As a writer, you are also a reader. Whether alive or dead, I have many authors I consider mentors, G. K Chesterton, C.S Lewis, Annie Lamott and Erma Bombeck. This past year, I became a grandma four times over and about the time I was contemplating what exactly what my role was, I stumbled across Erma’s essay, “Love is a Grandparent.” Written in 1974, it is ancient wisdom that will never change. She begins her essay first to the reader:
“A preschooler who lives down the street was curious about grandparents. It occurred to me that, to a child, grandparents appear like an apparition with no explanation, no job description, and few credentials. They just seem to go with the territory.”
And then Erma explains to young children what a Grandparent is, through the eyes of a grandchild, a grandparent is someone who loves you unconditionally, gives you silly things that you dont really need like rolls of tape or an old pair of shoes that she does not need any more. Granparents teach you massive lessons that you will not- until much later in life understand.
For me, I wish there were more memories of my grandmother, but there are a few that stand out. For example my grandmother always mailed us a birthday card and tucked inside the flap was a one dollar bill. As a five year old I was thrilled, but with the rate of inflation over the years that same annual one dollar bill was cast aside and scoffed at, still as more years went by and that birthday card kept coming, I grew up and realized it was never about the dollar bill, it was a sign, a symbol that she did not forget me, she loved me enough to go to the store, pick out the perfect card, write a personal note to me, put that dollar in the folds of the card, address it, lick a stamp, (yes folks licked stamps back then) and then mail it to my sorry ungrateful butt!
While the other grandparents were absent and to this day, I don’t know why, I and my children will always cherish Grandma Verna. When she was my grandma, I witnessed her have a love affair with the local butcher. As a Portuguese woman, she always went to get Linguiça on Mondays. I watched as the butcher would pick out the perfect piece for her, carefully wrap it in white butcher paper, wrap string around it and then slowly pass it over the tall counter to her where their hands would always touch. I watched as she counted her pennies at night and balanced her checkbook all the while staring at those brown wrinkled hands and thinking of all the years she had worked as a secretary, the babies and grandbabies she held, the gardens she planted and the many Thanksgiving meals she cooked.
A church going woman, she would rather cut off her arm than miss a mass or regular Rosary. She dressed impeccably like a very respected lady and always in heels and never tennis shoes. As she aged the heels did become a problem and she tripped regularly on them going up the church steps, cursing the whole way, “these damn shoes!” The hilarity of her cursing all the way up the church steps was not lost on me.
When she became my children’s great grandma, we would bring her over to our house, sit her on the couch while she sat and listened to the next generation chatter and music. Once my son had his bedroom door opened and music floated out of it, “who let the dogs out?” woof, woof, and then came Grandma, repeating it under her breath, “woof, woof.” The kids rolled with laughter!
For some odd reason, I don’t know why yet because I have not been a grandma for a really long time, we love our grandkids differently, it’s still love, only different. But one thing is for sure, Grandparents are a window into the past and a lesson in patience and love -now and in the future. Erma ends her essay this way:
When a grandchild says, “Grandma, how come you didn’t have any children?” a grandparent holds back the tears.