The very first love you know is the love of your mother and father. The secure feeling you have in their arms while under their watch and care, the endless advice they try to give even though you feel you know what's best, and the way they are able to soothe your aches and pains like no other gives you a sense of safety that can only be described as absolutely and completely amazing. All of these things are typically hard for anyone to top which makes parents become heroes in the eyes of their children.
Not often enough do you hear about that same type of love for grandparents, but trust me it exists in the most magical way. As a child you never truly understand the process of aging, that part of life doesn't begin to happen until around mid 40's for most, when you come to the realization that you are getting older and things are starting to change. You don't see as well as you used to, your leg hurts a little more than it did yesterday, you need glasses for something you were able to read fine a few months ago. The list goes on and on. All of these things are called life, or as my grandmother used to say, just keep on living.
I vividly remember the times spent with my grandmother as if it were yesterday. I would go to her house just to spend the night and it easily turned into a few weeks with my mom having to make me come back home. I had friends at my grandmothers house and there were friends at home. I almost felt like a popular kid but trust I was far from that. My grandmothers house was within walking distance and if I close my eyes I can still remember the path to take. Her house was long, as you entered there was a room to the right and a small front room right off of the front door. You walked straight back into the main living room with another room to the right. Further back there was a large dining table with one window on the back side. The kitchen was to the right and it was relatively small but of course as a child everything seemed enormous. There was one bathroom that my grandmother and grandfather shared which was right off of the kitchen. To the left of the kitchen was the back porch that extended up to another tenants house. That back porch became a playground when the kids were bored listening to grown folks talk, which they seemed to do for hours. There was a cat we named Peaches. She had quite a few litters of kittens and I remember always begging my mom to let me take one home, and she simply said every single time, 'child please'. I have no idea what happened to Peaches, one day she was there and then one day she was gone. I'm guessing my love for cats started somewhere around that time.
Every Sunday after church my mother and grandmother would begin preparing Sunday dinner. I don't recall helping much, I just remember watching. We all ate together as a family. There was no sitting in front of the television and none of us had cell phones so that was the furthest from an option. After eating, the dining room table is where the adults gathered and talked and talked and talked for what seemed like an eternity. Hindsight has allowed me to realize there was lots of love and there was togetherness in that small house on Polk Place. It was special. As a child you don't realize how important being in the midst of family is until you are older and you are suddenly wishing to have all of those moments back.
The house on Polk Place was our constant, our version of normal until my grandfather passed away in the mid 80's. For the children it was our first glimpse into death. We were young and I'm sure we didn't quite understand the full magnitude of it all, but we knew it was happening and that things would change What happens now and how do we move forward? My grandmother stayed in that house for many more years, and we created even more memories.
My grandmother was a good and faithful servant, a devout Christian woman who believed in love, the power of prayer and God almighty. She served on the usher board at our family church. First Sundays meant it was time to prepare for communion and that meant it was time for those white gloves. I loved those gloves and I always wanted to try them on, but they were so big on my hands, but just knowing they were hers meant I wanted them. The smell of sweet candy and softness was her always. The pureness of her voice would make your soul calm and your worries fly free and if you ever met her you would say the same. Relatives always referred to her as 'Sweet Aunt Sister'.
Our family routines remained the same for so many years until we started to grow up, moved away and started our own lives. With each passing year you begin to realize that things start to change and the people we love grow older and older quicker than we realize. The years that I didn't go home for the holidays started to add up and when I finally made it home I realized I had missed out on years that I could never recover. You find yourself forever trying to hold onto each moment without acknowledging the inevitable is closer than you realize. What if we lived in a world where there was no end to every beginning? That road you travel on daily continues for endless miles, how about that favorite dish you love so much that replenishes bite after bite, or maybe someone dear to you that you never want to let go of.
The part of life that most don't explain and stings the most is when a beautiful beginning must come to an end. We are often afraid to embrace endings because we are unsure and afraid of what lies ahead. Do you laugh, cry, scream or shout? Maybe all of the above. I would be telling a lie if I told you I knew the answers. I can only tell you to do what feels right and the rest will fall into place.
On this day 97 years ago my grandmother was born and even though she is no longer here with us on this earth she is forever in my spirit. I carry her with every breath and step I take. My gift to her on this day of her birth is to smile the way she used to and to be proud of who I am because I will always be a piece of her. When we lose someone we love, our hearts are consumed with grief and it seems as though we will never recover from that aching feeling of sadness and emptiness. After grief comes a new day and God allows us to remember the good times, the times we were all as one, the times we had endless laughs, and the many moments spent with family that will forever be cherished in our hearts for as long as we live. The mind is so powerful and if you take the time to think hard enough you can place yourself back into any memory in time and you begin to realize what has truly mattered the most.
What love is are the memories, the times we smiled, cried and loved on one another as if there was no tomorrow.
Happy Birthday Grandma...In a million ways for a million days I will always love you just the same. On that day when we meet again I promise to never let you go.
AJ writes & blogs from her home in Atlanta, GA. You can also find her work as a contributing writer at www.groovmagazine.com
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