Grandparents Day is approaching and I’m left with conflicting, discomforting emotions. While I’m grateful that my children have incredible grandparents in their lives, I’m not eager to celebrate this year. Instead, this holiday is a reminder that I no longer have grandparents of my own left on Earth; that every missed opportunity for a casual phone call, every chance to be transported to the past through a cup a coffee and hours of talking, and every gentle hug on their frail bodies has been suddenly snatched from me as quickly as a wave carries sand back to the ocean.
Losing my mother’s parents 15 years ago is as vivid in my memory as if it happened last week. I still remember the way my heart pounded in my chest as I cowardly hid behind my dad while he uttered the words that my mother was fearful of hearing: my grandma’s fight was over. I remember the deafening sounds of the guns saluting my grandfather as I clutched onto my dad’s arm, still reeling with grief at the loss of my beautiful grandmother a few months prior. Three years later, I remember how helpless I felt as I watched my father’s dad slowly waste away into nothingness, his cheerful laugh and the twinkle in his eye long extinguished by the sickness that had consumed him.
This year has been rough, for now I must cope with the loss of my last grandparent and, because I’m a mother now, I must do so with a fortitude that I’m not sure I have. I need my children to know how precious their grandparents are to them. I want them to relish the way they are spoiled, gushed over, and adored in ways that even I can’t compete with. I aim for them to learn everything they can from their grandparents who are bursting with wisdom and advice. I don’t want them to be afraid of losing a grandparent. But, I am afraid.
I am afraid because I know that one day, they will feel this same emptiness. They will simultaneously remember the ridiculous things their grandparents did along with the unbreakable bond they shared with them throughout the years. I know this to be true, because I long to be admonished by my grandmother for having the audacity to put the plastic forks and spoons in the trash when they are perfectly capable of several uses. I wish for the scolding that I knew would come from running through the clean sheets that were hanging out to dry. I want to be told to “Go in yonder” for being too noisy with my cousins. I need to hear her call me “Jessie” one more time, a nickname only she could get away with. Instead, the last words she said to me echo in my heart: “Be a good girl.” I promise Grandma, I will be the best girl, the best mother I can be.
I will not shrink in sadness as your loss. I will joyfully remember your life. I will smile when I think of you, and I will teach my children to cherish the four amazing people in their lives that they have the honor of calling grandparents, just as I will always cherish you.