriac
☺ ☺ ☺
Today is my grandmother’s 88th birthday.
You know what you give someone for their 88th birthday?
Your time. (Although she does love a good cheap wine and some jalapeno jelly.)
Because when you are in your 88th year, you aren’t just giving lip service anymore to the phrase “Time is precious.” You’re living it. You’re in the sunset of your life where the light tints golden what really matters.
And for my Gram, that is her family.
Honestly, it’s always been her family. Gram has oozed love out of her pores for her family since my earliest memories of her: flinging her front door and arms wide open and squealing with delight every single time her family pulled up the boxwood hedge-lined driveway five blocks from Cannery Row. And we were there a lot.
For Sunday dinner. For birthdays. For Thanksgiving. For Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. My family, who had moved away from Monterey to the Bay Area when I was seven, was there for no reason at all except that when a human feels the tug to be unconditionally loved and cherished, the pull takes you right to Gramma’s door.
I was devastated when we moved two hours away from Monterey for my dad’s work. I cried because I was going to miss my house, my school, my friends, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. But my heart ached most for Gramma.
I wrote her heart wrenching letters of hating Concord, feeling lonely and isolated, angry with my parents for uprooting us from the security and comfort of being in her radius—but I never mailed them because I knew they would hurt her heart. She would ache because I was aching. Even as a child I somehow sensed she was more than my father’s mother and my family. She was a part of me. I felt it in my soul. And I would no more break her heart than kick a puppy or ignore the cries of a child.
In fact, when the worst day of our collective family’s life did indeed shatter our hearts —the day my six year-old sister died in a freak accident—I was at Gramma’s house. The place where I know God intended for me to be: in the arms of one of his angels to help me survive the unimaginable. Despite her own inability to breathe after life’s sucker punch, Gram pulled me and my cousin, Cristi, into her protective embrace until we fell asleep—tears staining our faces, sobs still heaving our exhausted bodies even in sleep. Like she has her entire life, Gram sacrificed her own well-being to shelter those she loved in the storm.
Gram has never asked for much in this life. Her house brims with gifted candles, framed family pictures, and refrigerator art treasures from her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. (Framed with electrical tape hanging proudly displayed in her “Art Gallery” spare bedroom, a collection assembled over six decades.) Rejecting any other grand show of gratitude, love, or affection it is a collection reflecting life’s simple pleasure and priceless value of those most precious to her.
When I call Gram to hear her voice, grateful that God continues to let us bask in the glow of her setting sun, I can’t help but feel pained that I live three hours away from her, offering her the promise of my love instead of my presence.
When she shares her frustration for feeling so tired all the time, a sense of urgency races my pulse. Have I done enough over 43 years to bring her swimming to depths of my love, gratitude, and appreciation for her my life? Is it possible to keep breathing in a world without her? Without this woman who has anchored our family with her unyielding love and devotion?
As I tell her again this special day, (but as I always do—because I never fail to appreciate the gifts that God gives us) “I love you, Gram. I am me because of you,” it is not an acknowledgement of our family lineage. It is to honor her legacy of love that has fertilized three generations of warm, loving people who continue to cultivate what she’s sown:
An appreciation for what really matters in this life: each other.
Happy birthday, Gram. My life may be hectic and busy right now, but I always have time for you. Thank you for teaching me that if you make someone feel loved today there are no regrets for tomorrow.
(Now I need to print this and mail it to her because she doesn’t own a computer or smart phone.)