FEBRUARY 5, 2018
Vivian was born in 1919. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis at an early age. Life expectancy back then was poor. The prognosis was that she wasn’t expected to be able to walk or would have difficulties walking. Also, they said she wouldn’t have a family. Having children, they said, would kill her.
Vivian is my grandmother and she turned 98 in December.
In spite of the diagnosis, not only did an operation on her spine mean that she could walk without difficulty, she also had three children (one of them my mom) and a step-son. From these four children, she has a family of eleven grandchildren, at least 25 great-grandchildren and five great-greatgrandchildren (and one on the way). She has at least 38 family members to date that are directly descended from her along with a handful of “adopted” and “bonus” family. I think that is amazing.
I (selfishly) consider myself to be very lucky to be in my early 50’s and have had my grandmother for so long. I also still have both of my parents. For all of that, I am truly grateful.
A couple of weeks ago, Grandma had a stroke, leaving her paralyzed on one side of her face.
In spite of the stroke and the fact that her memory has become increasingly “fuzzy” this past year, she is still aware of what is going on around her and responds to questions and conversations. She’s still with us…for a little longer…and very much on my mind right now.
Which is why I am writing this now. I want to let Grandma know what she means to me while she is still with us. I mean, what’s the point in waiting until people are gone to tell about all the nice stuff and say how we feel about them? They need to hear that while they are still here!
In spite of the physical and personal challenges she faced throughout her life, Grandma is literally one of the kindest, gentlest, most generous people I have ever known. She treats everyone – without exception – with kindness and respect. I have never heard her complain, speak unkindly about anyone or seen her angry. She can be saddened and disappointed by people or the decisions people make, but she’s never gets angry or complains.
It’s not because she goes through life with blinders on, or that she can’t face reality. She simply does not dwell on negativity. I believe she just doesn’t want to waste precious time on negativity. And she’s 98…so, I think it worked for her. A lesson for all of us, maybe?
Growing up, Grandma’s house was like a second home to me. Her youngest daughter (my aunt) is about my age, so we were like sisters growing up. I have two brothers, so that having a "sister" was nice. Grandma would often be singing a little tune (Like “Mairzy Doats”, which has been running through my head constantly lately) or have a little rhyme or saying that would fit a certain situation. And when she laughs, her whole face lights up and her laughter sounds like when you ‘pling’ on a crystal glassware. Really, it does!
And then there is her love for animals. Any pets they had or the wild birds, squirrels and other critters in their yard, were treated with such kindness. If the cat brought home a “living present”, it wasn’t scolded. At the door of her breakfast nook, in the house where they used to live, there would actually be blue jays or squirrels waiting for their peanuts…which they would take out of her hand! Critters didn’t starve in her yard! I also believed she could talk to animals and that the animals understood her.
My mom, my aunt and I also love animals (and we talk to them, too, sometimes), so she passed that on to us, and we will continue to take care of the critters!
There are some people that we expect to live forever…even though we know isn’t possible. To me, Grandma is one of those people. And I know, when the time comes, God will be welcoming her with a smile and with arms wide open. Those that have gone on before her (and all the pets and critters, too) will have the pleasure of hearing her singing, her stories and rhymes and her beautiful laugh.
In spite of the fact that I know she won’t be around forever, I was very fortunate that I could visit with her last summer and talk with her and hear her laugh. I will keep that memory and many other memories with me forever. I don't try to live up to her, but I try to live in a way to make her feel proud of me.
In spite of the ocean that separates us, know that I am there with you in spirit.
I love you, Grandma!
P.S. The picture above is of a blue jay figurine that has been in my Grandma's house as long as I can remember. On my visit last summer, my Grampa asked me to choose a figurine from her "display" to take home with me. I chose this blue jay for many different reasons...and because we don't have blue jays here in Denmark.
P.P.S. Thanks, Billie, for helping me get some of the facts straight!