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A Great Grandma is to Love

It was the first resolution I conquered last month–choose one of those dreams I keep saying “One day soon, I’m going to…” and make it happen. Or else it never will.

So I pick up the phone and call my 87-year-old grandma–the only grandparent I still have.

“Grandma, are you still able to travel? If we found a direct flight, would you be able to make the trip down to us?”

“Oh honey,” she says, “I might be tired when it’s over, but when I leave this life, God’s going to have to take me out on a stretcher. I don’t say no to being with my grand kids or adventure.”

So we book a flight. Make some arrangements. Exchange calls about what to pack. “Comfy clothes,” I tell her.

She arrives while the girls are at school, so Dash and I wait in the airport, his little sign held high above his head.

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“Keep watching,” I tell him. “She has white hair. She’ll be in a wheelchair. I’ll tell you when I see her.”

…and then…my heart skips a beat as I see her appear.

“There she is. There she is, Dash!”

And a hug to erase all time.

I once again explain the order of birth of a great grandma to the kids, and the number of years and stories and sequence of love it took to get there feels so grand, I almost can’t grasp it myself.

“Remember, she’s my mama’s mama,” I say. “All those memories you’re making your grandpas and grandmas–I made them with her when I was little like you.”

It takes Dash all of a millisecond before he falls into her lap, taking her hand and rubbing it on his cheek. “Grandma, look!” he yells as he does a funny dance. “Grandma, come here,” he says as he leads her to his room to show her his garbage truck. “Grandma, don’t go,” he cries six days later as we pull back into the airport to say goodbye. It’s like he’s known her forever, like she’s been here every day of our lives…because in a way, she has.

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“Kel,” she says as we drive to get breakfast one morning. “I watch you–all my grandkids–and your lives, and I just feel so proud. I’m a part of this. I’m a part of all of you. I suppose that’s not very humble,” she laughs, “but I get to own some of it too, right? Because I see myself in you.”

“Grandma, if you only knew,” I tell her. “I watch you, and I feel so lucky that you are a part of me. You are the coolest grandma I know.”

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I ask her if she wants to come to a baby shower with me over the weekend. “Doll me up!” she instructs. So I run to my closet and pick out my favorite skirt, a sweater, some pearls.

“She needs a hat,” Brett adds.

“And red lipstick,” Heidi says.

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Grandma whispers, “Now no one’s going to know this is your skirt, right?” as we walk into the baby shower. Two seconds later, my friend hugs her with “So nice to meet you!” followed by, “Oh my gosh, that skirt! I borrowed it from Kelle too.” We all laugh.

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We eat lunch by the ocean, trade stories over coffee at the kitchen counter every morning, watch Property Brothers next to the fire on one of Florida’s rare cold nights. We flip through photo albums together, drop the kids off at school, pick them up, run errands. “I want to see it all,” Grandma says. “I want to meet your friends, see the kids’ school, hang out with the neighbors–so I can picture it all when I go home.”

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I wake up one morning to find a large bowl with a few popcorn kernels left in it. “Your grandma woke up at midnight,” Brett explains, “so we watched T.V. and had a little popcorn party together.”

It feels like the love we have in our home just tapped a new source, and it’s flowing so fast now, I can’t ladle it up quick enough.

Dash borrows her walker to practice roller skating.

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And later bends over naked and yells, “Grandma, look at my butt.”

“Oh dear, Grandma! I’m so sorry. He likes that potty talk.”

She laughs hard. “Redeemable garbage!” she calls it. “The things we carry around in us that we’re not proud of.”

We talk about redeemable garbage a lot more over the week, but in that moment, I grab my phone and text my sister. “Dude. Dash just bent over naked and told Grandma to look at his butt. I’m dying.”

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Mostly, I feel proud of where I come from. And though I constantly lament over how fast these days are going by–how big our kids are, how quickly things change, how the world so unforgivingly reminds us how old we’re all getting–I am reminded this is exactly how it’s supposed to go, and it’s beautiful.

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I ask Grandma one morning if she slept well. “Well, I woke up in the middle of the night and started walking around your house looking at all your things–Dash’s art on the walls, the pictures on the fridge, all these cute little trinkets you have. I have to tell you Kel, it was making me so happy, my kite started to fly away.” I laugh, familiar with all these phrases she’s made up over the years. “I think my blood pressure was getting high just from the excitement. I swear I’m going to end up in the ER someday, and when they ask what happened, you all are going to have to tell them my kite flew too high. I just get too excited!” To delight in the world so much at 87 that you fear it might the end of you? I hope that’s where I’m headed.

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We talk a lot about politics, women’s roles, religion, raising kids and what absolute truth means to both of us. She’s conservative, I’m liberal. We differ on a lot of things and lovingly get fiery over the ones that are close to our hearts. We listen and smile and admit we love each other’s fire.

We sing a lot over the week, sitting side by side on the piano bench, flipping through an old hymnal to find the songs we both grew up with–For the Beauty of the Earth, And Can It Be, Amazing Grace. I can only play the treble clef, so she plays the bass and together we make music, sometimes overlapping fingers to create the harmonies. We FaceTime my mom to give her a concert. We call my sister and put her on speaker phone so she can sing with us. I text a video to Brett’s dad, so he can see my grandma playing his grandma’s piano.

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Over the week, I sharpen my explanation to the kids on who a great grandma is.

There’s a tiny page I tore out of the children’s book  A Hole is to Dig (I regret ripping it out) and one of Maurice Sendak’s illustrations from it framed in my office. A simple sketch of a group children sitting under the stars is accompanied by the words, “A dream is to look at the night and see things.”

A great grandma is to anchor who you are becoming. 

A great grandma is to love.

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A great grandma is to never forget.

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Grateful for heritage, stories and the unshakable source of love from which ours flows…how ever far we may go. To kites flying high.

 

 

Comments

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  1. Can’t tell you how much I love this and how it reminds me of my week with my 88-year-old Granny. Please turn it into a children’s book!!!! (You can always edit the butt!) ha!

  2. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Beautiful. I’m tired and grumpy from being up most of the night with a fussy baby – who’s still fussy – and need to face the day with four kids. This is such a poignant reminder about what is important in life. You have such a beautiful family.

  3. Joanna Downey says:

    Glorious post as always. She is a doll. I had a wonderful grandmother, her favourite saying was “The magic of ordinary days” & it’s my mantra.

  4. Beautiful! Just Beautiful! I am sure it made your grandma’s year! My kids also have there 92 YO Great grandma! It makes her day when they visit. Thank goodness she is very close to us. (not always since she was from North Dakota) Great to make memories for all of you!

  5. I loved every word of this beautiful story. It reminded me of a post I wrote about my own rock star Great-Grandma. They are the best!
    http://windlasse.com/2016/03/04/i-will-never-for-get-it/

  6. Again..I have tears..followed the visit on IG and loved everything..having it all together here touched me even more.

  7. Danielle T Metcalf says:

    This post had me wanting to shed tears at my desk. What a beautiful experience you both had together.

  8. simply beautiful, Kelly.

  9. Absolutely stunning photos and words to describe what can only be the most magical week ever. My favorite line (and I loved them all) “And a hug to erase all time.” So much feeling. Hurts so good.

  10. You made my heart smile.

  11. Isn’t it amazing how having your mother or grandmother with you makes you feel safe & like you’re little again – no matter how old you are? Their hugs provide a security that seem to last.

    Oh how fun it must’ve been for y’all! She sounds like a rock star :) Loved the story and the pictures, as always.

    Have a great weekend!

  12. Verna Broekhuizen says:

    I love all your posts Kelly, your writings and of course your photos. I do not have any Gramma left that are alive, but i am a Gramma to 6 beautiful children (two call me Bubba). I just hope I am making memories for and with them. Our 11 year old grandson has Down Syndrome and they were visiting for Christmas, He was the first one up the day they were leaving and I scrapped the eggs and bacon I was going to make and asked him if he wanted to go get donuts with me. We had a ball and hopefully, made some memories. I know I will remember…we had so much fun and he insisted on opening doors for me and telling me how many more donuts we needed to make a dozen every time we put another one in the box. He is very verbal, but almost never shows his skills outside of school, and that was a rare treat for me. I wish they sis not love 600 miles away!

  13. Kelsey slay says:

    I’ve been following you for years – this post is my FAR my favorite. Thank you for sharing these special moments with us. Grandmas no matter what kind are so very special.

  14. I have not read any of your blogs in a long time and just been reminded of how uplifting they are.
    Your book had a huge impact on my life as a mum of special needs and I often pick it up for re inforcement.

    Lots of love ❤

  15. So beautiful- thank you for sharing!

    I miss my granny every day and hold dear the memories we made – she is part of who I am and will grow to be

  16. A picture hangs on my wall, my son on his great-great grandma’s lap, next to his great-grandma, with his grandma and mama standing behind them.
    She was born in 1913, he in 2013. 100 years between them. She lived through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, two world wars, Korea and Vietnam, a husband who died in his 40s and man who married her and left her. She lived through the death of a grandson and a daughter (my grandma last year) and she lived in the same house she became a bride in until less than 6 months before she passed away and we said good bye in December. Independent and fierce, she loved baseball and reading and her church.
    My grandma came out and held her latest great-grandson when he was two months old, my second born. A trip was planned to take my kids out, take another 5 generation photo and the week before she suddenly passed away.
    I’m crying now because I’m pregnant and neither of them will hold my first daughter. But I know how to raise my children to never be afraid of age.
    And they still have my Dads mom and my Moms dad. And are loved fiercely.
    This is a post I loved and one I just wanted to say – you picked the right thing for your first goal. The absolute right thing ❤

  17. This is one of my all time favorite blog posts of any I read! My mother-in-law will be 92 this year and is still getting around quite well (still drives to church and cooks Sunday lunch for the family!!). Our son gifted her with her first great grandchild this year and we’ve tried to take lots of pictures. My heart is happy after reading your post!

  18. FlowerpowermommA says:

    Such a beautiful lady. How precious you gave your kids this gift of memories with her. Thank you for sharing the love with us.

  19. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  20. Allidah hicks says:

    Simply lovely!

  21. This story needs to be written as a children’s book. Seriously.

  22. Donna Owens says:

    How sweet for all of you!

  23. Greta Starbuck says:

    LORD this is one of my fave all time posts you’ve written!! I miss my grandma so much (she died at 97 and my gramp at 101) and what JOY it was to see you and your family enjoy your gramma! Bless you for flying her out there and grabbing life in the moment! I hope you do it again sometime!

  24. Totally out of the blue, my grandma would be sitting near us, sigh and say, “Great life.” May we all be so blessed to see the ordinary as extraordinary.

  25. Wow! That was absolutely beautiful💗💗 I love all your writings!! Thank you for sharing your grandma with us💗

  26. This is just so wonderful! You are so lucky, and reading this reminds me of how much I have too!

  27. Wow, what a beautiful post. What wonderful memories you will have made for all of you with that visit. My particular favourite part (although I loved all of it) was her instruction to “Doll me up” for the party. I love that she asked, and you did it (and she looked great!) It’s the fun spirit behind the request that I can see as much as the outcome.

  28. Beautiful!

  29. and…. you must, must all fly kites at her memorial party!

  30. Jeanne Worthy says:

    Your post definitely made me miss my Mom who died 33+ years ago and my Gramma (her Mom) who died in 1992 at the age of 94….I’m the Gramma now (at 68) to five grand kids (three girls and two boys) from my three daughters. Most certainly hope I live long enough to be a great gramma as well! I have photos of our four generations, my Gramma, my Mom, myself and my daughters (ALL 3 in different years). Absolutely LOVED your photos!! What great memories they will bring back some day….it was definitely the best first thing from your list you picked! LOVE face book for this type of stuff!!!

  31. Oh, I love every word of this post. You are so very lucky to still have your gran. I never knew one of mine and I wish I had the other back. Or my mom. All this puts a huge smile on my face and I just have to thank you for sharing it!
    ~jeanie from MarmeladeGypsy

  32. Soak it in. I took my baby up to meet his only great-grandparents over New Years. I will treasure the picture I took of my dad, my baby, and my grandpa. I’m sad my grandma is alive but now too lost in her mind to know she met him. And they’ll probably be gone before he’s old enough to remember them. Treasure that gift!

  33. Oh, Kelle, I did not want this post to end. What a treasure she is. It’s so awesome that you offered & even more awesome that, at 87, she accepted. What strikes me the most is how you’ve taught your kids to love. They’ve been surrounded by so much good & even though you live away from your family, the kids just seem to know who to gravitate to. So beautiful. xo

  34. beth larson says:

    Oh Kell~ of all my favorite posts of yours, this IS truly my favorite!!! Love you girl, xoxoxox

  35. Beautiful! How I wish my Nana was still around.

  36. Kelle – thank you for sharing your Grandma with me — she’s absolutely lovely and just a bucket of fun — luv the sparkle coming from her eyes.
    Blessings,
    Barb

  37. Georgia Burns says:

    Oh how I love this post. I miss my grandmother (Nanny as we called her) everyday. I can’t wait to share my stories of my Nanny my daughter. Thank you for sharing your beautiful grandma with us.

  38. Beautiful…just Beautiful…

    Turn it into a book…I would buy it for sure…leave the “butt” part in it…kids say the damnist things! :)

    Love, from Wisconsin

  39. So beautiful !!!! I love this story so much.. you write nicely! And your children are angels!!! This thing of your old lady not so old and all of you made me cry a lot…..

  40. I’ve never commented on one of your posts before, but I read this post twice through because it made me feel so close to my grandmothers, who are both in heaven now. This is my favorite post you’ve ever written. Thanks for the big grandma hug in blog format.

  41. Becky Fouts says:

    This is the most beautiful post I have seen in a long time – and I read a lot of blogs! The gift you gave yourself, your kids, and especially your precious grandma !!! I am a grandma to three littles, and truly, my fondest wish is that God will bless me with them still loving me and spending time with me when I am the white haired great grandma. You are the BEST granddaughter ever, Kelle!!!!

  42. Tracy Carson says:

    This is so stunningly beautiful.

  43. my great grandmother just passed away at 94 years old. she was a treasure.

  44. If I can type through the tears… this is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. The legacy of love pours richly through your family tree. May God bless and keep you all. Thank you for the joy of reading this bit of your story. blessings ~ tanna

  45. What a treasure! I see her in your face!

  46. Omg, she is absolutely beautiful!!! I wish that every women who gets Botoxed to death would look at your grandmother’s face and understand that is how you age gracefully and beautifully. So much life is in her face!!! Amazing. Also curious as to how the kids hadn’t met her yet on your trips up north…just being nosy!

  47. Kelle, this is so beautiful…..everything……from the phone call to your Grandma to taking her back to the airport. What a treasure! As I’m sure you know, times like this become even more precious memories as time goes on. You have been given a priceless gift in your Grandma and you are so wise to share that gift in such a beautiful way with your children. I had tears in my eyes the entire time.

  48. This post makes me look forward to being a grandma, a long long time from now!

    I was wondering details on the palm tree photo, I thought you had mentioned it in a post, but I can’t find it now. I assume it’s a photo you took, but I’d like to know where you had it printed and framed. Thank you!

  49. Your grandmother sounds beyond great! She is as cool as my grandmother was, and I’m so glad you have her. My grandma died a few years ago at 96, and I’m making peace with missing her now. I realize I lived more of my life with my grandma than I will live without her!

  50. So magically beautiful ♥

  51. Wow, Kelle! This is just gorgeous. I’m so happy you had the chance to reconnect with your amazing grandmother. <3

  52. Carol weiss says:

    Oh Kelle! Your story so beautifully shared, blessed me so much this morning! I felt like I was welcomed into your home and visited right along with Grandma. Thank you for opening your home to the world and offering love and hope to us all.

  53. This is my most favorite post yet, really pulls on the heartstrings. My beloved grandmother passed away about a year and a half ago, and what I wouldn’t give to have these precious moments back. Your grandmother is absolutely beautiful! What a blessing to create these memories with your children.

  54. First time visitor (and 1st comment). This story is so warm and beautiful. I have one grandma left, too (around the same age). Thank you for the reminder of how delicately the fabric of our lives is weaved together.

  55. How sweet… I love your Gma. Too funny about the skirt. HA!

    And oh Dash…. haha!!

    Wonderful, beautiful memories and so many “framable” photos.

    xo

  56. Kelly D Henrichs says:

    Love this so much!! Made me so happy on a Monday morning! What great memories you made for your family & for your grandma. :)

  57. Oh man…I bawled through this entire post. So lovely, so touching, and just so perfect. I lost my grandma last year – the one I grew up with as a constant in my life. I was so glad my daughter got to meet her, but sad she left while she was still so young (just shy of 3 years old). Your writings took me back to being with her and remembering how much our futures are a direction reflection of our pasts. Thank you for this and so happy you and your family got to soak up a week of great grandma. Make sure to do it again soon <3

  58. This makes my heart happy. Grandmas are the best. I’m actually driving to go see my 95 year old gma this weekend. We have a pizza date planned, church, and some shopping all mixed in with general catching up. I love spending time with her and hearing her stories, and cherish every moment. So glad you had this chance to spend time with her in your space, and that she got to see your kids in their natural element. A time none of you will every forget.

  59. What a gift she is. I am thankful you still have her. I was talking with my Dad and Mom about their parents last week and how much I missed them. I love all of your adventures with her. Absolutely wonderful. Conservative people are wonderful too. : ). I tell all of my friends, at the end of your days, when people are sitting in the pews at your funeral, will anyone mention your love of the Democratic or Republican candidate? No one. No one ever will.

    I hope she can come again soon.

  60. jENNA hERBERT says:

    Hi Kelle,

    My name is Jenna and I’m a first year DSW student at Confederation College, located in Ontario, Canada.

    I had an assignment to follow a blog regarding developmental disabilities for 14 days, and reflect on them.

    I just wanted to express to you how much I enjoyed reading your blogs and how much I loved your writing. I truly enjoy the genuine writing you do, with such a passion and the commitment you share to your family. I have taken so much away from your posts, especially this one. This post brought me to tears after reading it and made me want to hug my grandmother and never let her go.

    Your devotion and family orientated life has inspired me to create my own happy ending, never letting the unexpected things life has to offer, ever get in the way.

    Thank you so much for enlightening me, Kelle. Your blog is one that I am going to continue reading and learning from.

  61. This is so beautiful. So so beautiful. And your grandma is gold.

  62. I loved this so much! Dash’s butt made me laugh, but the rest of it was choking me up with emotion – in a good way! Thank you for reminding me that the old folk are filled with magic too xxx

  63. Crying here! Just beautiful. My Granma had her third stroke last week, we’re just waiting for “that” phone call any day now. She is 95. I live here in New York with my 5 munchkins, she’s back home in Scotland, and this post makes me so wish when we had discussions about her visiting a decade ago – I wish we had made it happen. I’m living through you now, loving every minute of reading this post. Thank you x

  64. I cried reading this post . . . not only because I miss my grandmother – but also because of the joy that your grandmother brings to you, and because of her wonderful spirit. God bless you all.

  65. Sheryl Gina says:

    Beautiful

  66. Cheryl Clear says:

    Kellie – Your Grandma and Granpa were our pastors in their last church in Culpeper VA. I LOVE your Grandma soooo much! This blog is so beautiful because she is soooo beautiful! You have done a wonderful thing to put her in these words and pictures. God has truly created an angel in Verna Jean McCormick. thanks for sharing this blog with all of us. You are a doll! Cheryl Clear

  67. Erin Wright says:

    I am overcome with joyful emotion reading this amazing tribute to such a beautiful woman. I came across this blog on Facebook (via my niece) and the familiar face on the cover photo. I KNOW HER!!! Loverna and I use to carpool to Teen Community Bible Study together and we would laugh till our sides hurt…all the way there. She is one of the coolest human beings I have ever known and I have often told my hubby that I want to claim her as my own. I haven’t seen her in quite a while. Your pictures are so beautiful. You children are precious and I love the love that you all share….and shared with us! God Bless!

  68. So, so beautiful and precious. My own grandma just turned 98 and we are oh so slowly but steadily (and painfully) losing her. It was so lovely to read this and remember the wonderful times I’ve had with her and the joy my kids have brought her. Thank you for sharing xx

  69. Lovely post! I lost my mom and both grandmas before my son was born. I work so hard to make sure he knows them and their stories.

  70. What a treasure to still have your grandma!!! Loved reading all about your week with her….priceless!!!

  71. Just lovely — how wonderful that you have such a precious person in your family, and that you celebrated her by inviting her to be your special guest, making her the center of attention during her stay.
    What a blessing to all your family!

    My favorite of your posts — even drew me into making a comment!

  72. Grandma’s and Great Grandma’s are the best. I love that you were able to make that trip happen. Those moments, convos and memories are priceless treasures. These pictures will always be your favorites.

  73. I have read this post about 10 times..no kidding.

    Loving how you make things happen and create lifelong memories.

    Your grandma is stunning!

    I echo the sentiments about making this post into a children’s book. Pictures and all.

  74. Oh I love your post. I also love how you documented this here and with your photos! Your Grandma looks like she had a wonderful time. I am so glad you could make this happen for her, and your family. :)

  75. this is amazing

  76. A few years ago I was going through some life stuff and when cleaning up the kids books I found your Bloom book mixed in. I opened it randomly to page 206 where you discuss dealing with new challenges is like learning how to swim. Such a great explanation and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. Without even thinking I ripped it out and put it in my wallet. I said someday when this passes I can put it back in the book. The issue did pass, but every now and then when I find that piece of paper in my wallet I don’t want to put it back. It reminds other things big and small will come and once again I will learn how to swim. Now that I know you ripped out a book page as well I don’t feel so bad telling you my story!

  77. I have tears in my eyes reading your post. Grateful for this post.

    “To delight in the world so much at 87 that you fear it might the end of you? I hope that’s where I’m headed.” – I hope that’s here I’m headed, too.

  78. This is so beautiful and yet it breaks my heart. My son got to meet my last remaining grandparent at 5 months old, and a month later she passed. I miss my grandparents so much and it kills me that they aren’t here to watch him grow.

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