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Family Tales

The universe has given us the people in our lives for a reason.

I have only one grandparent still living, my 86-year-old grandmother everyone affectionately calls Gma. She is not only sweet and caring but also independent and strong. She has survived her husband, two children, and all of her siblings and parents. Although time has made her body frail, it has not stolen her will to do and be. Patiently and painstakingly, she creates her “signature” blanket upon the arrival of every great-grandchild. She cooks, cleans, and does laundry. She recently took to the skies alone, flying to visit her South Carolina family. While here for only two weeks, her spirit filled our home.

She ventured out to cheer the boys on at their soccer games, to enjoy lunch outside in the fresh air, and to spend time with me on some errands, but mostly she sat quietly in her favorite chair reading or simply enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. She would cozy up to my kids when one would pause long enough for a cuddle or conversation. While the pace at my house is regularly frantic, and we run in every direction at once, she would smile and take it all in. I felt guilty for being on the go all day some days and not being there to entertain her. She never fussed. She never asked for more. She never complained that we were inattentive or rude (which sadly, at times I know we were.) When I asked her if I could take her to do anything or go anywhere, she smiled and said, “No, I’m just happy to sit here and read my book.”

At the end of every day, she would sip her glass of iced red wine and tell me stories; many I’d heard before, and some new to me. She told me about the lives my cousins are living now, beaming with pride over each of them and what good people they have all become. She spoke with gratitude and admiration for my aunt and uncle with whom she lives. She told me how lucky she feels to be so loved and cared for by my parents and all of her grandchildren and growing number of great-grandchildren. She shared tales about her early life with my grandfather, raising children while he worked seven days a week; relationships with her siblings; and the social clubs they enjoyed. While she crafted a picture of a life well-lived, I sat in awe of her memory, her ability to recall details, specific years, and entire stories from so many years prior. And, I felt grateful for all she has accomplished and sacrificed over the years for her family.

After taking her to the airport to fly back to the chilly North, I returned to my home and felt an immediate sense of loss. Although she sat on the sidelines, and barely said much during the day, I missed her spirit in my home. Her calm, quiet, grateful presence while inconspicuous, left an indelible impression.

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, which for many means family time, it’s easy to get lost in the stress of overloaded activities AND personalities. Don’t let the chaos overshadow the blessings of friends and family. The universe has given us the people in our lives for a reason. See the good. Laugh at the crazy. Embrace the love. These will become your stories to tell one day. Now, more than ever, kindness, generosity of spirit, and good old hugs and respect need to start and be nurtured at home and with those closest to us, so that we can sow those emotions and attitudes outward.


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