This is my favorite image of my grandparents. Every time I look at it, I feel love. It radiates from this picture.
These are my maternal grandparents. My mom was lucky enough to have them for parents. I was doubly lucky because I got 'em as grandparents.
Grandpop was the quintessential "sweet old man." He doted on his grandchildren and was always very patient, kind and loving. He always watched either baseball or Westerns, and though quiet, could light up the room with his laughter.
My Grandmother was his polar opposite. Loud, unabashed, opinionated and direct, she might not have been as patient, but she was just as loving. Growing up, Grandmom was my favorite person in the whole world. I loved hearing her voice. I loved smelling her vanilla perfume. I loved her laughter and the way her skin felt.
One time, she laughed at how mesmerized I was by her skin. She thought it was because of her wrinkles. In truth, her skin was so silky that I was trying to decide if she was wearing some sort of super thin silk. (Give me a break - I was a kid!)
I also paid very close attention to her earrings. Grandmom must've had a hundred of them. She was big into costume jewelry, but I was only fascinated by her earrings. She knew it, too, so she'd always let me look at and touch them if I was super excited.
God, how much I loved her. How much I still love her!
I was thinking about her today. I always told her that when I "grew up" I wanted to be just like her. She'd laugh and say, "What? An old lady?"
What I meant was I wanted to have her spirit. I wanted to have the same sort of spark she did. I wanted to be a person who knew herself and didn't apologize for it. I wanted to love fiercely and fully, and I wanted to keep a stash of change in the cupboard to dole out to my grandkids "just because."
So I was wondering if I was like her. After all, I'd always envisioned myself fashioned after her. Her answer hit me all at once.
When I was about this old (fifth grade-ish), I was full swing into Middle Child Syndrome. I had it all worked out. I knew exactly who my mom favored amongst the kids and why we were "loved" in the order I had placed us in.
As the resident "bad seed" I was constantly getting into trouble for... well... getting into trouble. As a result, I planned to run away (like every other kid in the universe). However, unlike other kids, I was organized enough to make maps, lists of necessities, and an escape route so no one would know I was missing for an optimal amount of time.
I figured my family didn't want me around anyway, so I would run away and start a life on my own. Ah... gotta love the blind faith in myself.
So I ran away and was gone for about 30-40 minutes before anyone realized I was missing. Gave my family a scare. I walked for over an hour to my best friend's house. God was good, because He made sure she and her mother were driving off their street as I passed by (having missed the turn). My friend, Mary, rolled down the window and yelled, "Gina? Is that you?"
I trotted over to the car with a half-assed smile on my face. When her mom asked me why I was walking around - in the rain - by myself, the half-assed smile was quickly replaced with tears. She had me get into the car, and together, the three of us went to her Nanny's house where my mom was promptly telephoned.
Mary and I stayed in Nanny's basement awaiting news of my fate. I knew I was in BIG trouble, and I was finally starting to realize that maybe running away wasn't such a brilliant idea after all.
Fast forward to the next weekend. I don't remember why, but Grandmom and Grandpop had come over to our house. Grandmom pulled me aside (like EVERYONE had done the previous week) to reprimand me for running away. However, Grandmom didn't reprimand me. She just said, "Why did you do that?"
I responded that it was because my mom didn't love me as much as she did everyone else and that I thought she hated me sometimes.
Grandmom didn't get annoyed with me, roll her eyes or poo-poo my childish insecurities. Everyone else did. Everyone else fed me the same "A mother loves all her children equally" line that I'm sure all of you have heard a billion times. I hated that line. I knew it wasn't true, and Grandmom, to my relief, knew it, too.
She said, "Gina, your mother loves you. But it's true. Sometimes mothers do love some kids more than the others for different reasons."
I was actually stunned into speechlessness. Grandmom UNDERSTOOD! She even AGREED with me!
However, the realization that I was right... that not only were mothers capable of loving one child over another but that my very own mother likely loved everyone else more than me... it hurt! It was like a confirmation of my worst fears.
That being said, it also felt incredible good. My fear was validated and my feelings were soothed. Grandmom didn't make any excuses and didn't give me reasons for why mothers loved some kids more than others. She didn't need to. She was honest, and in that moment, it was exactly what I needed.
I needed to feel validated; I needed to feel heard. I needed to know that there was someone else who understood exactly why I did what I did. Grandmom was that person. In that moment, I felt empowered by her honesty. It seems silly - insignificant even - but to me, it was everything.
And even though I felt incredibly hurt, I recognized the healing power of her blunt honesty. Grandmom said it so matter-of-factly that it was almost a challenge: "So what if your mom loves one of your siblings over you? Does that alter the fact that you're loved? Does that change the fact that she bends over backwards and sacrifices just as much for you as she does for them? Does the lessening of favor somehow give you the right to whine and excuse your own bad behavior?"
Grandmom didn't say any of those things, mind you. None of them. However, the tone of her voice when she spoke to me said all of this and more. It was more than any reprimand could have done; it completely changed my entire paradigm.
Why was I fighting for some intangible emotion that could so easily sway? Why was I blaming my own unhappiness on my mother who, in all honesty, was only responsible for my joy? I felt so incredibly, incredibly stupid. I really did.
Why do I bring this up?
Because I realized that in that moment, Grandmom taught me about the part of her spirit that I most wanted to emulate. Honesty and dedication to the truth, even if that truth makes you uncomfortable and even if it makes the person you're sharing it with uncomfortable.
The discomfort is a worthwhile price for honesty - the price for truth.
If folks know me for anything, it's for my blunt honesty. I try never to be rude, mean or uncharitable, but I don't apologize for speaking the truth, even when others feel uncomfortable or threatened by it. Personal life, personal relationships, business dealings and yes, Catholicism. Honesty really is the best policy in my book.
I realized this was because of Grandmom. That tiny snippet of my 5th grade life set the tone for all future conversations. I didn't realize that until today as I prayed to her for Mother's Day.
"Grandmom, I always said I wanted to be just like you when I grew up. Here I am. I wonder if you'd be proud of me."
Instantly I was transported back to that moment, and I realized that I'd most certainly followed in her footsteps. I value truth and honesty, which is probably why I found myself coming back to the Church. Methinks she'd give me a passing grade.
Love you Grandmom. Give Myla lots of kisses for me. She's so lucky to be spending eternity with you already. <3
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