There was a woman who made an impression on nearly everyone she encountered. Some impressions were good, some not so good, but most were memorable. To say this woman was unforgettable would be an understatement. It seemed, she had decided early on, to live a life that when reflected upon, would ensure that she would never be forgotten.
Her name was Shirley. My Gran.
When I was younger I had very few interactions with my Gran. We lived in different states & my parents had a strained relationship with her. So we experienced distance in more than just geographical ways.
For many years I was upset with my Gran. Once we lived closer, I felt that she didn’t try as best as she could to be connected to me. & that she didn’t love me as much as she did her other grandchildren. Despite my frustrations with her, she always had a special place in my heart. A place later I would realize was because of how much we were alike.
As I’ve grown, in the last five years especially, as a woman, wife, momma, & friend, I realized something VERY important. Shirley did the best she could, with what she had.
Just typing that makes my eyes water.
You see, it may seem obvious to say, but, Shirley was not born my Grandmother. As a child, that’s the only identity she ever had to me. Just as my parents have always been my parents. I’m not entirely sure it’s common to think of one’s Gran at their high school dance, hoping someone asked her onto the floor, or her learning to drive, or having strained relationships of her own. It’s not every day you think about the fear those who came before you had when they became parents.
I wholeheartedly believe that my Gran did her best. I also believe that she excelled in some things & fell drastically short in others. But you know what she also did? She kept trying. Some might say, annoyingly so. She wanted to feel connected to those she loved SO badly, that she would follow some when they moved across country, she would find out someone collected something & decide to collect it too, so they could have something in common or she could impress them in some way.
She longed to feel loved & for those in her life to know that she loved them. I’m so very grateful I noticed that before it was too late to truly enjoy her.
I also learned something valuable about my pain & hurt….pain & hurt are unavoidable, yes. I’ve said this many times & I will continue along the path of reminding others to feel their pain & to keep moving forward.
BUT I learned that the pain & hurt come with a free pair of glasses that we end up seeing everything through.
You see, my hubby & I have had our own helping, of strain with family. As we’ve put things back together piece by piece, our hearts have healed, & we have chosen love over the hurt. After we made that choice & changed our focus, I noticed that pictures from the past that had made me cringe a little before, now made me smile. I’ve even found myself thinking, how could I have not seen their love & effort in those moments? Because looking back now it’s staring me right in the face. Plain as day.
When I made this same choice with my Gran & chose love over the hurt, I got the same result. Instead of looking at the ways she “failed” me or didn’t love me the way I wanted her to, I looked for the times she showed me she loved me with all that she had.
I had plenty to choose from & was not disappointed in what I saw….
She recorded herself on a cassette tape reading a book, singing, & talking to me & mailed it to me across the miles. I listened to that tape so so many times. & from that tape, came my love for sloths, which later would become something she I shared together.
She was an artist, who really “got me” more than I realized for a long while. I remember a shirt she sent me that everyone thought was SO weird & I thought was SO cool, it had some multicolored Egyptian horse thing on it. I wore that shirt out.
I remember garage saleing with her & finding a newspaper from the day Elvis passed away. Both of us being big Elvis fans, were super excited about it.
I remember sanding down garage sale finds & then painting them with her, her helping me with my first sewing a project [a couch pillow cover for Papa], her praying over me before I went to New York after 9/11, our trips to Tulip Time [eating polish sausage], her singing to G when he was a babe, when she traveled across state to hold Sully, sleeping next to her & holding hands after my Grandpa passed away, me & the Little Misters having a sleepover with her, watching Moana, & watching her share popcorn & ice cream with G, when she showed up to my husband’s surprise 30th birthday party dressed like Michael Jackson, her dancing at my wedding, when she road tripped with us up north together & we saw the Mackinac Bridge together, camping in the rain, taking pictures of our fresh footprints & shadows on the sand, making me my own flag to worship with @ the International Aglow Conference…I have some of the best memories with her, surely I will never forget Shirley.
But you know what stands out? Her kindness. Yes, she was snarky sometimes…well a lot of times & she was very blunt. So maybe kind isn’t what jumps to people’s minds when they think of her. But a picture immediately pops into my mind, of a Saturday morning when we were heading into Denny’s for weekly family breakfast. We were walking close by her to make sure she didn’t fall & that she remained steady. & there she was holding the door for someone else. She of course learned after holding the door for them that she knew them & was met with hugs. THIS is who my Gran was. Spreading love & sunshine to everyone she could, taking care of others when everyone was trying to take care of her. I will always admire that about her.
She didn’t always get it right, but looking back I think she got a lot of what is important, spot on.
So today on what would have been her 81st birthday, I’m remembering all the good & smiling, because I know that’s what she wanted for all those loved ~ peace & joy.
& that’s exactly what I want for you as we keep moving forward into this new year together.