Friday, July 25, 2008

For Grandma Florence

Today I was looking out the kitchen window at the big oak tree shifting and swaying in the breeze. The view is marred by thick black telephone wires cutting through some of the farther reaching branches, but they don''t get in the way of the tree much, even though they're ugly. Suddenly I found myself thinking of my Grandma Florence. Grandma has been gone since I was in my early twenties, so it's been twenty-odd years. I still miss her. I often feel like she's watching me, rooting for me in everything I do, enjoying watching me live my life from some other place. Today, I felt her strongly, like she was almost really here, and that was comforting. Nice company. I felt like I should ask for a sign or something to see if it was really "true." The branches swayed again, but they were already doing that. I imagined her face appearing in the branches, but that would have been a little creepy. I know Grandma Florence would never want to scare me, so a "sign" was unlikely to come. And what would I have done with it? Told my family I had a message?

My "sign" is that I feel her presence, and that is a gift in itself, whether it is made up of spirit, memory, or some combination.

Grandma Ann, my father's mother, lived till she was 99. For her 99th birthday, her wish was to not be around any longer. She died just two days before her birthday and got her wish. I miss her just as much, but I know that Grandma Ann is not hanging around watching me, because she really was done. She said so. She'd had enough visits, and grandchildren, and weddings and great grandchildren. We strung her along as long as we could with promises of more milestones. She'd had enough of her walker and her failing vision and dwindling health. It was enough. I don't blame her for not hanging around -- I'll probably make the same choice myself someday.

But I appreciate Grandma Florence being in the trees across the street now and then. Once I was strolling Sophie around the neighborhood when she was a baby and I met an old lady who had gotten disoriented on her way back from church and couldn't find her way back to her son's house. I pointed her in the right direction and then kept walking, and suddenly into my head came Grandma Florence's voice, more stern than I'd ever heard her in life: "You go back and find that lady and walk her to her son's house. Directions aren't good enough -- you should know better." Or something along those lines. She was right. I walked around till I found the lady again, asking people as I went if they'd seen her. Several of them had given her directions as well, and were concerned for her safety. We were all her good friends now. Finally I found her a couple of blocks up, and we walked up the hill till we got to her son's house. Her daughter-in-law greeted me and thanked me for getting her back. The old lady was so nice. She was grateful for the help, but in the most gracious way. She said I was "her angel" and blessed me and pulled out a little packet of wooden rosary beads from her coat pocket (It was a very warm day but she wore her wool coat). I thanked her and I kept those beads. They are still in my jewelry box. I'm Jewish and they're the only rosary beads I've ever been given. My grandmother kept me on the right path that day. I told the old lady before I left that my grandmother had sent me back to help her get home and she blessed her, too.

Gosh, that sounds so schmaltzy, but really, that's how it happened. I'm glad my Grandma Ann got to live so long and get to know my children before she left. And I'm glad my Grandma Florence can still be around even though she never did.

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