I’ve been away for a while recovering from shoulder surgery, as you know. It went really well, and I am a stellar recuperator (so far), so great news on that front.
While I was out, two milestones were reached which need to be acknowledged and celebrated.
First, my Nana, my grandmother on my father’s side, passed away. She had been dealing with Alzheimer’s for a while now, and while physically she was healthy, her emotional quality of life had been suffering as she lost touch with reality.
We believe that she simply made the decision to go. She left us quickly and quietly in her own bed surrounded by the people she loved, and I am heartened that she suffered no physical pain.
But what I really want to write about is not now Nana passed, but how she lived — her amazing life should be celebrated.
Nana grew up in Wales, one of 5 children of a poor Welsh coal miner. The family moved into England after her father died, and during WWII she perched on rooftops to “spot” fires caused by shelling. She married an American GI who brought her back to the States. She lost one child to SIDS, but bore another before then losing her husband in a freak accident. She picked up the pieces of her life, and began to sing with swing bands in USO clubs.
It was there that she met my grandfather. My grandfather who, on first catching sight of her in a club, said to his Navy buddies, “I’m going to marry that girl.” And he did, three weeks later; the marriage lasted until he died 6 years ago.
Nana bore two more children, and raised all three mostly single-handedly while moving around the country as dictated by my grandfather’s Naval assignments. When her children had grown, she got a part-time job wrapping presents at a local department store.
As I grew up, I lived with my parents, as well as Nana and Grandpa. While it was sometimes odd and frustrating, like having four parents, it was more often enriching and wonderful.
There are so many things I remember about Nana. Her love for tea, which I’ve inherited. Her voice, which I like to think I inherited, and her love of music which I know I inherited.
I remember watching Love Boat and Fantasy Island with her, and her letting me play with her hair… giving her a new “style” every five minutes for hours on end.
I remember the afghans that she knitted, especially the special blue one she did just for me, and which I still have.
I remember her laugh — a great energetic laugh with a complementary nervous twitter, and her ready smile.
I remember her scratching my scalp, sending me off to nap land, when I’d come home and slump into our recliner after waitressing (my part-time high-school job).
I remember the look of joy on her face when she opened presents… which I suppose is the kind of child-like joy often shown by those who went without when they were young.
This is the Nana I remember. There were other facets to her. She was not perfect and she had her moments that weren’t great. The beauty is that I get to choose, and I choose to remember the good, which far outweighs the less-than-good in any case.
Last week we also celebrated my son’s first birthday.
I don’t even have words, to be honest, that I don’t feel that every parent hasn’t already said.
He amazes me every. single. day.
I suppose what feels a bit different from some of the sentiments I’ve heard from others is that I have no desire at all to “freeze” time.
I look back at G’s newborn clothes (which I was packing away over the weekend to hopefully be used again sometime in the near future) and of course my heart gripped my ribcage for a minute and my brain struggled to show me a picture of just how small he was.
But not for a minute would I trade watching him grow, and learn, and become his own person… not for anything.
He’s walking now, did I mention that? Just this weekend he’s made the switch from crawling most of the time and walking sometimes, to toddling around most of the time on his two getting-bigger-by-the-second feet, and only crawling when he’s unsure of the ground or he’s very tired.
Incidentally, G sings and loves music. And as he’s already a huge fan of tea biscuits, I bet the band he’ll love tea.