For those of who have found love in its purest form, I hope you count yourself one of the lucky few. I found that in my grandmother who passed away one year ago today. I have been waiting for a sign from her all day. I hear her voice often in my head, but I miss her blue eyes and raspy laugh.
I got that sign from a kid’s birthday party of all places. The parting goodie bag had a game my grandmother loved. A little paddle with a ball attached to it with a long elastic. She could hit that ball on the paddle without missing a beat for close to a hundred times, she was awesome. I was overjoyed to see this innocuous toy my boys could not figure out. It wasn’t lego or candy, so what’s the point? Thanks Grandma. I love you!
Honey Child. That’s what she called all her honeys – her grandchildren. I had the honor of living with her upon returning from a year in Korea. She gave me my shelter and love and a warm cup of tea no matter what time I came home at night. She loved listening to my escapades at work, the drama in retail was far more exciting than TV. She respected the work I did with my fellow adoptees and was so proud when I got into an Ivy League grad school. She loved that I was different but always reminded me that I was good. And she especially loved when I retold her the entire story line of a movie George and I went to see. She loved my George instantly. After all, he heralds the same name as her husband and her brother, two men she adored. Like the Oscar Wilde play, only not Earnest.
What made my grandmother so special was who she was. The last of twelve children, she grew up in abject poverty to a father who was mostly in and out of mental institutions and a mother who moved so much “there was no room on the card to put the new address.” She had barely an education to speak of and remembers the day she was brought to a ‘workhouse’ – or what we now call an orphanage – not once but several times. The only constant in her life was God and the Catholic church. Her stories of poverty and pain could trump anyone, really. But to hear her, there was never bitterness, regret, entitlement or shame. She made small promises to herself – save cents, marry a good honest man and never move her children. She kept them all.
What made my grandmother amazing though was that she loved me, her Korean granddaughter, unconditionally. She never made me feel less than her other grandchildren as other grandparents can do. She so could have been one of those stereotypical people of her generation – God fearing, conservative and a little bit racist. But she never stopped learning. She stopped using “Colored” to describe a brown skinned person and never called me “Oriental”. She never tried to explain that when she was a girl that’s what they said. I heard that from other people. She even tried to say hello in Korean to the local grocer and tried really hard to remember other words too. She was so proud of who I was. She never flinched from my hard questions, my hard opinions. She never sugar coated her mistakes. She never questioned my loyalty and love to my parents even after meeting my birthmother. She was the first to see my engagement ring, the first to hear about many of my grown-up milestones. She loved when I became a mother. She couldn’t wait to dole out stories of her new motherhood with me. She crocheted blankets for my babies way before they were born in case she wasn’t going to be here when they arrived.
When I look behind me and glimpse at my life path and all the moments I found myself in a dark place, many of them had a small glimmer of light. Those moments were with my grandmother. She made me feel loved, heard and accepted. She saw me as a person.
I hope for anyone reading this, you have known a love like this. If you haven’t told that person yet, please let them know.