Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Gift

This love letter was written while sitting quietly next to my grandmother's bed.  I pieced it together through daily visits where often, I am the only one to talk, sharing our many sweet memories. Sad as it has been, our story time has also provided much joy and comfort.  During a few of our visits, my grandma somehow managed the strength to smile, laugh and say she loved me.  I treasure all of this.

As I share this insight with all of you, I am also opening my heart, something that three weeks ago felt unbearably difficult in the midst of my grief.  Today, my grandma, made comfortable through Hospice, continues to hold on.  I am determined to provide her with all of the love, grace and care that a granddaughter ever could and so for a while, may have brief absences from NSS.  If you would like to send us mental well wishes of love, serenity or prayers for continued peace, we will take them and hold them tight.

A gentle encouragement if you have an aging loved one, please reach out and call them or visit today.  They are truly our gifts in this world and should be treasured.  Much love to you all... 

When I was a little girl, I often climbed onto her lap, giggling uncontrollably when she tickled me with her air-filled kisses.  As she squeezed me close, she would gesture to the old brown glass coffee jar on her kitchen table.  Before she shared the secret contents, I already knew that she had filled it with sweets that were just the perfect size for my tiny hands.  Moving me to my own kitchen chair, she pulled an old button box out of a cupboard and let me rifle through with hopes of finding treasures.  Carefully looking at the buttons, she would explain that she collected them off her old clothing as a reminder that during the depression, buttons (and other items) were difficult to afford.  Some came from Navy uniforms and those shiny silver and gold ones were earmarked as keepers.  Later, she would walk me around their tiny home, pointing out pictures hanging on the wall of people that I didn't recognize but knew from the tone of her voice that they were 'most important'.  Sometimes, we would venture outside to her lilac bushes and pick bouquets for me to bring home.  I knew we had lilac bushes too but hers seemed even more fragrant and more beautiful than anything that we grew. These moments were my gifts.

As a teenager, my pouty face flooded her kitchen landscape.  Slumping in disdain at her kitchen table, I wished to be anywhere but right there and certainly wanted it to be known that a button box was not in the least bit exciting.  Ignoring my sighs, she pulled me close in her hug and whispered that it would get better because it does for all girls.  Unrelenting in her effervescence, she thoughtfully offered the wanna-be-grown-up-me a chic diet Pepsi, and to my delight, in a modern and cool plastic bottle,  as we embarked upon our traditional walk around her yard, only this time inspecting the large golden sunflowers that flanked her new wooden fence.  Our calming walk eventually coaxing a smile and also, a realization that I wanted to be with her more than any other teenage place.  Back inside her home, she once again explained who the faces belonged displayed in the pictures on her wall.  As she pointed to each one, I suddenly recognized the childhood and teenaged faces of the many adults that I currently knew.  With a gentle smile, she shared that this time would pass, just as it had done for others but the important part was not to wish it away.  Feeling her wisdom ripple through, I relaxed even further.  This was my gift.

Throughout my busy high school days, joining everything imaginable, as a cheerleader, softball player, student council representative, snow court candidate and eventually graduate ready to receive my diploma with honors, she was there; smiling, cheering, clapping and always sharing that she knew I was going to do something wonderful in the world.  Taking my arm, as we walked outside of my childhood school for the last time together, she paused to explain how important and valuable education was and that while this diploma was wonderful, there was much more to learn.  Months later, as I headed off to college, she was the one often visiting, ensuring I was safe, sound and well, still learning.  Arriving at my dorm, she comfortably discussed politics and current events with my new room-mates, even sprinkling a hefty dose of questionable jokes throughout the conversation.  Her smile gleaming as she inquired about parties or if I was at the library studying on Friday nights.  To my chagrin, my room-mates chuckled and said she was welcome to join us anytime and noted how cool she was (which made me slightly cooler too). Without missing a beat, she declined but instantly was able to conjure from the depth of her magic purse the perfect desk lamp and new pair of gloves for long walks across campus.  How she knew what I needed, when I needed it will always be a mystery.  This was a gift.

As time went on, I soon met a young man that captured my heart.  Before introducing him around, I brought him to meet her.  Not admitting it out loud, deep in my heart, I knew the approval from her was important.  He offered his arm as they walked into the restaurant chosen for our first meeting.  She sat and gestured for him to sit next to her so they could talk.  Smiles and laughter ensued.  Like a partner-in-crime, she winked at me and whispered that she knew that he would be good for me.  This was a gift.

That year, I painfully said goodbye to a parent.  Receiving the news, she hurried to the hospital, knowing that she was needed to comfort and care for the ones that were present.  As tears soaked her shoulder, she pulled me back onto her lap and gently hummed.  Then, she gestured to my young man to take her place and said that this was how she really knew that he would be good for me.  This truly, was a gift.

My tears eventually dried and shortly after, I said yes to his question of marriage.  That same year, I simultaneously interviewed and accepted my first job, bought a brand-new car and walked down another graduation aisle as well as a beautiful wedding aisle.  Through it all, she was there with her beautiful smile and loving arms.  What I didn't know during that time is that every single person that she came into contact with also felt like they were there.  Proudly, she repeated what I had done; again and again and again.  As the stories eventually came back to my ears, I knew that while most had an earful, she certainly gave me a gift.

Her love shined over our little family through the birth of two baby girls.  Walking through our front door, her coat rapidly being discarded, she was ready to hold one baby or often, both.  Her hands and lap were always ready for them.  This was their gift.

It was her that validated my worry for our youngest daughter and the illness that wouldn't go away.  She thoughtfully expressed her concern and encouraged me to call the doctor one more time.  I fully credit her experience and intuition for saving our baby.  This was possibly the ultimate gift.

The entrance of type 1 diabetes into our life didn't faze her a bit.  Upon release from the hospital, she was at our house asking to once again to hold her babies.  She offered her knowledge of living with type 2 diabetes and forged a connection of solidarity between both diseases.  She wanted me to know that her life was lived fully and that there should be no concern about the same for our youngest.  She knew her girls, including me, could accomplish anything. This was a gift.

A few years later, the same connection was fostered with our oldest.  This time, understanding that 8 year-olds are visual little beings, she brought her own meter and test kit to use in front of our youngest.  Together, sitting side-by-side they both tested their blood sugar and giggled over the results.  The light of her love shined through and for many a finger poke after that, that moment was highlighted for our oldest daughter.  This was a gift.

Time kept on.  As our daughters began to blossom into teenagers, she began to fade.  The sunshine smile and golden laughter dimmed ever so slightly and we began to notice the subtle stealing of age.  She never hesitated to hug, kiss or offer a sweet treat and so for a while, we thought it would be like it had been, forever.  This was a gift.

It was simple to make the decision of how to spend my time these last few weeks.  I came to the nursing care home as soon as she was admitted, armed with comforting treasures and gathering close family to see her.  Yet, still, she wouldn't just receive my intended presents.  Instead, she mustered deep internal strength and provided all of us with a view of the way it used to be.  Her spirit shone brighter than ever and her smile tickled all of our hearts.  The days like this are truly a gift. 

Slowly, the good days have become fewer and farther in-between.  I continue to hold a quiet vigil and often, it has been done without reciprocal communication.  But I know it isn't needed.  I already know she is forever a part of me.  She floats all around and is within every memory.  Seeing her pictures on the wall, it is now easy to recognize that my future is held within her same lovely, crinkly smile.  Closing my eyes while holding her hand as she lays quietly asleep, for a second, it is as if nothing is different.  Her love will always be present.

For she is my gift.

She is my Grandma.

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