I thankfully have only lost a few loved ones in my lifetime, but in the few funerals I've attended, I've come to the conclusion that eulogies consist of all the things we wish we could have said. Hopefully this post doesn't come across as morbid, but I'd rather get these thoughts out there now - I don't want to have to wait until my grandma is gone to tell the whole world how awesome she is. As any of you who have met them know, I have had the pleasure of growing up with two sharply opposite grandmothers, but both entirely amazing. But this particular post is reserved for sharing my thoughts and feelings about my Grandma Ruth, while she is still here on Earth doing what she does.
If you have ever had the experience of meeting my grandmother, you might be struck by her thick accent, or her relative shyness (particularly in comparison to my other grandmother), or her ability to hold a conversation in her 4th (?) language while watching jeopardy and playing solitaire.
To understand the significance of my Grandma Ruth's life, you first have to understand a bit about the background of her life. She was born in Bern, Switzerland, but left her family and everything she knew behind when she married my grandfather and moved to Lebanon. My mom and uncles were born there, and then the family made the big move to the United States. The family grew to include five children, and my Grandma Ruth kept them fed and clothed, but not the lazy way that we do things now - things were made from scratch. I can't comment much on things from those times, but I'm sure if they didn't happen much the way they did, I likely would not be here writing this.
According to pictures, Grandma Ruth was in my life from the time that I got here, but her mark on my was really made on my life when she moved in with us when I was five. Grandma retired from her job at Rand McNally, sold her house, and moved down to Columbia. It was a symbiotic relationship - Grandma wasn't living alone and had a continued sense of purpose after retirement, and my mom had someone to help her with her family childcare business and to help with the three of us. Grandma being home was the best of everything; I gained a friend and confident, but she also instilled morals and responsibility in me.
Grandma Ruth isn't making an impact on our lives by giving us everything we've ever wanted, by letting us get away with things our parents never would, or by otherwise showering us in extravagance. Instead, Grandma has given us something even better - time with her. My Grandma has 12 Grandchildren, and has spent multiple years living with and helping to raise each of us, with her making her last round now down in Key West. Many grandmothers are able to see all of their grandchildren on a regular basis - but we have always lived in at least 4 different states spread out over the country at any given time.
I think each of the 12 of us can say that our childhood and thus who we have become as adults would be very different had she not played a part in our lives.
Some of the greatest moments with Grandma Ruth were the simplest - we would go for walks to the pond, or I would stretch out on her bed while she watched her "shows", or she would teach me a card game or I would teach her one. I also used to run down to her room crying anytime my parents did or said something to upset me. And the greatest thing was she listened, but without ever taking my side over my parents. She would help me feel better, but also help to enforce what my parents thought was best.
Grandma also has an amazing memory. I would not be as connected to my own heritage without getting the opportunity to sit and listen to her stories. As an 80+ year old woman who recently suffered a stroke, you would think recalling the details of her childhood would be difficult. I was blessed with the chance to sit with her and document names and dates for all of her family photos that we scanned. She was able to recall even minute details of events from the past, and thus provided me a connection to my ancestors. This is even more significant due to the fact that I have no relationship with my grandfather, so what she shares with us of his family is really all I know. I am lucky to still have the opportunity to tell her how much she means, and how glad I am that she chooses to give us knowledge of our grandfather.
I'm glad for each day that I am given to be able to call my Grandma up and tell her that I love her - to send her letters thanking her for what she has done for me. I would much rather the whole world know now how great she is - but don't all rush down to key west all at once to meet her :). I would also much rather send this to her now than read it to a wooden box down the road.
Love you Grandma!
Keep up your fight against the challenges that have been set before you - and know that you have left a lasting impression on not only your family, but all of the children you have helped along the way - from the neighbors' kids in Queens to the daycare kids in Columbia and Long Island.