Today is my Grandmother's birthday.
She is essentially the only grandparent I have. Although I was in high school when my great grandmother died, all of my other grandparents passed away long before I was born. For 38 years she has been my sole connection to past generations.
My grandmother did not have an easy life. As with it was for many children growing up in the depression she had her share of hard times. A straight "A" student, she was pulled out of high school during her senior year and sent to work in a meat packing plant along with nearly everyone else in South St. Paul. Some of those struggles followed her into adulthood but the one thing she never accepted was defeat. Regardless of the circumstance she never doubted her ability to succeed. She regularly worked more than one job, paid off her house in record time, sent two children to private school and managed to save enough to by a lake place up north. She is the true embodiment of a feminist although she'd likely spit in your face if you called her such.
Some of my best childhood memories involve my grandmother. It was because of her that I learned how to fish. She taught me how to drive, took me to baseball games and drove me nearly everywhere. She is the person I can always count on, no matter what I might need. When it came time to buy my first house, I didn't make enough to qualify for a loan so she agreed to co-sign along with me. She would give the shirt off her back in order to help someone in need. And then, of course, she'd offer to mend over and over again. Her talents as a seamstress are unsurpassed and she is rarely ever compensated for her worth. Gratitude is usually enough for her.
Long before I was born she invested her hard earned money in a lake place. It was the thing to do in the '50s and although she understood it for the investment that it was, she did not buy if for financial purposes. Her reasons were rooted in family. Although she enjoys the place as much as anyone she has made it very clear that she bought it so that "youse kids" could enjoy it. Now that she is blessed with a ton of great-grandchildren she is just as clear that the place is meant for them as well. I love that place almost as much as I love my own home and I have her to thank for it.
Last year was a rough year for my grandmother. She suffered a few physical setbacks that have limited her mobility and necessitate a bit more care than she is used to. She is fortunate to have three loving children who have made it their responsibility to ensure that the rest of her days (be it 20 days or 20 years) are filled with the sort of love and enjoyment that she has provided to the rest of us. Last November she moved to Arizona for the winter. This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my grandmother and it has been a difficult adjustment. Although I know this move was tough on her (as well as the rest of us) I trust it allowed her the opportunity to rest, heal and rejuvenate so that she can return to MN as ornery as ever. Gladly, she comes home at the end of the month.
As is often the case when people age, she has been talking about the future in terms of the things she has yet to witness before the Lord takes her home. For the last few years she has identified the two milestones that separate her from fulfillment. My daughter makes her first communion in May and my nephew will graduate high school next year. As those event approach I keep feeling as though I should bargain with her, or the Lord, to keep her around a little longer. Surely she'd like to see Emma be confirmed, that's only a few years off. And while she's at it she may as well stick around for the rest of them as well. Besides, Taylor will get married someday and wouldn't she love to see that too? If I have learned anything about my grandmother it is that you DO NOT tell her what to do. She'll do what she damn well pleases, thank you very much. For all I know she'll outlive us all.
Although I'm sure she knows it, I doubt I tell her as often as I should. So here goes. Grams, I love you with all of my heart and all of my soul.
Happy Birthday, Love Michael