Monday, February 16, 2009

All Things Wise and Wonderful

I did something today that I have been putting off doing for 15 months.

And it wasn’t easy.

But I’m so glad I did it.

My grandmother passed away about 15 months ago. She was in her 80’s and “had lived a good life” as people say about someone who is elderly and has passed, in an effort to make their departure less painful. At the time she died, the family compiled pictures, set them to music, and made a DVD of her life. It played at the visitation, but since I was not there for the visitation, only the funeral and burial, I never saw it. I was given a copy of the DVD, I put it in a drawer at my house, and thought about watching it every time I opened the drawer. But I never did.

Of course I was sad about losing my Nana, really sad, I had a lot of respect and love for her, deepened by the fact that I lived with she and my grandfather for 2 summers when I was in college, an experience that allowed me to get to know her as a more dimensional human being than just “grandmother.” I learned what a night owl she was (she wasn’t waiting up for me, she stayed up that late whether I was home or not!), got used to the sound of her raspy laughter echoing through the house at whatever British sitcom was on TV, watched how she and my grandfather worked, unconsciously, as a team. She told me stories of her youth, shared things she had written and things she loved to read with me, named the species of every bird at the feeder, and taught me how to avoid ironing altogether for the rest of my life. I think she really liked having me around, and as I worked 7 days a week, I never felt like I was underfoot or cramping their style. We coexisted. And I learned that, at the end of the day, we had a lot in common. We were both independent, both had a passion for nature (as did Nana’s mother), loved music, loved kids. But there was something deeper than that, a kinship that I can’t put words to, that I still feel to this day, even though she’s gone.

So today, I finally pulled the DVD out of the drawer. I put it in my computer and listened to it spin up, with a little bit of dread in my gut. Why was I doing this to myself? Why now? Why had she been on my mind so much, almost daily, during this pregnancy? The DVD started, and I watched my grandmother as a baby, as a young woman, as a wife, a friend, a mother, a grandmother. I watched her with my dad as a baby, and my uncles, and with me, and with my cousins, and where I thought I would be sobbing, I was smiling. It was like another whole dimension of her opened up to me—all the moments of her life when I hadn’t been there, because I wasn’t born yet, or because I lived so far away.

My grandmother struggled to carry babies to term. She lost 2 that I know of, and she told me once that those were “her girls.” She didn’t seem morose about it, instead she was reflecting on what great daughter-in-laws and granddaughters she had come to be surrounded with. Of course my thoughts turn to my hard-earned daughters, and all of the possibilities open to them, the many paths their lives can take. My grandmother wasn’t perfect, and she didn’t live a life free from suffering. But she put a lot of emphasis on family, and she was happiest when surrounded by those she loved, scurrying back and forth between us and the kitchen. I have to admit that I got a little teary-eyed seeing the pictures of Nana with the great-grandchildren she did get to meet, since my little girls will never get the opportunity to be charmed and adored by her, but then I reminded my self: they will have their own grandmothers, full of charm and adoration, and no, it won’t be the same as Nana, it will be wonderful in a totally different way.

We chose Roselyn to be Olivia’s middle name to honor my grandmother. Picking the girls’ middle names was possibly the easiest thing we have had to do as expectant parents. I kind of anticipated a big reaction from my dad when I told him we were naming our daughter after his mother, but he didn’t say much. Maybe he expected it. Maybe he was shocked by it. Sometimes when things happen and I think that my dad will have a lot to say, those are the times he says the least of all. Sometimes that’s what I really like about him.

Nana won’t have the chance to get to know my kids. But I will see to it that they get to know her. I’m looking forward to showing them this DVD someday, to explain how she lived, what she loved, and how to go through life without ever having to iron anything.


gd said...

So you've made me laugh for decades, Linds...but you sure do make me cry too.

(In a good way.)

This is lovely.

kimmykem said...

Oh dear, you got me on this writing Lindsay. I am muffling my sniffles so my boss doesn't come busting in asking "what's wrong with you"?! What beautiful memories you brought forward of a kind and loving mother-in-law. I can still see her sitting on her deck with her iced tea and cigarette waving to me as I walked over for a visit. Thanks for your thoughts - Aunt Debbie