While I was in India last week I had the opportunity to meet one of my student’s great grandmothers. It was both an honor and a privilege to spend an afternoon with Hazel and in the end I feel like I have gained a grandmother.
My grandmothers were both dear to me. One died when I was ten and one died when I was pregnant with my daughter. Even though more than 25 years span between the two losses I felt them both differently.
My paternal grandmother, Mater, had four grandchildren, but only one grand daughter. I loved being the only one. I sewed my first pair of pants in first grade (navy blue polyester) using her Singer and guidance. I had started cooking long before that. I still make homemade granola each week from her recipe. She had been a kindergarten teacher and her ease with us when we were little was evident. Mater loved nature and camp and those are things she helped instill in me. I wish I could have known her as an adult as I can only imagine what deep conversations with her would have been.
My maternal grandmother, GramGram, was not a grandmother who got down on the floor and played with her grandchildren. She had a great house to go to and play when we were kids, but we didn’t play with her. As an adult, however, she and I had endless conversations about everything from books to baseball. We shared our travels, both in story and in actuality. As she got older and less independent I would escort her to the grocery store, doctor appointments, arts events, baseball games, and memorial services. I will never forget the conversation we had when she was in her early 90s when she told me she had changed her mind on the death penalty. I honestly can’t remember which was she switch, it was much more striking to me that she HAD changed.
When I was married I gained another grandmother, my husband’s paternal grandmother. She was the sweetest woman I have ever met. I do not think she could have an unkind thought or word. She also died when I was pregnant with my daughter.
Five years later I head down to the lobby of my hotel to have tea with Hazel and over the course of the next many hours my smile grew and grew. Hazel was a teacher for 70 years. She taught little ones and her love of them still energizes her. I was honored to hear stories about her life, family, and teaching. When she insisted I shared story after story bout my own little one. I now have another grandmother. I can’t wait until she comes to Beirut for a visit!