01 November 2011

A Season of Thanks: Day 1

In honor of All Saints' Day, today I choose to be thankful for my grandparents and their siblings.

My dad's mom is one of six.
When all of my grandparents' siblings and their spouses are accounted for, I had 20 "grandparents" that I knew and four that I never had the privilege of meeting. Between them, I was a quite confused child! I knew my actual grandparents, but it was often confusing to figure out who these other people were, especially the ones I saw less frequently. Is she grandma's sister or grandpa's?

But I can name every one of them and call up specific stories of their lives.
More accurately, I can call up specific stories of their interactions with me.

I was fortunate to be raised close to almost all of my extended family. They were at birthday parties and on vacations. They were part of holiday celebrations and funerals. I used to go swimming at my great uncle's house on a regular basis. They knew me, and I knew them.

All of them but my grandma and her sister-in-law are gone now.
I never expected as a kid that I'd miss them, but I do.
I miss the chance to hear them laugh together as they reminisce.
I miss soaking up their stories as we walked around their hometowns.
I miss learning to play cards with my grandma and her brother.

Life marches on and their great-nieces and great-nephews have children of their own now. My cousins and I are raising a new generation of these families.

But it is different.
We're spread out across the country.
Our kids don't know one another the way my cousins and I knew one another.
Plus, my parents' families are significantly smaller. Mom is one of 4 and dad has 1 sister. It's not the same.

And so today, I am grateful for what I learned from them.
I am thankful that I had years to learn from them.
I have been shaped by their emphasis on family.

To my Great-Aunts Marie, Inez, Lois, Romana, Kathy, Alice, Elaine, Rose, and Christine: Thank you for teaching me the finer points of being a woman in your generation. Thank you for your stories and your time.

To my Great-Uncles Melvin, John, Charles, Bill, Delbert, Gene, and Skip: Thank you for the way you always treated me like your own kid. Thank you for taking care of my mom and dad and loving them. Thanks for being interested in me. And to the four of you I never had a chance to meet: Lyman, James, William and Patrick, your stories have shaped me, too. Know that your memory lives on.

And to my Grandparents Tom, Alice, and Don: I miss you. Not a single day goes by that I don't think of one of you. You were the best grandparents a kid could ever want and amazing as I grew. Thank you for supporting me in everything I've done.

To my last living Grandma, Dorothy, I love you. I probably cherish you more now because I know my days with you are limited. You are one of the strongest women I have ever known, and I am honored to be able to call you Grandma.

You are Saints.
And you make me a better woman.
I am thankful for you today.

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