Today I'm participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit The Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese's website to find out more about the author.
The majority of my childhood memories revolve around my Grandma Mary. My biggest goal – really, all of us kids’ biggest goal – was to finally get as tall as Grandma, who towered over us as a whopping four feet six inches tall. Not only was it a milestone for me, my siblings, and our cousins, but it continues to be a milestone for our children, though she’s now four foot four inches tall. She’s a tiny little thing, less than one hundred pounds and getting shorter by the day, but at 89 years old, she still draws people to her with her strength and beauty.
Growing up, the whole family would gather for Sunday family dinners and Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My parents and siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins would all spend Sunday evening eating and watching the Disney family movie. As we got older, the Sunday family nights went by the wayside, but we always spent time with Grandma. When we got to junior high and high school, we took our friends to Grandma’s and she welcomed them with open arms. I can’t count how many “adopted” grandchildren she has; each of us brought two or three into the family, which has carried on with our children and their friends.
I didn’t seriously go to college until I was 22 and married with two children. I got pregnant with my third during my freshman year and got divorced during my sophomore year. I could not have finished college without the unwavering support of my grandma. When the kids were very young, she wouldn’t hear of me putting them in daycare – they belonged with family. She was in her early 70’s then and stubborn as a mule. I didn’t fight her. It would not have done any good. Once the kids got to be pre-school-aged, I managed to convince her that it would be okay for them to go to pre-school. Luckily, they were spaced out enough that we could “wean” her from them. And then my cousins started having children, so she has never been without children to take care of.
She is the glue that holds the family together. We – me, my sibs, and our cousins – have grown up, gotten married and had children of our own. And she’s treated our children as wonderfully as she treated us. There is no doubt in our minds that we are loved. Totally, completely, unconditionally loved. There is nothing that we could ever do to diminish that love. In her eyes, we are all saints. And in our eyes, she is the saint.
She had her first heart attack less than a week before her 50th wedding anniversary. A couple of stents and a week later and she was out on the dance floor with Grandpa looking as beautiful and radiant as ever. We all feared we’d lose her when Grandpa died of a stroke a few years later – after all, they were still madly in love. She mourned his death and moved on, again surrounding herself with children. She needed the great grandkids, just as they needed her. She’s convinced that when she has no one to take care of, she’ll die. She’ll have nothing left to live for if she’s got no one to nurture and love. Sadly, I believe her.
She is getting older, a little more hard of hearing, a little more frail, and I fear that time is running out for us. She’s an awfully healthy 89 year-old; she still lives at home and takes care of my cousin’s young daughters. She’s got a few health issues, but nothing like I’ve seen in other people her age. But I’m a realist, and I’ve worked in medicine a long time, I know that every day we have with her is a gift, a gift that won’t last forever. I dread the reality of her death, not just because I would lose her, but because, selfishly, I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up without ever knowing the unconditional love and affection she so easily dishes out.