November 3rd is not a good day for me. This November 3rd in particular. I'll tell you why in a few minutes. But for now...today I am thankful for grandparents.
I was very fortunate as a child to be able to spend time with all four of my biological grandparents, plus one great-grandparent. Unfortunately, three of the five passed away before I turned ten. I wish I had had more time with each of them.
My great-grandma was my dad's grandmother. I called her Granny. She was ancient (actually in her early 80s, which doesn't seem ancient to me any more, but it sure did when I was a little kid.) She had horn-rimmed glasses that made her a little intimidating, to me...but truth be told, she was sweet as she could be. She crocheted like a fiend, and I wore Granny-made booties long past an age where booties are appropriate attire. (They were warm.) She even attempted to teach me to crochet once, which ended with my making a nice, long chain and deciding that crochet wasn't for me. She was a great cook too, and was the first to introduce me to that awesome homemade chocolate icing - you know the kind, that has just a little bit of crunch to it after it's sat for a little while? Oh man, wonderful stuff.
Then there was Grandma, my dad's mother. I adored her. Grandma and Papaw lived right next door to Granny, and quite often, when spending a night with Granny, I would beg to go over to visit Grandma for a little while too. Especially on Saturday evenings, because Grandma had cable. We would turn off the lights in the living room, snuggle on the couch, and watch Speedy Gonzalez and Pink Panther - shows I never saw at home, where we had an antenna and approximately three channels. It was on one of these evenings that Grandma and I saw a commercial for cheese. Yes, cheese, and I remember it because of this: we watched this commercial and at the same time, we decided that cheese sounded really good. So we went into the kitchen, got two slices of cheese from the fridge, and returned to the couch. We unwrapped them and took a big bite...and realized that the cheese sounded a lot better than it actually tasted. So Grandma took the slices of cheese, with one bite out of each, and threw them away. Threw them away! She wasted food! She actually admitted to not liking something, and didn't make me finish it either. To my little kid mind, that was the most amazing thing ever. And it was typical of Grandma - she was just a cool lady. She also introduced me to The Far Side - she had several big books of the cartoon, and I read everything I could get my hands on. It was just a matter of time until I discovered those too. Although I didn't "get" a lot of them at the time, I sure do love them now...and have to wonder if the sense of humor that my dad and I share might have come from her.
Then there was Grandaddy, my mom's dad. Adoptive dad, actually, but that didn't matter a bit. Although I spent tons of time at his house, cared for by (my other) Grandma while my mom worked, I didn't see much of Grandaddy - he worked all day too. But when he did come home from work, I could be reasonably sure that there was a treat for me waiting in his lunch sack. Weekends were the best - I would sit between him and Grandma in his car that seemed to be forever old (and was no fewer than four different colors), and we would go to a local drive-in restaurant for the best strawberry milkshakes in the world. Grandaddy was a quiet guy, but he was always smiling...I think he just liked to watch and enjoy.
My family lost all three of those grandparents in the space of six months, from January to June. Grandaddy's funeral was actually on my tenth birthday. You just don't forget a day like that.
I had the most time with Papaw, my dad's dad. Kind of like Grandma, he was just a cool guy. Maybe not as child-friendly - he was an avid fisherman and not around a lot when I spent time with Grandma - but you couldn't be around him and not smile. He had the best voice, the best Southern accent, and the funniest little sayings - I wish I remembered them all to share here. Papaw had a boat and a four-wheeler and a big truck, and when I got a Game Boy for Christmas one year, Papaw liked it so much that he went and bought one for himself. He was a fun guy deep down, you just had to look closely to recognize it.
And then there was Grandma - my mom's mom - who is responsible for the whole grandparent post today.
I spent more time with Grandma than any of my other grandparents. I stayed with her while Mom worked from the time I was a tiny baby. I was her favorite grandchild, and she didn't keep it a secret. (In retrospect, that may not have been completely fair of her...but it didn't bother me one bit!) Grandma spoiled me rotten, as long as I was polite and respectful, and I was. I have more wonderful memories of Grandma than I could possibly put into writing if I sat here all night long. As I got older, Grandma became my friend and confidante as well. I often turned to her for advice, and Grandma never failed me. After all, she had years of experience to draw from, and her advice was always solid.
For instance, when I was 16, she suggested that I go out with this guy from church. Never mind that he was 21 - she saw something special in him. So much so that she actually *threw* my phone number at him one Sunday morning when I wasn't there. Grandma was brazen sometimes, and I loved it...except for that time. The phone number incident was pretty mortifying to a 16-year-old.
But now that I've been married to that guy for ten and a half years, now that we have a daughter that's named after her...well, it's just a great story. :)
When I went away to college, Grandma and I wrote letters back and forth to each other. Getting a letter from Grandma absolutely made my day - she was my biggest cheerleader. She saw me make mistakes, told me that they were mistakes, and went right on loving me anyway.
Grandma passed away on November 3, 2001. Ten years ago today. Even though I was blessed to have her in my life for 22 years, a part of me went with her that day. As it will, time has eased the hurt...but not a day passes that I don't think of her.
So...even though today is a difficult day, I can acknowledge my gratitude for having such wonderful grandparents, for being able to spend time with each of them, for the time I had to love each of them in person. I am grateful for my entire family...not just the ones that are here with me now.