When I was a little girl I always cried when my dad’s parents dropped me off at the airport after I spent a few weeks with them in the summer. I was enamored with the smell of bacon and coffee every morning at their house and that Grandma sat with Grandpa during breakfast before he went to work.
When I was a teenager, I’d tear up a little bit as well knowing that my grandmother’s house (she was a widow by then) provided me a type of stability I wasn’t receiving at home, as each of my parents succumbed to addiction.
I remember writing an essay about my grandmother when assigned to write about a woman I most admired. Even at a young age, I knew my grandmother was unique. Fiercely intelligent, she made all the financial investments in her marriage and always told me it was important for a woman to have her own identity, even if she was introduced by her husband’s full name. Although raised on a farm, she longed to go to attend college so at eighteen, she broke tradition and went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. And always political, she was a delegate to the Republican national convention (here we differ) and chairman of the Republicans in her county. She could roll up her sleeves and garden for hours and afterwards can vegetables and make homemade jam or applesauce. And then there was the side of her that dressed up to play bridge or knit while watching football. She was my idol.
At 91, my grandmother is still as sharp as a tack. “Your grandmother is too smart for her own good,” a woman said to me while I was visiting my grandmother’s church. She still drives, walks every day and bakes cookies and pies for neighbors. Her eye sight is better than mine and she has more energy than me. But each time I visit her in Virginia, I am painfully aware that it could be the last time I see her. Because at 91, one doesn’t have forever. There will be a final visit. The last time we watch a Packer game or the Badgers together (we’re from Wisconsin) or walk around colonial Williamsburg together.
While in a store the other day, a woman stopped my grandmother, aunt and I and said, “Am I looking at three generations here?” We nodded. “You are so lucky,” she said. Yes. We are. My grandmother has outlived both my parents and other grandparents. She is the strongest link I have to my history – the parts that were happy and wonderful.
When I visit, I also see my uncle (pictured below) who used to pick me up while singing, “One little, two little, three little princesses… When he’d get to ten, he’d throw me on the bed while I squealed with laughter and asked him to do it again.
Every time I visit my family, I cry straight through the church service we attend because I realize that I do indeed have a family, even if we’re all far away from each other.
I also realize that I am a princess. And my father is the king of kings.