Sunday, May 10, 2015

Legacies a grandmother leaves

I have been fortunate. I have my mother still alive and well and across town. This isn't the case for everyone. Mother's Day means a lot to people. While I love my mother dearly, and recognize some of the sacrifice any mother goes through, I wonder how she is handling things. You see, HER mother has since passed on. It has been 7 years. I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for her, my aunts, and my great aunts in dealing with this loss in their lives. All I can do is show how her legacy and teachings Continues to live within me. Hopefully, my mom, aunts and great aunts will feel enlightened and uplifted in some way.

I remember sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room on vacation with my husband when the phone rang. It was my dad. He told me the news of her passing. I slowly sat down on the bed and my dad began going over the details. I had seen her in the hospital 6 days before. We had a great conversation, that last time. I visited her at least once every two days since she was admitted. She had an aggressive lung cancer and I think we all saw the writing on the wall. I sat in the room that last time visiting her. I regretted not being with her while my husband and I went on our mutual "birthday trip", but tickets had been purchased and I really thought she would be around the next week.
When we got back, it still wasn't "real" for me. It wasn't "real" at the funeral since she was cremated and I didn't get to see her famous chocolate brown bouffant or hold her hand with her long graceful fingers wrapping around mine. It wasn't until I was asked if there was anything I wanted to keep of hers. I chose to keep a pair of gold star earrings. They were piercing studs. She wore them almost every day that I can remember in my early childhood. I wore them too for a while. When I was around age 5, we found out I had "the family curse". Nothing severe, but a unique metal allergy that became apparent shortly after my ears were pierced. She told me to watch ALL metal jewelry and in my older years, Sher made it known that I would likely have the same reaction as she and my mom had had with surgical staples. She removed the mall store earrings from my lobes, cleaned up the hot infected ears, and a few days later, she told me if I wanted to still have pierced ears, to wear those star earrings. They are either 14 or 18 k gold, and to this day, I pretty much have to stick with gold.
Even the nickel free stuff causes a reaction. She took them from her ears, cleaned them up and helped me  bget them into my own ears. I wore them for a month or so, and then, they were cleaned up again and went right back into her ears.

I couldn't exactly keep her hair... It might be weird. Keeping her hand might be more morbid though. So, I will go for the earrings. I first broke out those earrings when I was pregnant with oldest, and wore them again when I was pregnant with my second child. I wore them during my 42 hour labor
and subsequent emergency c section. I directly disobeyed doctors orders to remove all jewelry for my scheduled c Section with my second child. I wore them and just tucked the hair net over my ears.

I wanted a little piece of my grandmother with me. She always had my back when things got tough, and I looked to her for an example of strength and grace under fire. She taught me things like proper place settings, etiquette, and manners. She sewed clothing beautifully, and taught me that scratching open the package of cookie dough was NOT baking cookies from scratch despite what I had been told elsewhere. She was also one of the strongest ladies I have ever known. She survived after the lengthy and early death of her first husband as he battled cancer and went through several series of experimental (in that time) treatments for cancer. She continued to raise three young women, two of which were teens and  a very young lady at the time of his passing. She eventually found peace and chose to get married to a wonderful man that I would come to know and recognize as my grandfather.  She once again had to become primary caretaker and eventually bury her second husband after several years of watching her husband decline due to Alzheimer's Disease. She spent a huge chunk of her life being a caretaker and handling the added stresses of incurable conditions amongst some of the people she loved the most.

I don't know if that is my future with my Cameron, but I still look back at everything she went
through and have a whole new level of respect that I think only those of us in the long term care
taking role could understand. This same grandmother helped me understand what Autism was. Early
on in my childhood, she lived in a wonderful house with quiet neighbors. There were not many young children to play with when I stayed at her house, however. I was introduced to one particular family that lived next door. They had a daughter that was my youngest aunts age and a son who I could tell was quite a bit older than me, but was really interested in playing with me. After playing with him for a bit, I came back to her house and had a few questions. I thought he was weird, did odd things, and because he was male and much bigger than me, I was concerned that he might hurt me. I had two younger brothers that I roughhouse frequently with, and knew that to be a style of play, but I also knew I couldn't play with this boy that way. She very matter of factly told me that this boy had autism. It was rare at that time, and not many people had it, but what that meant was that his brain
was not made the same as mine. She also made it very clear to me that he was not mentally retarded ( a socially accepted and used description at the time) and to go play and make friends. so that is what I tried to do, but I look back at it, and I wonder if I missed a great opportunity to be a kind friend to him and his family. I remember going back to school that week and marching over to the special needs table during breakfast and asking if any of them had autism and if I could be their friend. I was fearless, for a week. i dared to reach out and was in turn outcast on the playground and made fun of. It wasn't just the kids either. I had an elderly teacher tell me that I was wasting my time with " them". I am pretty sure if I had told my grandmother about what was happening, she or the boy's mother would have given me some awesome advice on how to handle that situation. It just never came up, and I think I stopped playing with that boy around that same time. I hope I wasn't mean, or judging, but I think I might have missed my calling very early on in life because I let the influence of others affect what I said and did.

My grandmother wanted to make my wedding gown as she had done for her youngest, but as she aged, She knew her hands could not handle any intricate beadwork. Arthritis had set in. We instead agreed that she would make my 9th grade formal dress. It was my first formal event. We went shopping for fabric, and I learned about fabrics, and sewn in bras, boning, and the right type of
netting. I learned there was special thread for the slick material I chose, and that you could buy lace
by the yard. She told me the order in which to use my utensils, that a boy or man was to pull out my
seat and open doors, or else not to mess with him. She was OH so right. It took me years to learn that the advice she gave me was right on point. Funny thing is, my husband was the first and only adult male I ever dated that did that for me on more than just our first date. That might be actually why I married the guy after all!

She never liked the guys I dated but never let her opinion be known until AFTER the fact, but when I
brought my now husband around before we were ever engaged, she actually told me he was a very
kind and sweet man. That meant a lot to me. The day of our wedding, she wore those star earrings. The same ones I have in my possession today.

My oldest son, Cameron was talked about before he was ever concieved. The last time I sat in the hospital room with my grandmother, she was still giving of herself, and teaching me. She listened to me as I had just come from a doctors appointment myself. My husband and I had tried for 3 years to have a baby and I left the fertility doctors wondering if we would find a solution. She eased my mind, and told me not to worry. That by this time next year, I would probably have a little boy to cuddle. I asked her , well, what if it's a girl? She plainly and as matter of factly as she could told me that I just "looked" like a mom of boys. We joked about that and she said he was going to be such a special child, she just knew it. I laughed, and cried a little and prayed that she was right. We visited about 10 minutes more and she looked like she needed to rest, so I told her to relax, and catch some sleep. I held her hand with those wonderful long fingers wrapped around mine. A nurse came in and gave her some pain medication and she fell asleep. A minute or two later, I slipped my hand out from hers and left.

She passed in July 2008. By November of that year, we found out we were expecting. I was holding
out for a girl and didn't really put much thought into the last conversation my grandmother and I had.
The night before my 20 week ultrasound, I had a vivid dream. Not unusual in pregnancy, but
The dream was a bit odd. I dreamt that I was in the house my grandmother once owned with a baby,
but I was about 6 years old myself. I saw myself reflected in the wall to wall mirror she had in her
formal dining area. The baby wouldn't stop crying, but I went to the butcher block she had in the kitchen and saw a cooling tray of cookies. I grabbed one and burned my hand, but held onto the cookie and blew on it until I could feed it to the baby.  I put the baby down in a nursery and it was decorated with the sun, moon and stars.

 I woke up from that dream and was just missing my grandma that day so I slipped in the earrings and off to to the ultrasound I went. We had picked the name Cameron the night before, regardless of gender. After we knew the sex of the baby, I wanted to buy everything blue I could get my hands on, so I began looking online at bedding, and hunted down the perfect blue camouflage set. It was trimmed with white embroidered stars on the edges. I figured it was just a 3 or 4 star general thing.... I didn't really connect the pieces until later.

Now, looking back, those stars have become symbolic to me. in July 2009 a little over a year, I did in fact, have my baby boy. It honestly feels like my grandmother has been watching over our family very closely. Her spirit is here with me, and no matter what, I am STILL trying to seek her approval with decisions. I doubt that ever goes away. For now, when I see a star, I think fondly of a lady I had the pleasure to call my Nana. I will teach my kids about how to cook from scratch, proper table settings, and much more. As you look back at your life, who taught YOU to do certain things? What will you pass on to your kids and grandchildren as a part of your legacy?