So Jay will not be surprised to learn that I sent my Grandmother another birthday card this week. She is my oldest living relative.... turning 93. She is the only member of my family that has lived to a 'ripe old' age... so she gives me a little hope that maybe I will too. My Grandparents were the GREATEST Grandparents in the world when I was a kid. My Grandfather did cool things like let us walk on the roof of his barn and sit in his lap and drive the tractor around the yard when I was very young. He had a deep laugh that sounded like Santa and he always seemed happy to be around us. My sisters, cousins and I always got to take turns spending the night at their house. (They always only wanted us one at a time.... extra spoil time!) My Grandmother would take me to the dime store and would let me pick out what I wanted. (I always choose a rubber bouncy ball.... drove her crazy that she couldn't talk me into anything else!) She would make whatever I wanted for dinner. Usually 'Buf'... a danish dish that had ground meat, gravy and mashed potatoes. After dinner we would walk around the yard and my Grandfather would push me on the tire swing that hung from a huge tree that he had planted before my mother was born. There was a bedroom that was set up for us grandkids, but I never slept in it. I preferred to sleep in the extra twin bed in my grandfathers room. I loved listening to him snore. It always made me feel safe and loved.
They sold their farm when I got a bit older but still took us for over night trips. They had an RV that they would use most of the summer and I loved spending time around the fire and playing bingo in the pavilion with them. My Grandmother always had several bingo cards in front of her... and I had 1 or 2. She always looked at mine first and told me when to cover a number up, before I could look for myself.... she probably was just getting even for all the bouncy balls! When I was a teenager they moved to Florida so I spent every Christmas and New Years Eve running around barefoot and in shorts at their house. My Grandmother tried to teach me to drive too, when I was about 13. Unfortunately, her garbage cans got smashed when I didn't brake fast enough, but she told my Grandpa that at least I stopped before they had a drive thru kitchen!
They were there for my graduations, birthdays, award ceremonies, swim meets, ball games.... they really were great. They visited me at college and when I was ready to buy my first house I asked to borrow $5000 for the down payment. My Grandfather was very serious about money, and I really felt like a grown-up when he discussed the 'terms' of how I was to pay him back. Six months after we had the house, I drove to Florida for a visit and had the first installment of his loan to pay back. I handed my Grandfather the envelope (I think it was $100) and he told me that he was proud that I came to him to pay him when I said I would. He hugged me, handed me the $100 back and said he considered the loan fully paid off.
He died the same year my Dad did. It was very hard for both my Mom and my Grandmother. They decided to move in together and it did not go well. I knew my Mother was very sick and neither of them were very tolerant of each other. When my Mother passed away, my Grandmother refused to go to her funeral. It hurt that she was not there for me when I really needed her.
A couple of years later I gave her a memory book that I asked her to fill out. It had questions in it like: "Describe your childhood home" and had places to put your fondest memories, first love, best day ever... things like that. She worked very hard on the book. I could tell when she gave it back. I read through it the night she gave it to me. My sisters were there and we talked about some of the things she wrote and laughed together about things we could remember or imagine. Then I flipped to the page that said, "The biggest regret I have had in my life was ________" And in my grandmothers handwriting, it simply said "My daughter". I was stunned. She knew this book was for me and my kids. My mother was already gone and it was pointless to be angry anymore. I wrote her a letter telling her how much I loved the book but was disappointed that she wrote that my Mother was the biggest disappointment in her life. I asked her to explain why she felt that way. I wrote that I wished she had said that her biggest regret was not working things out with my mother or her mother dying too young like mine did. That year she cancelled the Christmas celebration. A few years later when she turned 90 and I turned 40 I sent her a letter. I said, I wanted to be a part of her life. I said, just send me a birthday card for my 40th birthday and I will just know that things between us are ok. I never got a card.
I keep sending Christmas cards and birthday cards. I don't ever hear from her, but I would bet all those bouncy balls she reads them. Jay thinks I should give up on her.... stop letting her pour salt in the wounds. But my Grandfather and my mother wouldn't want me to give up on her... no matter how stubborn she decides to be. I'll keep sending the cards to her if only for old times sake. :)