Tuesday, October 28, 2014

                               I Wish I Had a Grandma

     I am a grandma, but the grandmas of my generation were very different than me or than many of my peers. My grandmas weren’t focused on looking young, chic or cool. 
They weren’t online looking for bargains on the latest Vince Camuto stilettos or the trendiest leggings. They weren’t planning their next trip to some exotic location or thinking about how they were going to fit in nine holes before the wine tasting. They didn’t worry about what we called them. They were our grandmothers. They weren’t worried about how old people thought they were. They were proud of their titles, and they didn’t need to hide behind “Mémé” or “Nana” or “Ya Ya” like me and some of my also vain peers.  My grandmas were too busy baking coffee cake or smoothing the sheets on the bed for our overnights. 

     I had two grandmas. That may sound strange to some today who have three or more. With the high divorce rate, grandmas are multiplying as fast as people splitting. Whether this is good or bad for children remains to be seen. 

     I remember my paternal grandma. She was one of my top three role models for many reasons. (The other two were her children--my father and my aunt). She was a Scandinavian immigrant who came over here with less than $20 in her pocketbook as a teen-ager. Her English skills were minimal, and after she married my grandfather, she ran a boarding house for years. During that time, she had three children of her own so she had to share her time and energy with the people who counted on her for room and board. Needless to say, she spent hours in the kitchen and many hours on her hands and knees cleaning. She raised three very intelligent, highly independent and ultimately successful children. All three of them inspired me and carried on her legacy as ambitious, nurturing, loving parents and role models. 

     My visits to my grandma’s house were magical. I was treated like a princess and loved just because. I didn’t have to perform or achieve; I just had to be me. I had friends in her neighborhood with whom I played for hours, and when I came back to grandmas house, my favorite dishes would be on the table, and the conversation was always about me. I was treated like an adult but loved like a child. 

     Solo visits to my grandma’s house were frequent and long so I really knew her well. My grandpa was loving too, but he was always down the basement puttering with some project. He didn’t talk much, but there was always a twinkle in his eye for me, and I felt his love without his words. 

     When I was in college, I would come home on break and visit my grandma. We would sit on her front porch, and she would serve me a cup of her delicious coffee and homemade Swedish coffee bread. She would look at me first thing after setting down our snack, and say, “Now tell me everything that’s going on since I saw you last.” She would hang on my every word asking about boy friends, my studies, my dreams. It was all about me. I didn’t realize at the time the lessons she was teaching:  how to listen, how to nurture, how to love. She was a strong, amazing woman who asked for nothing and gave so much. 

     When I became a grandma, I thought who loves me unconditionally like that? Hopefully, our spouses and children, but that’s different. When there is a person who has lived longer and had a life unlike our own, there is a unique perspective that no child or spouse can offer. It’s a relationship that we should cherish and record, for we don’t always realize the joys and lessons it provides. “I miss you, Grandma. Could you come back so we can catch up? It's been 49 years, and I think of you more than you can imagine. I know how to make pretty good coffee.”