THE GRANDS

We call them “The Grands” and we have six of them! Three girls, three boys. A nice even split ages three to twenty. Yes, I’m talking about our grandchildren. I always felt a special tug of love for each of The Grands but didn’t realize how enormously fortunate we were until the birth of our sixth grandchild and third granddaughter. We had driven to Michigan for the high school graduation of our oldest grandson. His mother, my oldest daughter, was nine months pregnant and the newcomer dutifully held off a day before sending her mother into labor the day after graduation.

That day also happened to be my and Martin’s wedding anniversary. The graduate had already disappeared on a one day mystery class trip some very smart parents arrange each year to keep their grads from going out and doing something stupid post-graduation. So, as our daughter went into labor early morning and she and our son-in-law went to the hospital, we gathered up the remaining three, fed them breakfast and headed for the local zoo. The SUV carried a full load as Martin’s parents were also with us. We had fun keeping everyone occupied but as the day wore on, I checked in with our daughter on her progress. Short, easy labors run in my family and she always followed the familial pattern. And, sure enough, late afternoon, I answered my cell to, “Well, bring my kids to meet their new sister!”

We all reached the hospital and swarmed into the room just in time to see the new arrival getting cleaned up as she exercised her lungs. As I thought my heart would burst with joy one of the attending nurses asked me how many grandchildren we had. I proudly announced this was our sixth born on our wedding anniversary. A look I can only describe as envy, sadness and wistfulness passed over her face as she related how she only had one child and he and his wife had decided not to have children. Knowing what a special bond we have with The Grands, I felt a pang of sadness for this woman. Looking around the room, she told me what a beautiful family I had. In that moment, I realized how blessed I was to receive the gift of not just one, but six grandchildren.

Despite the 748 mile distance between us and five of The Grands, we have a close bond with all the kids. Our youngest daughter lives nearby so we see her little boy quite often. He spends time with me in the garden and time with Papa in the garage working on bicycle, motorcycle, tractor and car. Every year around July 4th our oldest daughter visits bringing the entire family together for some summer fun like fireworks and a visit to the beach. For the third year in a row, the two middle children will stay for Grandma and Papa’s Summer Camp where we’ll visit Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, Chimney Rock and DuPont State Parks (Hunger Games was filmed there), go to the local science center, spend a day at the water park tubing down the giant water way, doing crafts like tie dying t-shirts and cooking up some great dinners. We hope this is creating memories of a lifetime and we know it creates the special bond between us and The Grands.

While I don’t think anyone should have children just for the sake of having them or giving Mom and Dad grandkids, I still can’t help but think of the nurse sometimes and hope her son and daughter-in-law change their mind. Because, there’s nothing more special than The Grands.

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LETTERS TO MY MOTHER

Letters To My Mother was originally posted in February. In honor of my mother and mothers everywhere, I’m re-posting it for Mothers’ Day.

A year ago my older brother and his wife visited. They brought with them a shoe box full of memories. Our mother passed away in 2008 shortly after her 90th birthday celebration. There were, of course, a lifetime of photos and memorabilia left behind. My brother and sister-in-law sorted through it all making a shoe box for each of us siblings. While I dutifully looked through my assortment of photos upon their arrival last year, I didn’t really look at the contents carefully until just now.

Finding the emotional will to take a close look at what was inside the box, I lifted the lid. There is an ornament, which my mother intended to give me at Christmas the year she died. I love Christmas time and beautiful ornaments as did she. Part of her legacy to me. Then, there are all the photos, many of which I had given to my parents over the years. Photos of my daughters as babies, as girls, as young women. Photos of my parents on their trip to visit us in Seattle. My Dad died two years after that visit, in 1989. Photos of our family as we lived in different parts of the country, in different houses with different pets, clothing and hair styles. Beneath all of the photos were letters.

I pulled out the letters, opening them one by one, reading them through and reliving that moment in my personal history. Most were chatty letters, detailing the normalcy of our lives to my parents and then, just my mother. They were letters about my daughters’ schools and activities, basketball, softball, ballet and piano. They were letters about our jobs and travel. My weekly trips to cities throughout the country closing multi-million dollar real estate deals. Trips which frequently enabled me to visit my younger brother and his family in Dallas. They were letters about our vacations to the desert of Washington state, the San Juan Islands and Canada, when you could easily cross into that country without a passport. They were just letters about an every day life.

Then there is the letter I wrote in the spring of 2007, one year before my mother died. The letter is one I had totally forgotten until now. I unfolded the letter, remembering the special paper I’d chosen with the pink flowered border. Teal, yellow and pink colored butterflies hover around the flowers as if sipping nectar. Instead of hand writing the letter I had typed it. Looking back and considering the content of the letter, a hand-written letter would have been more personal. But, we had entered the computer age so even letters to my mother had become typed and printed in recent years. This letter was not so chatty, not so everyday but, rather, a diary of what I had accomplished so far in my life. This letter was a thank you letter to my mother for my life. With tears streaming down my cheeks and a pile of used tissues in my lap, I read the final line. “So, on my 55th birthday, Thank You Mom for my wonderful life. I love you.” I signed my name after that last line, the only handwritten addition from me. Although I had typed the date on this particular letter, my mother’s handwritten date of receipt appears in the upper corner of the first page, her writing shaky and uneven.

As I fold the letter and place it back in the shoe box, I have a lot of thoughts. We don’t send letters anymore handwritten or otherwise. We email. We Facebook. We text message. Like the news everything is said in blips. We don’t often say the things to people we should say when they are alive. For all the times I told my mother I loved her, I’m glad I took the time to actually articulate my gratitude for all the things she did for me. My only regret is I didn’t do the same for my Dad. So, today, wherever you are, tell the people who mean the most to you exactly that. Even better, put it in writing so they can touch it and feel it and read it again and again. Tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life, your wonderful life.

LETTERS TO MY MOTHER

A year ago my older brother and his wife visited. They brought with them a shoe box full of memories. Our mother passed away in 2008 shortly after her 90th birthday celebration. There were, of course, a lifetime of photos and memorabilia left behind. My brother and sister-in-law sorted through it all making a shoe box for each of us siblings. While I dutifully looked through my assortment of photos upon their arrival last year, I didn’t really look at the contents carefully until just now.

Finding the emotional will to take a close look at what was inside the box, I lifted the lid. There is an ornament, which my mother intended to give me at Christmas the year she died. I love Christmas time and beautiful ornaments as did she. Part of her legacy to me. Then, there are all the photos, many of which I had given to my parents over the years. Photos of my daughters as babies, as girls, as young women. Photos of my parents on their trip to visit us in Seattle. My Dad died two years after that visit, in 1989. Photos of our family as we lived in different parts of the country, in different houses with different pets, clothing and hair styles. Beneath all the photos were letters.

I pulled out the letters, opening them one by one, reading them through and reliving that moment in my personal history. Most were chatty letters, detailing the normalcy of our lives to my parents and then, just my mother. They were letters about my daughters’ schools and activities, basketball, softball, ballet and piano. They were letters about our jobs and travel. My weekly trips to cities throughout the country closing multi-million dollar real estate deals. Trips which often enabled me to visit my younger brother and his family in Dallas. They were letters about our vacations to the desert of Washington state, the San Juan Islands and Canada, when you could easily cross into that country without a passport. They were just letters about an everyday life.

Then there is the letter I wrote in the spring of 2007, one year before my mother died. The letter is one I had totally forgotten until now. I unfolded the letter, remembering the special paper I’d chosen with the pink flowered border. Teal, yellow and pink colored butterflies hover around the flowers as if sipping nectar. Instead of hand writing the letter I had typed it. Looking back and considering the content of the letter, a hand-written letter would have been more personal. But, we had entered the computer age so even letters to my mother had become typed and printed in recent years. This letter was not so chatty, not so everyday but, rather, a diary of what I had accomplished so far in my life. This letter was a thank you letter to my mother for my life. With tears streaming down my cheeks and a pile of used tissues in my lap, I read the last line. “So, on my 55th birthday, Thank You Mom for my wonderful life. I love you.” I signed my name after that last line, the only handwritten addition from me. Although I had typed the date on this particular letter, my mother’s handwritten date of receipt appears in the upper corner of the first page, her writing shaky and uneven.

As I fold the letter and place it back in the shoe box, I have a lot of thoughts. We don’t send letters anymore handwritten or otherwise. We email. We Facebook. We text message. Like the news everything is said in blips. We don’t often say the things to people we should say when they are alive. For all the times I told my mother I loved her, I’m glad I took the time to actually articulate my gratitude for all the things she did for me. My only regret is I didn’t do the same for my Dad. So, today, wherever you are, tell the people who mean the most to you exactly that. Even better, put it in writing so they can touch it and feel it and read it again and again. Tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life, your wonderful life.