On the playground in Elementary school, we used to compare everything. My hair is redder than yours. I am 32 days older than you. I have 42 first cousins… on just my mom’s side. I never won these contests. I was not a child with special family situations, or really red hair, or the ability to win first prize in anything for any reason. I did envy other children what I envisioned as their Standard Issue Grandparents. In this area, I felt poignantly lacking. My vision of the SIG is this:
- Cookie baking
- Across town living
- Available for weekend’s at Grandma’s house
- Open to hugs and kisses and curing all ills
These were not my grandparents. On my mother’s side, there was only my grandmother left, my mother’s father having died from “The Cancer” in the mid 60s before I was born. My mother describes her own mother as a ‘hard woman’ and rarely was there any communication. When she passed in my early teens, I remember getting not a huge sense of sadness from Mom, but more a feeling of regret, of unfinished business that now would never be finished. Even now, when Mom speaks of ‘Mother and Daddy’, there is that melancholy about her. It feels like not many of the memories are good ones. My childhood friends were aghast when I told them I had a grandmother, still alive, that I had never met and probably never would. I did meet her once or twice, but never felt any connection.
My father’s parents, however, were involved in my life. They lived in northern Arizona before everyone in the world was retiring to Arizona. They lived in a lovely town called Prescott. We went there once or twice a year for my entire childhood. But they were not available for weekends. I desparately wanted weekends. Now I know that my parents probably desperately wanted someone close enough to take their kids for weekends also. My grandmother did not cook or bake well. She was an early convert to the church of the Microwave – you know – full meals of this preprocessed food-stuff can be prepared daily in the microwave saving you time and money. YUM! Much of the time we spent at their house, my mother would grocery shop and cook. I think this was to save us all. (My grandfather loved my mother especially. I think it was because she fed him real food.) We did a lot of sight-seeing and game playing. There was a distinct lack of ills, so I felt my grandparents were not good at the cuddling, love and ill-curing. These were failures in the eyes of my comparitive playground friends. I remember them asking “YOUR grandparents aren’t here? You don’t see them every month? Where are your cousins?” Cousins? I don’t remember those either! God, these grandparents of mine were failures.
Of course, I know now that my grandparents loved me. Fiercely. They would have lived closer if we lived somewhere that they wanted to retire to. We didn’t. They would have taken us for weekends and kissed our scraped knees and cuddled us through colds if they were able. They weren’t. What I do have from my non-Standard Issue Grandparents is a love for playing games, a wicked-mean mind for Scrabble, memories of going to places like Yellowstone National Park in the still snowing June, the Grand Canyon, driving through Sedona and Jerome Arizona. I am more adventurous than people I have known, leaving my parents in Colorado to live far from anyone I have ever known in Iowa, uprooting my children to move to Kansas. I have from them the knowledge that family does not have to live in the same town to be family and that love travels over great distances. Seeing each other once or twice a year does not make us love any less. Valuable life lessons, those.
I loved my grandparents fiercely. I still do, even now that they are all gone. I am proud to be their granddaughter and I wish to go back and proclaim my love and my admiration for them for all on the playground to hear. They are good grandparents, they are my grandparents and I love them. No matter what you think of them.