I have a distinct memory of lying in my bed and overhearing my parents discussing the death of my grandfather when I was very young. I cried into my pillow, perhaps mourning the fact that I had never met him.
I hadn’t met my mother’s father before he died either.
At the age of 5, I met my Nana (my mother’s mom) for the first time, when she and my aunt came to visit. I remember being terrified of my aunt because she was so tall. My Nana gave me chocolate, so she seemed okay.
She came again when I was 12, and gave me the prettiest pair of white silk underwear that I have ever seen. I can probably attribute my love of frilly things to my Nana.
I don’t remember seeing her again until I travelled to England with my parents when I was 14. It was then that I met my dad’s mom too. She died shortly after we visited. I cried then too, but mostly because I couldn’t handle seeing my dad so shattered.
I would visit my other Nana every other summer until I was 20. I cherished the time spent with her even though it meant leaving behind my friends in the years that you believe your friends are more valuable than your family.
At 25, I would travel to see her once more, as we lay her to rest. For the first time, I really knew what it was like to lose a grandparent. I was jealous of my cousins who had the chance to grow up with her, to know her, and to be known by her.
This, perhaps, is the reason I am so happy that my children are close with their grandparents.
I was reflecting on this recently, as we had supper at Tom’s parent’s house. After dinner, my parent’s joined us for tea and dessert, and having all 4 grandparents there while she played around and giggled made me very thankful that she knows them.
It also made me thankful that we have them nearby. There are so many things that I take for granted, that my mom would never have had because she moved away from her family.
I am thankful that Siobhan can go to Tom’s parent’s house every day when we are working.
I am thankful that our 3 older kids can walk to her house after school every day too.
I am thankful that when we need a baby sitter, there is usually a grandparent ready (and willing) to take on the job.
I am thankful that our parents get to enjoy their grand children and our children get to learn from their grandparents.
I am thankful that they won’t have to stare at fuzzy grey pictures of faces they have never met and wonder what their grandparents were like, what characteristics they have in common, and how they might have spent time together.
Because we live in the same small town as our families, our children are growing up with their heritage, they have cousins near by, and aunts and uncle who care for them.
In turn, that means that Tom and I have support, we have people we can turn to when we need to, and we have that “village” to raise our children.
I often feel for people who move their families to places where they have no-one to help them, no grandparents to help take the kids to sports, to babysit when they are desperate, no cousins to be best buddies with, and no brothers and sisters to talk to when needed.
I know they made a choice to live somewhere else for a reason, and perhaps they wouldn’t have what we have even if their family were nearby, and these thoughts make me appreciate what our parents do for us even more.