I don't talk about them much. It's not because they're not thought about. To the absolute contrary, I think of my grandparents every single day. Along with my mom, brother, uncle and various canines and felines, they (all) raised me from the time I was about Grayson's age. We all grew up in the same house, under the same roof and eating the same Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup. They were every bit my parents as much as grandparents could be.
It's been almost a decade since they've been gone but I will never forget the physical them. I spent so many years looking, watching, memorizing them that I couldn't help but feel like we all became one unit. Though I was young and youthful, there was a large part of me who was older, slower, and deliberate. I looked in the mirror and did not see wrinkles or age spots but my insides had the same veins as their hands had, the same downward slope as their gate carried, and the same creaky timbre as was in their voices. They became who I was. All these years later, after their physical beings are gone, it is who I am now. And I am so proud.
Now don't get me wrong. I am very lucky to have my parents still living. So many of my friends have lost either one or both of their parents and believe me, I thank God every day that mine are still here on this earth and healthy. They are my current support system and I am a better parent because of them. They both (or all I should say as I am blessed to have rockin' step parents and in-laws!) offer so much to my life and for that I will always be grateful. I won't ever pretend they don't offer comfort to me as well but it is different as an adult.
When you are small and things are scary you seek a child's comfort. You attach solace and relief with what makes sense at that time. Sometimes your security comes from a blanket or a stuffed animal. Sometimes it comes from the people who rub your back and sing you lullabyes. For me it is their voices. Every time I feel overwhelmed in my life I think of my grandparents talking. They'd talk about the Orioles, the Redskins, the neighbors, the Cathy and the Jimmy. They'd talk about Rhett, Sultan, Binky and Rupert. They'd talk about hot water heaters and air filters. They'd talk about us. I remember laying (lying? whatever Miss Former English teacher) in my bed with the door cracked open enough to overhear them chatting. Their private words were muffled but the sounds of their voices were melodious and rhythmical to me. I would hear my name on occasion and my brother's name too and it would soothe and warm me up as though I had just had a hot cup of cocoa. They were the background music to my life and the most comforting thing in the world. Most of the time I would listen to their talking for as long as I could and then drift off to sleep feeling like there had been a big angora blanket wrapped around me.
Now, as an adult and a mom I provide comfort instead of seek it out. I find myself doing the same things my mom or my grandmother did to help my children fall back to sleep. I will make circles on Grayson's back just as my grandmother did for me if I was sick. I will bring Abby in the bed with G and me in the early morning for cartoons and snuggles as my mom did even though we should be dressed and heading out in the beautiful sunshine. I will let them both eat sweets and play in pancake batter. I will let them stay up late to finish watching a good movie. I will pass on to them the same nuances that were passed on to me. Not on purpose, but because I have no choice. It's who I am and what I do regardless of conscious effort. Luckily for all of us, I come from a long line of loving genes and comforting molecules that have lived many generations before me.
But on those nights when I am exhausted, small, or just plain lost I think of them. My grandparents in their living room sitting in their leather oversized chairs. Cup of coffee in one hand and fixing their robes as they converse softly with each other. Their tete-a-tetes play in my mind and I hear them as clearly as if they are in my own living room, just a few feet away. It doesn't matter what they are saying. It just matters that I hear them and can drift off to sleep knowing I have been wrapped up in their angora (Redskins) blanket.