These past two weeks have been very interesting, the kind where you obsess your thoughts about the past. Do you ever do that? You pick a period of time and run through it over and over in your mind? Sometimes you try to change the events to see what you would have maybe changed or done differently (a bit like choose your own adventure only with no real ending). Of course there’s a bit of nostalgia, the good times, the easier times. I’m thinking for the mid-30’s BRW type, the time period that is most popular to relive is around the time of meeting the spouse. Pre-kids, going out, hooking up, butterflies. Maybe it’s pre-potential spouse and it’s high school or college time, reliving the moments around your crush, wishing you had taken some risks you didn’t feel comfortable taking at the time. It’s all hindsight, it’s all “shoulda coulda woulda.” But anything you change would not have been you anyway. It all goes the way it’s supposed to.
But in this case, for me, I’ve been reminiscing about my grandparents. I love my grandparents. They are all gone now. I have no negative memory associated with my grandparents. I probably have false and romanticized memories actually because grandparents aren’t real people to grandkids, they are prototypes and heroes. Or at least, mine were. None of them did anything that spectacularly changed the course of the world, but then again, we don’t really know that to be true. No one really knows the influence or change their life has caused for the future after they are gone. Maybe my spawn will be a President of the U.S., in which case, that couldn’t have happened without my grandparents.
I have a very good friend who reminds me that when people we love die, their spirit continues to exist and guide us. I’ve never doubted that concept for a moment. I know my grandparents’ spirits are here with me, but I’m not always conscious, aware or thinking about it. Except for the past couple of weeks.
The kick start moment was when I went to Starbucks (shocker) and saw 2 kids with their 2 grandmas. The grandmas were talking to each other because the kids (preteen age) were buried in their iPhones. At that moment, I would have given anything to be sitting with my grandmas chatting over my daily mocha. Yes, I grew up with video games, so I understand the appeal. But I didn’t have them at the tip of my fingers anywhere I went. I’d go places with my grandparents and talk to them, play with them, live life with them. I didn’t have the option to text my friends; I didn’t need the option, I’d see them at school the next day. That moment was so powerful for me. I made a promise to myself and my kids at that moment to never let them miss an opportunity to talk to their grandparents.
Lately, I keep coming home to a smell in my house that smells like my grandparents’ house. It’s usually just a waft, but it’s a powerful moment. The aroma is a combination of onions and matzah ball soup. It’s a weird smell, but it’s perfect for remembering.
More specifically, I was at my cousin’s house for Passover this past week and about 10 minutes after I arrived, I heard a very distinct sound, one I haven’t heard in maybe 15 years. A chime. And at that moment, I was immediately transformed into my grandparents’ house, standing in front of that clock, excitedly waiting for it to strike the hour and play it’s song followed by it’s chime…me always counting to make sure it was singing the correct hour…and it always did.
When my grandparents died, my cousin (who is 12 years older than me and so got to spend 12 more years with some of my favorite people on Earth) said all he wanted was that clock. And so the clock hangs on his wall. When he looks at it, he is reminded. But even better, if he happens to be living his daily life, they sing him a song to remind him as he goes.
The moment I heard the song, I immediately looked at TH and just said to him, “That sound you just heard, that’s M&G.” 1.0 heard me and even though I make it a point to talk about all my grandparents with them, 1.0 is very in tune when she hears my maternal grandpa’s name because she is named after him (and therefore has the privilege of living with a traditionally male middle name). She immediately wanted to know what I was talking about and how she could hear them too. I walked her and 2.0 over to the clock and they just stood there, silent, still, wide-eyed, waiting to hear M&G. When the chime went off (and I again counted to make sure it was accurate), 2.0 danced and 1.0 just looked at me, smiled and said, “M&G.” Right.
When you are lucky to see your grandparents live into old age, you feel a sense of closure when they pass away. However, it’s not ever really okay when someone dies, you can still cry and miss them no matter how right and inevitable death is. When someone at the age of 90 passes away, people say, they lived a full life. Does that mean that someone taken early didn’t live a full life? Didn’t they live their full life and we just wish we could have spent more time with them? I think so.
Because I tend to be an overly thinking type of person, when my first grandma passed away, I immediately had to make sure I said everything I ever wanted to say to my remaining grandparents. I wrote and read a poem for that grandma’s service; but shouldn’t I have written it before and read it directly to her? Yes. So I wrote something for my grandpa. I didn’t send it to him; instead, I made him sit with me in person and I read it out loud to him. He needed to hear in my voice what I would say at his service one day in the future. And I read that same note at his service 10 years later while pregnant with 1.0 who was going to bear his name no matter what gender 1.0 ended up being (and before he died he was told that bit of information as well).
So even though I sit and reminisce about times with all my grandparents, all the thoughts always end with the scene of me telling them in person exactly what they meant to me. It’s the only gift I could give them after they had given me so much. I hope it was enough. And I hope you do the same.
My mom once said to me that she would rather people show up to her parties and celebrations where she can enjoy their company, rather than at her funeral. I’ve shortened that concept to “show up for my life, not my death.” It’s a good motto.
What’s a motto? Nothing, what’s a motto with you? (Sorry, joke from Lion King, had to).
And btw, Happy Easter to all that celebrate. Yes, just like Christmas carols, Jews love Easter egg hunts.