Vase of Irises, c.1890 By Vincent van Gogh
Recently, for personal reasons, I have been digging through the memory archives in search of some understanding of my formative experiences, and the search brought me upon a written recollection of my experiences of my maternal grandmother. Many of my memories of visits with her are shared by my siblings, but in this instance, I was describing them to someone who did not share those memories. In many families, the figure of the grandparent is not viewed as particularly important or relevant, for a number of reasons, but growing up in my family, our grandparents were revered and cherished.
As I look back over the years, and consider the many times we visited in my early childhood, I recall many moments of simple pleasures at her side, and remember well the feeling of wonder and awe I felt as one of a handful of grandchildren sharing those visits on many lazy summer afternoons. In those days, our lives were relatively carefree, and life seemed joyful whenever we arrived at her doorstep. Many such afternoons were spent in her yard, playing ball or a game of hide and seek, and as the day approached night, one of us would periodically go inside, travel down the long hallway with the rubber mats, and stand outside of the kitchen, in order to find out which heavenly aroma was detected for the evening meal. No matter how hard we played, or how involved we were in our games, the sound of her call to dinner was always the stronger.
Artist: Hugues Merle
While my parents would go visiting other relatives in the evening, we would sit on the floor around her favorite chair, while she held us in rapt attention, telling stories of my grandfather who, in his youth and through the years he lived, worked as a railroad laborer, coupling and uncoupling the cars, repairing this or that broken piece, somehow saving the day or keeping the train on time. We never seemed to tire of her recollections from those days, and she was always patient with our child-like questions, which would cross over into stories of her own youth at times.
The image above was taken when my grandparents were engaged to be married in the early 1900’s, looking impossibly young, and existing in an era I could not even imagine when I knew her. She was always an elderly woman in my memory, and discovering the photo years after she was gone was startling. I never imagined her so young or so distant in the past.
How many mornings I remember waking to her gentle nudge, sipping on orange juice which each of us would always receive in our favorite glass. How often we would play out on her “sun porch” on the side of the house, next to the old fashioned sewing machine that was powered by a large metal foot rest which turned the spindle when you rocked it back and forth. If we were visiting on a Sunday, we all would be gathered up and brought to church where she played the pipe organ for more than fifty years. She would often sing the hymns alone, if there was no one else available. At home, we would sit around her grand piano while she played for us the songs we came to love so well.
Jacobus Vrel’s Woman at a Window
How clear in my mind, the tearful goodbye’s that she somehow made alright, and the memory we all have of her solitary hand, waving from the kitchen window as we sped away, waving until we were far out of sight.
In her final days, as I sat by her bedside, she was still completely with us, and I was able to tell her all these things as a grown man. The very last time we spoke, I held her face in my hands and told her I loved her.
7 thoughts on “A Grandmother’s Love”
Heart-felt and moving recollections.
There is something about grandmothers that is very deep. The First Nations often refer to Deity as: Grandmother.
I believe that the throw away culture puts no value on “Elders”.
For me, the problem isn’t so much that our modern culture puts no value on “Elders,” as it is that the younger generations are not gaining the benefits that are possible for their OWN lives, when they learn to appreciate and cherish this vitally important link to their direct family heritage.
There are far too many people who embrace the culture of the day without questioning just what value there is in doing so, and there are far too few who seem to be considering what sort of a world we are leaving to our grandchildren, but it is at the core of our increasingly global society, at the level of the immediate family, where the most effective changes could reverse these trends.
I know I am fortunate to have been the child of parents who KNEW the value of their elders, and who also cherished and revered them, and I have made it a priority in the lives of MY children to appreciate this vital link to our familial past, but more importantly, I have tried to impress upon them the importance of caring for each other, at LEAST as much as they care for themselves. In this way, when their elders are no longer amongst them, they will have each other, and their children will see first-hand, the importance of caring for each other as well.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts……..John H.
My Palestinian friend, Nahida, has written a beautiful post about her visit back to Palestine and seeing her grandmother and grandfather there, I believe it has profound meaning and goes with your thoughts and feelings in this post about your dear grandmother:
You are so right, Genie! It is a beautiful post, with even more profound implications than my own thoughts of the importance of grandparents. No matter what sort of everyday world we live in, our appreciation and understanding of our connections to others BEGINS with our immediate family ties. Nahida’s heritage and family are inseparable from the land of Palestine, and from such connections, the solution to the conflict will find fertile soil in which to grow and blossom.
Thanks so much for the link…….John H.
Your words that you left on my blog are too kind, reflecting a compassionate and caring soul, I don’t deserve such praise though, Palestinians living under occupation, facing torture, oppression and death while holding onto their principals and aspirations without losing their humanity and without turning into bitter vengeful people, are the real humanist and awe-inspiring heroes.
Thank you again John, much respect
May I share these thoughts with you, as I think they correspond to your own :
Out of this world
Most Precious Gifts
My Beloved has Many Faces
Open Your Eyes
When we speak from the heart, and describe our genuine feelings, it cannot be properly called “praise.” My words simply reflect my true feelings. I understand your meaning, though, and appreciate your point-of-view. As sincere and earnest as we may be as writers, we are sometimes unable to be truly objective about our own writing. It is difficult at best, to discern for ourselves the quality and character of our own artistic expressions.
I am frequently humbled by the responses of my readers, and as an emotionally sensitive man, I often sense that the quality of the responses are more a response to the CONTENT of my writing than to the writing itself, but they go hand-in-hand.
Your location and your temporal circumstances, while they may not be the same as those experienced by the people living under occupation and oppression, do not mitigate your feelings of love and respect for your heritage, nor do they diminish your sense of urgency to see the restoration of the world you know on the beautiful side of your grandfather’s terrace. In some ways, they may even magnify them.
My only son spent almost three years total in combat in the wars of our 21st century, and while I did not experience the brutality or deprivations he experienced as a soldier, my appreciation for and sympathy with his fellow soldiers was no less because I wasn’t actually there. I lived them every minute he was away.
You have a gift in expressing your love so well, and you and I have many corresponding thoughts and feelings about our world that I wish many more people would share. I thank you so much for your generous sharing of your work, and I pray that your hopes for your people and your world will all come true.
salām (سَلاَم)……John H.
Heartfelt and sincere thanks and appreciation