The Thing About Grandparents and Their Magic

We all know it: that magic our grandparents possess. If you live far away, they want to see you the minute you roll into town. They want to squeeze the dickens out of you as much as possible to bank away until next time. As a kid, they offered up treats you didn’t get at home. For me it was a refrigerator drawer filled with all the flavors of Nehi at one grandmother’s house. I could pick an entire bottle for myself and burp grape delights all afternoon.

My other grandmother took my sister and me to the movies, smuggling in candy in her purse. Had we ever been caught, I can hear her signature “Oh, golly” as an excuse.

As a kid, the four-hour trip to her house was over some bridges and through the woods, along hilly, bouncy roads. My sister and I used to sit backward in our seats to get the full effect of the hills and giggle when our stomachs would drop. We’d get antsy after a couple of hours and fight if someone crossed the imaginary line dividing the middle of our Granada’s backseat. We’d argue. My dad would reach back, swatting at air as we giggled and scrunched up in our corners to avoid a smack on the leg.

“Are we there yet?” I’d ask every ten minutes. “It’s too cooooold in here,” I’d complain. Ten minutes later, “Daddy, can you turn the air on? I’m hot.”

After that eternal drive, nothing was better than walking into my Nanny’s kitchen, smelling the pot of whatever soup she had simmering. It didn’t matter what it was. It was always good.

My sister and I raced upstairs to our room. She always had a treat waiting for us, something small, a cheap dime-store toy, but it made us feel special perched on our pillows waiting to be opened and played with.

Nanny died this weekend. She was the last living grandparent I had.

Dealing with her death has been what you’d expect. Dealing with the fact that I no longer have grandparents has been another thing entirely. As a kid, I always thought my grandparents were old because they had gray hair. Frankly, they seemed old for a long time, but they were always around. I guess at some point I thought somebody always would be. Somewhere along the line, I guess I never realized that someday I wouldn’t have grandparents.

Sure they couldn’t always sit on the floor and play with me. My other grandmother didn’t even drive. When I went to her house, I sat in a rocking chair all day, got a certain education from the tabloids, and watched her “stories” with her. When she nodded off, I’d holler, “Meemaw!” and tell her to flick the three-inch ash of her cigarette into the ashtray. Then I’d wonder how she didn’t burn the place down when I wasn’t there.

My grandparents always made me feel special. I spent many weekends with Meemaw and Peepaw. They took me to diners for dinner and showed me off to the waitresses who knew them by name. They died twenty years ago, when I still had a lot of growing up to do.

Nanny cooked elaborate Thanksgiving feasts served on crystal, china, and silver. Entertaining was her specialty. She got to see my wedding, my family. We got to laugh about babies and nursing and naughty children.

The thing about grandparents is, there’s never a time when they don’t want to talk to you or when they don’t love you.

However old and gray in my child’s mind, nothing prepares you for a future with no grandparents. For now, I can only concentrate on letting my kids make memories with theirs.grandmother

Losing grandparents can be tough. While I may no longer require a picture book to get me through, they can be a great way to help kids cope with loss. Good friend Gina Farago’s The Yearning Tree and new friend Lynn Plourde’s Thank You, Grandpa are two books my family has for just such a time.




Filed under About Mom

36 responses to “The Thing About Grandparents and Their Magic

  1. Grandparents are amazing slices of history that help give you perspective on how you became the person you are. While I have never been a farm girl, I am very cognizant of the tilled earth in my veins.

    • A lovely way to put it, Traci. And my grandmother was the one in our family who actually kept track of our family history, traced it, and passed it on to the rest of us. It’s fun to know their stories.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss my grandparents passed many years ago. To this day I still miss my grandmother. My children have wonderful relationships with there grandparents and I am so thankful for them!

  3. K. Eley

    That was a beautiful remembrance of her. We are so blessed to have many special memories. She was special and will be deeply missed.

  4. A very lovely tribute to your grandparents. I’m sorry for your loss.

  5. So sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my last grandparent earlier this year and it was so hard. We would have celebrated her 89th Birthday last week. What I can share with you is I feel closer to her than ever and my children still talk about her like she is right next to us. This gives me peace. I know she is radiating love to us and watching over us. It is hard, mostly because I feel we face our own mortality…that we are growing too. I often think about the days when I could be running around their house or being bounced upon their knee. I miss that but mostly because I’m growing older too! Thoughts are with you and your family and may you find peace and comfort in the days ahead! There is this awesome quote…”we have a memory so we have roses in December” A nice tribute to her and the picture is adorable!

  6. Sorry for your loss! I will never stop missing my grandparents, especially my Grandma Sylvia. I know I have many angels in Heaven looking out for me, and now so do you.

  7. The Yogic Housewife

    Im so sorry to hear that. Condolences to you and your family. You will always have grandparents, they live on in your memories, actions and in yOur heart x x

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother’s death. She created so many special memories for you and I’m sure you are deeply grateful for that. My son tells me all the time that my mom raised the bar high for when I am a grandmother. She is 85 and our last grandparent.

    • That is a great compliment to your mother! I’m sure you have learned from one of the best.

      My husband still has one set of grandparents, and they are 95 and 93 (I think). And nearly as spunky as the day I met them. So for now, I still have grandparents through marriage and they have always treated me like a granddaughter.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. Grandparents really are very special. I had all four of mine until 2007 when my grandmother passed away. I knew she was old and sick, but when you’re a kid, you just think your grandparents are so old and that they must live forever if they’ve managed to live as old as they have. And then one day, they die anyway. And I thought, when my grandma died, “She’s not supposed to die. Doesn’t she know the whole family loves her and needs her? Doesn’t she know Christmas will be ruined if she isn’t around to bake her rolls?” I’ll always miss her, but I’m happy for the memories, as I’m sure you are happy for the memories you have of your grandmother. One of my rubber stamps says “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” I think that’s a nice way of thinking about it. Thank you for sharing your memories of your wonderful grandmothers. They both sound like very special ladies.

  10. Oh!! I’m so sorry!! Grandmas and all grandparents are just soo special! I lost my last grandparent this year also, and i still can’t believe she’s gone. They just bring so much love to our lives… and history!! It’s so sad when we lose them. This was beautiful, and i’m going to finish crying now, and get myself some ice cream. you go get some too.

  11. I’m nominating this post to be Freshly Pressed 🙂

  12. Grandparents are a tribe all to their own. I am sorry you lost the last of your tribe, may the many memories carry you through the rough times and watching while your kids create their own memories with their Grandparents make you smile. Hugs.

  13. I’m so sorry for your loss. You capture the magic of grandparents so beautifully in this piece. I lost my grandparents a long time ago and wonder what it would be like to know them now as an adult. I can’t even imagine. As my parents age, I also struggle to imagine the day when they won’t be here to be such loving parents and grandparents to my own children. I think I’ll give them a hug over the phone right now! Thanks for the reminder!

    • I do often think about my grandparents who died when I was 18 and 20. They would have gotten a kick out of my kids. I do feel very blessed to have had one set of grandparents for so long. It’s nice to know your grandparents as an adult and have real conversations with them. Nanny used to tell me funny stories about raising my mom and uncles and it was always comforting to know that even she muddled through. 😉

  14. So sorry for your loss. Beautiful post x

  15. So sorry for your loss. I’ve been without any grandparents for two years…it’s strange to get used to. Enjoy the memories that you have and those your kids were able to be a part of. Having a great-grandparent is a very special gift. That Lynn Plourde is fantastic!

  16. This was a beautiful tribute to grandparents everywhere, and particularly yours. I bet you do them proud!

  17. Oh, Karen! You have a such a way with words. This really touched my heart.

    I lost my closest grandparent when I was only 15. My remaining two (also a Meemaw and Peepaw!) both died around the birth of my first child, and my husband’s grandparents (and, recently, his remaining parent) are now gone too. I am careful to keep the relationship with my parents (who are now the lone grandparents) precious and unique. Rules and boundaries are meant to be broken by these wonderful people — I let them. They sure went through a lot bringing me to my own adulthood and parenthood, deserving of enjoy kids without any of the “bad” stuff that goes with it.

    Grandparents are truly magical. I so enjoy sharing stories of my own with my kids. And I look forward to being a grandparent myself one day.

  18. Lovely post, My nana is a true Joan Collins type and we wouldn’t have her anyother way, not a day goes by when I don’t see her without her makeup and lovely clothes she wears, she is also in an horrendous amount of pain due to Arthritis yet she’s always full of smiles, wisdom and grace.
    My own children love going to see her, and I feel so very lucky to have this special nana in my life and living so close by,she truly is an amazing woman and to be honest writing this I just realised I don’t tell her that enough 🙂
    Great Blog!
    Victoria xx

    • Thanks! I hope your nana gets some relief. She sounds like a wonderful woman. I’m guilty of not telling some of my own loved ones how special they are to me. We get in a cycle and presume, I think.

      • Yes definatly, an than something happens an you cant get them moments back
        my nan loves it when I call her Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins too , she was destined for Hollywood she thinks !!
        lovely blog xx

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