Life continues to move fast. It can be hard to keep up with; sometimes it’s a challenge, when there seems to be so much uncertainty in the world. And so I chose a subject (well, two), once again different from my original plan, who symbolize something truly positive and personal to me. You might call this a comfort post.
Nana and Granddaddy. When I said their names as a kid, it was so often like one word. NanaandGranddaddy. My mother’s parents, they were one of the earliest examples to me of the kind of love that is at once obvious and unexplainable. I remember learning that they had eloped as a young couple. It had much to do with money, but the romanticism fit perfectly, anyway.
I have the letters he wrote to her when they first married. My granddad was a judge and I always saw him as the smartest, most confident man – so to hear him confess to doubts about his chosen career as an attorney, to wonder if he deserved his Kay, was both surprising and endearing.
They raised their family in a big, beautiful home (with its own name, Ellerslie) on the Choptank River in Denton, Maryland, and luckily for me, never left. It was, without a doubt, the most magical place of my childhood. We’d pull up to the house and Nana would quickly appear, always smiling, always thrilled to have her New Jersey grandkids for a visit.
What a home it was – always candy in the spinning caddy, the old games in the little closet under the stairs. I usually slept on the third floor, where my mother’s old Nancy Drew’s and Bobbsey Twin books awaited.
They loved their family – all 8 of us grandchildren, plus our parents. 16 altogether, which seemed like a perfect number to me. Every summer when I was little, they’d rent a cottage on the beach in Delaware and the whole lot of us would converge for two weeks (Dads on the weekends, though mine got a whole week). Nana would make the meals, Granddaddy bought us kites and in the evenings would tell stories about the cowboy, the sailor, and the Indian. Those trips were, quite simply, about as perfect as a vacation can be.
Looking back, I’m struck by the work that went into it all. Nana probably spent half her days cooking, as we cavorted in and out, tracking sand and probably making a mess of everything. I guess there must have been arguments between us kids at times, but it’s the feeling of belonging that still can bring me to happy tears today. I may have had doubts the rest of the year, but when I was with Nana and Granddaddy, I know that I was safe and sound.
When life was at its hardest, they were there. It’s difficult to imagine the grief they went through when my mom died at 45; I remember hearing Nana say that children aren’t supposed to go first. But the biggest memory I have of that time was their presence, which was one of the few things that convinced me that life might eventually be okay. They stayed with us as school started back up, giving me a sense of stability that I’m not sure I could have gone on without. They were my saving grace.
I guess maybe grandparents don’t need a lot of thank yous, but no one deserved more of them than mine. They inspired everyone around them through the beauty of their love and marriage, by their unspoken lessons about family and kindness, and for the example they set for goodness and integrity. I couldn’t have chosen better if I’d had the chance.
I won’t have 8 grandchildren, but I can strive to bring the lesson of their love and commitment into my life and to share it whenever possible. To cherish those in my life and to never take for granted how much they add to it.
If I could give a wish to every unhappy, lonely kid, it would be for them to have a set of grandparents just like mine.
To end, a quote from a favorite show.