Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grandma 'Rene

It was Grandparent's Day recently at the preschool where I work.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The program was cute with the kids singing for the grandparents and then joining them at tables for snacks and playtime.

And I found myself fighting back tears.

I'm not really that much of a crier but my tears are much closer to the surface again these days.  I feel like I'm back in those earlier days after my dad's death when each day I wondered if it was safe to put on eye makeup because it was just so unpredictable what might set me off.

I tried to figure out where these particular tears were coming from.  Was it my children's loss of their grandfathers, one before they were ever born and one more recently.  Or was it the many grandparent events my kids missed out on because we lived too far away from their remaining grandparents.

Then I remembered that when my kids were the age of the preschoolers I work with not only did they have more living grandparents (and even great grandparents) but they also had a bonus grandma who lived only two blocks away.

Grandma 'Rene.

Grandma 'Rene was my great aunt.  My mother's mother (who died when my mom was in high school) was the oldest of a large family.  Her youngest brother, in what was probably the wisest decision of a wise life, married Irene.  Unfortunately I never got to know him as he passed away before I moved to the area.

So technically Grandma 'Rene wasn't even a blood relation.

But she was one special lady.

When I think of hospitality I think of her.  She opened her doors and took us in when we needed a place to stay even though she had never meet us.  The Professor, Oldest Girl and I moved in with her when Oldest Girl was only six months old.

Oldest Girl is now a delightful young lady who I am always happy to spend time with.  As a baby however, let's just say she didn't break me in to motherhood easily.  As a young mom I felt like I was surrounded by advice, mostly contradictory, on how to handle this baby.  Most people, well meaning as they were, made me question my ability to parent this child properly.

Grandma 'Rene didn't see a difficult baby.  She saw a delightful baby with her own personality.  And she genuinely enjoyed interacting with my child.  As a result she set me free to delight in my daughter for who she was.

When Music Girl and Imagination Boy came along, Grandma 'Rene delighted in them too.

When we walked Oldest Girl to school for the first day of kindergarten passing near her house, Grandma 'Rene was standing at the corner to give her a hug and wish her well.  When we walked home that day we stopped at her house to tell her all about the first day.

Whenever it was time to leave Grandma 'Rene's house she would encourage the kids to visit the cookie drawer, a large drawer at perfect child height that was always filled with delicious cookies.  "Take a cookie for the road," she would say.

When Oldest Girl was in first grade and Music Girl in kindergarten, Grandma 'Rene visited their school for Grandparents Day.

When we learned we would be going overseas one of the hardest people to tell was Grandma 'Rene. There were many people we knew we would miss, including all the grandparents but we knew Grandma 'Rene's age meant she might not be alive when we moved back.

She wasn't.

We were able to visit Grandma 'Rene several times during our trips back to the states but by the time we moved back she was gone.

Oldest Girl remembers Grandma 'Rene fondly.  Imagination Boy remembers her vaguely.  But I will never forget the gift she gave me that was so much greater than the cookie for the road.  She gave me the gift of freeing me to delight in my children.

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