It has been a weird year for me. It’s been a year of crazy ups and downs. Though looking at it now, I suppose it was just life moving the way it always has and always will. New life, death, love; constant movement, subtle and/or kick-in-the-face change. It’s impossible for anyone, especially a self-reflexive person like me, not to take the time to ponder what it all means to me right now.
And you know what I realized? I am pretty damn loved. Loved by loyal friends and a hysterical (and might I add, for my father reading this, good-looking) family. The virtues of hospitality, the love of a good laugh, loyalty and friendship, and unconditional love traveled down generations and were seen most clearly in the life of my grandparents.
With my grandparents’ passing (just 8 months apart from one another), I was able to see their from the perspective of people who knew them longer than my mere 23 years on Earth. Old photos and stories circulating around the casket at the funeral home or shared at Lily Flanagan’s Irish pub over a Guinness provided a new insight into who these people were.
Like the stories of my grandmother chasing my dad and his brothers with a broom when they would misbehave. Or the remembrances of a summer night watching my grandfather play soccer. Or the eternal echo of my grandfather’s singing. Or the fact that their home was always open and there always seemed to be a party there, one to which everyone, friend and stranger alike, were invited.
Of course, I had a few stories of my own. Like the time my grandma made me “chocolate” milk using lemonade mix. Or all the times she chased after my sister and I and our little butt checks flapping in the wind shouting at us to “Put yer knickers on!” Or all the times my Pop-pop woke us up for school singing “It’s Wakey Wakey Time” (sung to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!”) or when my sister and I were small enough to climb into a wicker basket and were carried through the house by him. There are memories of the park near the house, or the toy store, or going swimming at the beach in nothing but our underwear.
But one thing that absolutely everyone had to say about them, and that I was blessed to witness, was the love that my grandmother and grandfather had for one another.
Of course, I had heard the story of how the two had met years ago in Ireland, where they had grown up. I always thought it was the most romantic story. He was her mailman and he told me he had fallen in love the moment he saw my grandmother with her flaming red hair. And you know what? I believed him.
My grandfather went every day for 3 years to spend 5 hours in the nursing home with my grandmother who could no longer speak. He’d sit there and sing to her songs she once loved, even when he began forgetting everyone’s name. He’d smile at her and flirt with her constantly. I don’t think I will ever forget the way his voice sounded as he looked at her tenderly, and said “You’re beautiful, Lil.”
He watered her flowers while she was gone, telling her that her garden would be ready when she came home.
My grandmother, though more stoic, loved him just as much. She’d giggle like a young lover as he flirted with her and gently pat his hand, when he could no longer open his eyes. And she followed him into eternity 8 months later, where I am sure she greeted him with a playful smack and a kiss that shook the heavens.
As I prepare for my own marriage, preparing to promise myself to Ben for the rest of my life, I can only hope that my grandchildren will one day look at Ben and I the way I look at my grandparents, and the example they provided of love “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”