I was a weird kid. I liked baseballs and dirt more than dresses, I read long fantasy books and daydreamed about slaying lich lords, and as a whole I was 10 degrees to serious for my child aged peers. I was easy to pick on, and sensitive too.
I was a military brat, and often as a child I would feel anxious when my family would come to visit. Some of them saw me rarely as they lived across state borders. Sometimes when you see someone rarely it can feel important to say something like “maybe you should try to play with more girl toys” or “you should help your mother change Dustin’s diaper more often” or even good advice like “when family comes to visit, you should make sure your bathroom is as clean as possible.” You know, that feeling when someone cares about you and wants to improve you but doesn’t know you like you wish they did? I got that feeling occasionally around family. As a kid I didn’t always feel the connection when I heard the correction. I’m not the only military brat who felt that way.
That’s why I loved my grandma Carol so much. I’m her oldest grandchild, and even when I looked like I had no chance of turning out normal and not embarrassing to the family, she loved me and told me I did a good job. She was the matriarch of a Catholic family with nine children and almost 20 grandchildren and currently eight great grandchild.
You see, no matter what kind of second hand clothes I wore to her house, grandma cooked bread with me and let me cut quilt patterns with her. No matter how uncombed my hair was, she told me I was beautiful. Once I had children, she never made remarks that made it obvious she would do it differently. (Doesn’t every relative at least think those thoughts?) She just told me I did a great job loving my children.
Grandma Carol accepted me. She didn’t love me because I fit her idea of what a little girl should be or do; she loved me because I was her progeny. She loved my brother even when he drooled on her carpet or hollered in the middle of mass. She even comforted me after I crashed my brother’s wheelchair into the concrete at the bottom of her steps…
To be honest, as a parent of young children, it’s easy to tell when older relatives think you should do differently than you do. It’s part of human nature and nurture, I imagine, that more mature relatives want to give advice on how they would do it and how I shouldn’t, even if they’d never directly say it that way. Grandmas have a special place in the life of a grandchild. She spoiled me, complimented me, supported me, and protected me. Her love was the glue that kept us close together because her love for any one of us in the family, no matter what mistake was the latest to be made by whatever teenage grandchild would make it, was always protective. No matter what I did or how I dressed, grandma was going to be there if I needed her.
There are people I can go to for advice, and plenty of people who love me, but when I think of the type of relationship that really imbues an unconditional love, well, first it comes from my mother wearing a badge with my picture to work every night, but that same type of love also came from my grandma Carol.
The love of a mother, the love of a grandmother, that’s something special that goes beyond the standards of what is socially acceptable or politically correct. My grandma would have loved me whatever I turned out to be. I was hers. That’s a rare relationship in life. I don’t belong to too many people, but I belonged to her.
It’s a year since she passed today. She was a great woman. May she rest in peace.