Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ma Familia: Daddy Dearest

Last week, I had all intentions of continuing with my spotlights on family, and writing about my dad. It didn’t happen. I started to a few times, but couldn’t quite find the right words. It’s a hard topic for me. I love my dad, but talking about him is a source of great hurt for me. I’ve always thought he was one of the best people I’ve ever known. I still think that. I was daddy’s little girl, and that relationship has helped shape the person I am today. I have some great memories of my Dad. What’s the problem then, right?

The problem is that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when I was very young. The problem is that I was stuck watching one of the most important people in my life to suffer, unable to do a thing about it. It’s heartbreaking. It’s something I’ve struggled with talking about for a very long time. Even now, I’ve been married for three years, and have a friend that I can share absolutely anything and everything with, and I find it hard to talk about that topic. In a way, his health has changed the way I think of him. Sure, I remember the good things, the great times, the things he taught me. But, then I remember what it’s done to my family, and how it’s shaped my life, and what I’ve missed out on, and what I used to have. So often, I think of something I wish I could call and ask my dad about, or I wish he could come visit me or help with our house. And now, I think about my relationship with my grandpas, how wonderful a grandpa my dad would’ve made, and how much my daughter will miss out on. I find a little comfort in knowing that she will at least have one Grandpa who loves her as much as we do, who plays with her, who supports her, and who encourages her.

Just like I wish my husband could’ve known my Dad when he was well. I know I’ll wish the same for my daughter. She would’ve stood on his feet as they danced in the living room. He would’ve told her jokes, taught her to whistle, teased her and made her laugh. He would have taught her about honesty, and love, and family. He would’ve told her how pretty she was, how talented she was, and how much worth she had, to God and to us. He would’ve helped shape her in the ways he helped shape me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

I’ve spotlighted several of my family members over the past several months. I didn’t really plan it that way, but once I started; I felt it had to be continued. It all started with my Grandpa last October around his 90th birthday. Since then, I’ve talked about my Mother, my older brother, my younger brother, my other Grandpa, and one of my Grandmothers. Today, because I haven’t honored her yet, and because it’s her birthday, I feel it appropriate to mention my Grandma, Jane. She is my youngest grandparent (at age 82 as of today), married to my oldest Grandpa at nine years his junior, and is the mother of four daughters, including, of course, my own mother. I fully expect this description to be a gross understatement and underestimate of the great qualities my grandmother possesses, simply because the preceding family spotlights have all been such. It seems I just don’t have the time, or the space, and probably not the words to adequately describe the character of these people.

My Grandmother grew up in the country, in the midst of the Great Depression, with the stock market crash occurring around her first birthday. Her family taught her to work hard, and it’s a lesson she learned well. She went from working on her family’s farm on an Oklahoma river bottom, to getting married at age 17, to raising four little girls in a tiny, drafty house. Her later life, in which I’ve known her, has looked much different. I am the seventh of ten grandchildren. In my lifetime, she has been a school cook, home gardener, bait shop co-owner, daughter, sister, mother, aunt, wife, grandmother, and great-grandmother. As a cook, she worked tirelessly to make sure the kids she served were fed nutritious, well-balanced meals while they were at school. School lunches have changed dramatically since her career as head-cook, but that’s another story.

As a mother, she kept her children clothed, fed, clean and safe. As a grandmother, she has done everything possible to keep me clothed, fed, and safe. She didn’t play games with me, like my other Grandma. Instead, she carved out cucumbers to make me a sailboat, provided old sheets for me to make tents in her living room, and she took me fishing. She has worked tirelessly her entire life to care for her family, and she still does so today. Today, she’s 82 and has a husband who is almost 91, children ranging from 57-62, grandchildren ranging from 22-41, and great-grandchildren ranging from 0-16. And she still, to this day, in some way, on any given day, does something to take care of one of them. I’m thankful for my grandma. I could never convey the extent to which she’s shaped my life, and I pray that I will love my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren the way she has loved hers.