Usually when I write about grandparents, it will be my mom’s parents who I refer to as mamaw and pop. This post, however, is about my dad’s parents who I refer to as granny and papa.
Papa died when I was in kindergarten, so I don’t remember him all that well, but my parents always told me a story. Before papa died, when we would go to their house to visit, he had a small decorative pair of gold metal shoes he would give me to play with. Apparently I would take these in another room and become engrossed with them for the duration of the visit. When we would go to leave I would never hug granny. I would hug papa twice and tell him to put the other one in his pocket to give to her later.
As I was growing up granny was often a source of hurt for me. She showed me routinely my cousins were more important to her than I was. For example she would invite my mom and I to get pizza with her and my cousins. Every time she would ask which toppings I wanted. And then every time she would state that my cousins wanted sausage so we would be getting that instead.
One memory that stands out is from when I was maybe about 14. She wanted to take me shopping for my birthday that year, and I knew what I wanted so I told her we should go to Border’s bookstore. We did and I picked out the Kalevala (ancient Finnish epic poem). She bought it for me. In the car on the way back she asked what it was and I told her. She started saying, “Finland?! That’s an odd thing to be interested in!”
Basically she always left me feeling second rate and sometimes belittled. We wouldn’t really bond at all until after she had a stroke, consequently developing aphasia. When she had the stroke we went to the hospital to see her before she “woke up”. When it was my turn to visit with her, I said, “Granny, even though you can’t talk, I know you can hear me and I love you.”
Months later after she had gotten through speech therapy to help her with the aphasia, she told me she had heard everyone that day. She said how much my words meant to her, as everyone else had prefaced what they told her with “even though you can’t hear me”. She also revealed she had been terrified because she wanted to pray but didn’t have words. I told her she had prayed with her heart and that God speaks the language of the heart. She wanted me to write this on a piece of paper for her, so I did.
She seemed to treat me with greater respect from there. So the last few years of her life, visiting with her was more pleasant. I just wish it hadn’t taken those circumstances for her not to write me off as something of a black sheep grandchild.