On Wednesday I went along into the city with my daughter and her youngest two children and counted my blessings again for the relationship I have with my grandchildren. When they hopped out of the van, they wanted to “hold Grandma’s hand”; in the stores they wanted to walk with me while Mom shopped.
Whenever we’re together my grandchildren want me to do puzzles with them or read to them; even jump on the trampoline with them – which I have declined due to my advanced years. ☺ We talk about all kinds of things, go exploring together and just enjoy each other — making precious memories!
My grandmother never realized what she was missing. Or if she did, she didn’t know how to go about bridging the gap.
One day my granddaughter said something about whether my mom was mean to me. I told her, “No, my Mom wasn’t mean to me. My grandmother was mean, but not my mom.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “Grandmas are NEVER mean.”
I’m so glad she has that perspective. And perhaps if I could have looked at the whole situation through Grandma’s eyes I might have understood a little better why she was so distant from us.
I grew up with my aunt and uncle, my aunt being the sister of my birth father (Dad V). Thus my grandma was doubly present in my life: at times she’d come and stay a few weeks with my aunt; at times I’d be spending a couple of weeks with my birth family and she’d be visiting right then. None of us Vance children looked forward to having her around.
I don’t remember my grandma ever taking me –or any of us– on her knee, reading to us, or showing any real interest in us. She probably thought we were a bunch of wild rip-and-tears who needed discipline in the worst way, because one day when we scrapped and got it from Dad V, Grandma seemed so gleeful.
Mom F (my aunt) told me that when she was young and did something wrong, Grandma would send her up to her room, she’d miss supper, have to stay there until the children were in bed for the night, then Grandma would come up and spank her. That sounded pretty mean to me. Mom told me how it hurt when her mom “boxed their ears” with the hand that wore her heavy wedding ring, something she did regularly.
But Grandma was a widow who taught school for a living, or kept house for bachelors, and she had to cope with raising her children alone. So maybe life made her bitter. A relative who knew grandma as adult to adult thought she was quite nice.
I’m sure she didn’t like my Mom V, either. Mom F told me Grandma opposed the idea of our dad marrying our mom, so maybe she didn’t care much for us, either. When she’d visit she tell us about how smart our cousin “little Laurie Anne” was. Perhaps she thought she’d inspire us, but you can imagine it didn’t go over too well. Mom F would console us later: “Grandma probably tells Laurie Anne and her brothers how smart you are, too.” (She didn’t, I found out years later.)
Being she thought so highly of those cousins, I thought she’d be nice to them, but “little Laurie Anne” told me years later that Grandma just didn’t seem to like children. “You’d be walking by her and she’d stick out her foot on purpose to make you trip.” (I avoided her whenever I could, so never had that experience.)
As a teen I concluded my grandma was kind of sadistic. It seemed to give her pleasure when she saw us being punished or our mother being beaten. What made this impression of her so much more confusing was that Grandma was devoutly religious (Reorganized Latter Day Saints). I used to tell people with some sarcasm, “There isn’t a one in the family who followed her in that. We all knew Grandma better than we knew her religion and none of us wanted to be like her.” Looking back after I became a Christian, I wish I could have talked with her about some of this, but she was gone by then.
I remember Grandma singing in her crackly voice early in the morning, “Six o’clock and time to get up,” when I was trying to sleep. She’d get after me to come and do this or that, but never did she sit down and ask, “How are you?”
Grandma probably didn’t have much money for gifts for the grands, but I don’t remember one gift, card, or even a “Happy Birthday” from her. (Mind you, we were never a card-giving bunch.) Times have changed; today we wouldn’t think of letting a birthday go by uncelebrated.
I sometimes think of my Grandma as my own grandchildren reach out to take my hand or bring stories for me to read. Maybe she was the product of an extremely harsh home or simply a child of her times, but I’m thankful for the great relationship I can enjoy with the little folks in my life. I’m glad they’ll have fonder memories of me when I’m gone.