Today is National Grandparents Day.
It’s funny: Only one of these people is actually my grandparent. But Mr. Johnny (upper left) was with my grandma (upper right) since I can remember. My grandfather died before I was born, when my dad was a teenager. Aunt Sister, as I called her (she’s my grandma’s sister), and Uncle Elmer (bottom) were like a second set of grandparents for me.
Over the last few years, we’ve lost all of them except Grandma. While that has of course been tough, death is a part of life. And they lived such vibrant, fulfilling and long lives while leaving legacies to be proud of. So it’s tough to feel sad for too long because that would be selfish and shortsighted.
After all, they are all still a part of my life. I think of Mr. Johnny when I eat a peppermint or meet someone who loves to work with his hands because he always passed out peppermints and he could fix or build anything.
I think of Uncle Elmer when I drive by the bank where we used to drop off the church’s offering every week when I was a kid or when I’m relaxing in a recliner, because that’s where he could frequently be found.
I think of Aunt Sister when I see a lighthouse or see anyone with perfectly maintained snow white hair because she loved lighthouses and insisted on hair appointments even when sick.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue making memories with Grandma, who is so brave and strong, even if she doesn’t see it. All of her siblings have died before her and all within a relatively short period of time. She has persistent pain from various ailments, but I’m pretty sure her ‘3’ on a pain scale would be my ’10.’ It must be so tough on her, but she’s hanging in there. Plus, her stories of growing up in old school Jacksonville (and occasionally learning family secrets) are always fun. And there’s no doubt I got her worrying nature, even though I always maintain that I control my worries better. I’m version 2.0!
I’ve been surrounded by senior citizens all my life. Not in an “I’m young, so everyone is old” sort of way, but in a “No, really. Actual senior citizens” sort of way. These particular ones have supported me in some of my biggest moments and — for those who have passed away — I’ve been with them in some of their final ones. So it’s safe to say I’ve learned things from them that I don’t even realize and there are plenty of things I know I’ve learned from them:
How to love fully and unconditionally.
How to stick to your commitments, whether in work, play or relationships.
How to have faith.
How to tell stories, though probably with less hyperbole than they may have used sometimes (I’m looking at you, Uncle Elmer…).
The importance of listening.
The importance of work ethic.
The importance of rest and relaxation.
The importance of creating and maintaining family.
The importance of fighting for what you believe in or for what you love.
Why it’s not good to put a cat in the refrigerator.
Why water gun fights in the house are not always a good idea.
Why I shouldn’t jump on the brick thingie in front of the fireplace.
What a “switch” is, how scary it is to choose one for yourself and how not to actually use it when all is said and done.
The importance of forgiveness.
How to shave as a toddler.
How to sing “boo boo be doo.” (I’m looking at you, Mr. Johnny…)
The importance of laughter.
The importance of moving forward, but not forgetting the past.
The importance of owning up to mistakes, but learning from them.
The importance of character and honesty.
How to live life. Like, actually live life.
Is anyone or any relationship perfect? No. Do we remember or highlight the good things more than the bad things? Probably. But a person can’t possibly be summed up entirely by what he or she did wrong or right. It’s just all too complex for that. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Grandparents Day, everyone. Don’t take them for granted.