Monday, March 25, 2013

A Seasonal Analogy

The first day of spring falls on my one-of-a-kind late grandmother’s birthday. Over the course of that 24-hour period, while everyone’s chanting and cheering about making it through the winter and counting down the days until summer, I’m not focused on daffodils or jelly beans or all the sniffling and sneezing I’ll hear between the equinox and Memorial Day. I’m only thinking and smiling about my grandmother. She, who was my fresh and fragrant air, instinctively defended me before and after learning exactly what it was I had gotten in trouble for.

She took off for the spirit world in her early 90s, also in March, my junior year of college. Word came during an evening shift at my campus art museum receptionist job (which, as I told my former boss the last time I saw her, remains the only job I’ve ever had that I’ve never complained about), and two of my older (all the way up into their mid-to-late 20s) co-workers were the first people I told. One mentioned, and the other tacitly endorsed, a theory about grandmothers and granddaughters. Or maybe it was grandmothers and grandchildren, period? I can’t even remember whether this was a personal theory of hers or if she was repeating a bit of insight that was considered commonplace within the post-adolescent avant-gardish community I sometimes pictured both of them belonging to outside of their full-time day jobs. 

Was it that a woman mirrors the personality of her closest grandmother? Or that whenever you see a naturally assertive woman, it suggests a lovingly influential grandmother had been present? Dammit, I should have listened more carefully, or taken better notes on my life, back then. It’s not so much a theory as it is a futile form of reflective questioning, but this March I wondered if I’d be any different of a person today if we had been granted a little more time together. 

6 comments:

  1. I felt a real wave of emotion as I read this posting about your grandmother. I never met my paternal grandmother. (My father was born in 1894, so she would probably have born about the time of the Civil War.)However, I did know my maternal grandmother. My parents and brother and I lived in her boarding house in Indiana for a few years in the 1950s. When I was about six or seven years old, she suffered a stroke, followed by several years of slow deterioration. I remember sitting by her bedside shortly after she had the stroke and not quite understanding why she was not talking to me. I wish I could say I retain a strong impression of her personality, but I cannot. However, I do know her life's story, which was painful. She married at the age of sixteen and had several children. Sadly, by the time she was into her twenties, her husband died. She had no choice but to put her children (including my mother) into an orphanage, while she scrambled to figure out how to make money. She scrimped and saved, but was unable to reclaim the children until she remarried. Astonishingly, her second husband was her first husband's brother. I have always theorized that there was some sort of family decision that something had to be done, and that the brother stepped forward.
    At any rate, he became the stepfather and my mother always referred to him as "Pops." They were able to make a modest living in the restaurant business. I think of my grandmother's legacy as one of tenaciousness and endurance. It was a hard life, and without education or special skills, she endured and did her best for her family. I really admire that and like to think that she bequeathed these attributes to me. It is a very special legacy.

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  2. They say that there are certain traits that skip a generation - and we ultimately walk in our grandparents' footsteps.

    Wishing you strength during this time. Losing anyone, at anytime is never easy. We only ever learn how to cope -not move on.

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  3. As a new grandfather, I can attest to having a special relationship with my granddaughter. Although she is just 4 months old, she is named after my late mother. Grandchildren are very special and deservedly so. We had our chance to raise children so now my wife and I can see if we did a good job or not! I would like to spend every waking minute with her and any other grandchildren that might show up, but they have parents and we can visit where time permits. The one thing that has been said that I find true now is that grandkids are great AND they eventually go home. I would love to talk to both of my grandfathers as one I was real close to and the other was a Teamster in my local but I do have the cherished memories of them and their wives so I count these as blessings. I will use these memories to guide me in this stage of my life.

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  4. I had a uniquely awesome grandmother, too. I lost her at about the same age as you were and I long for knowing her now, with the wisdom of age.

    She smoked cigarettes and played cards with the boys while the wives were in the kitchen, swapping recipes.

    Great post. You have a beautiful voice.

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  5. I can relate, Roving Retorter. I miss my Grannie on a daily basis. Keep the memories alive. :)

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  6. Thank God that both of my grandmother's are alive and well. I can't see any of shared characteristics between us. NOw that I've read this post I'm on the hunt to find our similarities...very lovely post.

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