What is your favorite memory of a grandparent?
I thought this was a great question, but can’t just pick one story since I have four grandparents. :) So, I thought I’d do a post for each of them over the next few weeks. Since today would have been my Grandma Flo’s birthday, I figured it was appropriate that I start with her.
Grandma Flo was a tiny red head who packed a whole lot of attitude into her little self. She wasn’t a woman who got on the floor to play or spread a ton of hugs and kisses around, but she was an incredibly faithful woman who was diligent in praying for her family.
I recently responded to a tweet from my friend Mandy when she made some reference to holy water, telling her that I woke up out of a dead sleep once because my Grandma Flo had doused me with holy water.
She thought I was kidding.
I totally wasn’t.
I was staying in her guest room when I was in high school and my parents were on vacation. I had gotten bronchitis, and since she had been a nurse for many years she thought I should stay there rather than home alone. Apparently the guest room is where Grandma Flo sat and prayed her rosary every night, because I woke up with her in the room – bottle of holy water in hand – spraying it in different directions.
She literally scared the devil out of me.
I asked her what she was doing, and she shushed me and told me to go back to sleep. Normally I didn’t question Gram, but this one was just a little too odd for me to let go. She finally explained that she prayed for each of her children and grandchildren every night, and sprayed holy water in the direction of where they lived and asked God to watch over them and keep them safe.
Which I thought was really kind and sweet. And a little creepy when it woke me up in the middle of the night. But every once in awhile, when it’s pouring down rain outside, I wonder if Grandma Flo has bent Jesus’ ear and asked Him to cover us in His holy water when we need a little extra help. Trust me when I tell you, if anyone could tell Jesus how to do his job, it would be Flo. :)
Now, while that is my most impactful memory of Grandma, it’s actually not my favorite. The memory I most treasure is actually much simpler and less dramatic.
When Grandma was struggling with emphysema, but was still living at home alone, there was a weekend when my parents and my Aunt Mary were both out of town at the same time. I didn’t have anything going on, so I went home for the weekend and “dropped in” for a few unplanned visits with Gram. She was very independent and not one to be taken care of, and wouldn’t have appreciated thinking I was home on her account.
We sat watching the Cubs play, and had some of the nicest conversations I ever had with her. We talked some about her younger days and a trip she and Grandpa had taken on a train with friends of theirs. I’d never heard many stories about the two of them that weren’t centered around their kids and farming and working life, so it was nice to get a peek into that side of their world.
There was a moment during the conversation when she had started coughing and went into the bathroom, staying in there longer than I felt she should have. So I knocked on the door and she reluctantly let me in. She was so sore from coughing and had been trying to rub a salve on her back but couldn’t reach. I asked her if she would please let me help her.
And she did.
I know it probably sounds silly to choose that as a favorite memory, but for that moment my Grandma needed me and let me care for her. She let me rub a salve on her back and show her a moment of love and concern. She wasn’t one to easily accept hugs and kisses, so for her to allow me to help her like that was the most generous gesture she could have given to me.
It reminds me at times to let myself be helped as well. It reminds me that people who care for you often need the opportunity to give even more than you need the chance to receive. My Grandma Flo had an absolutely beautiful death just one day after Christmas that year. Most everyone had been there to see her at some point, and after I had sang at Christmas Eve Mass, a few of us spent the evening with her... dining in her room at the nursing home and singing Christmas carols.
I sang Ave Maria to her and she patted my hand and said, “So pretty.” Another simple moment of giving something to her. The simple moments of caring for her in the only way I knew how... they are the ones I will always treasure the most.