She was the oldest of seven kids, my dad is the oldest of four and I am the oldest of two. Maybe it means nothing but it is kind of a cool bond for me. I don’t like the oldest part, especially when directed at me but in this regard it was a good thing. It meant I had her the longest and maybe even knew her the best.
It also meant I saw her at her worst in the early days before the others came along. And there were some bad days in the beginning. Alcohol abuse seems to run in that part of the family and her and my grandpa had some issues. There were visits I would like to forget, arguments that I want to overlook and flaws that I want to disregard. But you know what? Grandparents are people; imperfect, defective and flawed like the rest of us. Storybooks tell you otherwise but they are made of flesh and bone, and real emotions. Not all of them are sugar-coated and sweet. Especially if you come along when they are not ready to be grandparents.
See my grandmother was a rebel, a rule-breaker from the beginning. She was four months pregnant with my dad when she married my grandpa … on her 18th birthday. Yeah, that is a scandal in this day and age. Can you imagine what it was like sixty years ago?? But she kept her child, married the father, and went on to have three other kids as well.
The funny thing is I never knew this until ten years ago. I always knew my grandparent wedding anniversary was in December and my dad’s birthday was in May. It wasn’t until they were planning their fiftieth anniversary party that it suddenly hit me that these two events were only five months apart. Math is not my strong point but something suddenly didn’t add up!
When I came along, grandma was only 42 years old and she didn’t feel she was grandmother material or just simply not ready to be one. And I scared her. My head didn’t spin around but I did spit up through my nose (a trait I am proud to say I still have to this day) and this made her so nervous. She didn’t care too much about having me around. But I think I grew on her.
The other really cool thing is that I was the only girl granddaughter for almost 18 years. There were five boys after me in the birth order. So when it came Christmas and birthday time I was golden! Between my aunts and my grandparents I was a bit of spoiled girl. And I loved it!
As I got older or maybe as they got older the bad behavior mellowed and they both gave up drinking. They were regular grandparents then. However I never forgot the early years. Or I should say we. I have a brother and a cousin who are three and four years younger than I am so they share a few bad memories right along with me.
But the thing is I don’t think I would trade the early, not so pleasant years for anything. I have younger cousins who never dealt with this. If I were to ever say anything to them, I don’t think they would have any idea what I was talking about. But they don’t
have the experiences I do.
My grandfather died nine years ago this past summer. A couple of my younger cousins probably don’t really remember him. I do. And I have memories that will be with me forever. And I saw how a family really works. That everyone does not have to be perfect or good all the time. And yet they are still loved … and loving.
My grandmother had been ill for a few years with lung cancer. In March of 2010, a few weeks before I moved to India I went home to say goodbye to my family. I didn’t plan on being in India this long, but I had three grandparents and unexpected things happen. Terrorism is an issue here in India, but bad things happen everywhere. And no one is getting younger … me or my grandparents. So I needed to see them before I left.
I saw Grandma Gloria for about an hour and at the end she hugged and kissed me, told me she loved me and that I probably wouldn’t see her again. I told her that was not true; I would be back before anything happened.
I left there with tears in my eyes praying fervently that she was wrong. Well, she wasn’t. Now I have a load of guilt on my shoulders that has been a bit crushing in the past few days. She knew I loved her. That was never in doubt. But when do we as children or grandchildren start putting ourselves first without worrying about these kinds of
things. Or do we? I know she understood why I am here and she liked Vijay a lot. But I feel like I let her down. In the end she was right; we would never see each other again … in this lifetime.
And I will forever hang onto the lessons she taught me, probably inadvertently. Grandparents are not born to be grandparents. And they don’t become
them overnight. It takes a bit of time and practice. But they do always love
unconditionally in the end. They know what is best for you and they want you to succeed and be happy, even if that means time and distance.
They just need a bit of time, patience and great grandkids to teach them to be great grandparents ♥.