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.
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.