Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Grandma is a Gift

It's been just a little bit more than half a year since I lost my grandmother Minnie "Bea" Hill McGrath. I am finally getting around to posting what I wrote while I was dealing with her death...
These are happy, beautiful memories, not sad ones, so enjoy!

"Yesterday made one week since I lost my Grandma Bea. I realized that I had been so busy dealing with logistics and supporting my mom and children in their grief, that I had not taken time to process my own.

"My Maw Bea was very special to me. Part of that was for practical reasons... proximity. We lived about a half an hour from her for most of my life. When Isaac was an infant, around the time my Paw Paw, her husband, died, we lived with them. For the past year, mom and Maw Bea lived less than 5 minutes away from our house. We rode our bikes there one Saturday morning.

"The other reasons were less obvious. There's a story I've been wanting to tell that shows this so clearly...

"I was at our house on Center Street. It was mid-afternoon. I don't remember what time of year it was or even if it was before or after Brody's birth. It was getting close to time for David to come home. The time I should've had the living room cleaned up and supper started and the kids and I ready to smile and hug him when he walked in the door. But...

"I was a mess. Still not dressed or even showered. House a disaster. NO idea what to make for dinner. And no clue what I had done all day. I was feeling overwhelmed and desperate. Desperate not to overwhelm and stress out my husband who had been working hard for our family all day. Desperate not to be a failure at my job as a wife and a mom. So I did the only thing I could do in that moment. Not read a blog or phone a friend. I called my grandmother. I cried about how I had wasted the day and how awful I was at taking care of my husband and my home. A disaster as a stay-at-home mom. I had a million things to do and knew for a fact that I couldn't finish. How was I supposed to start on an impossible list???

"I'll never forget her advice to me...

"Go wash your face and put on some lipstick. Then grill some onions in a pan and the whole house will smell like you're cooking something amazing for dinner. When your husband comes home and you look good and the house smells good, he won't be worried about what you did all day. Then... pick ONE thing off your to do list. And do it.

"Nothing profound really. Simple practical advice. But it was perfect. And in that moment I knew. We were the same. She knew just what advice to give me because she had had that same day hundreds of times. A mom. At home alone with a houseful of kids. Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Just trying to do the right thing for her family and survive till the next day.

"Later in her life, everyone around her saw her gift with children, but that didn't mean she didn't struggle with raising her own. There are so many stories that she shared... Like the time they drove off and left Ricky. How she didn't want to learn to drive in hilly Philadelphia, but Paw Paw told her that she could either learn to drive or be stuck at home with the kids all day. So she did it. How she loved being pregnant, but had to stop cause she kept having to bring babies home every time. The slight bitterness in her voice when she would tell me how blessed I was to have so much family close, because she had been all alone with no one to help her.

"But there were also beautiful examples of her loving sacrifice too. Like how my mom didn't know until she was grown that Maw Bea didn't like fried chicken or spaghetti. She had cooked it every week only because they could afford it and Paw Paw liked it, LOL!"

I was so blessed to spend almost 30 years of my life with my grandmother in it. Towards the end she dealt with depression and memory loss, but through everything, she showed me one important thing. That she loved her family, beautifully.

What Will Your E-Legacy Be?

Years from now when our grandchildren are googling our names to learn more about us (we hope, lol), what will they find? Will they find empty social networking pages or hundreds of negative comments on message boards? Will they find dozens of tagged pictures of us spending time with our friends and family or see our love of gardening through all the links we shared? Will they be inspired by our faith or our activism or will they be ashamed of hate and ignorance? Will they see the slow decline of marriages or the slow recovery from illnesses reflected in posts or the lack there of? Will they find well-documented online family trees with lots of pictures? What will our internet footprint say about who we really were on the inside.

I confess... my e-footprint will show that I love to start things, but have trouble finishing them. Blogs with half a dozen posts in one week followed by months and months of silence. But I keep coming back. Persistence, even if it is slow and erratic, will hopefully shine through. And I can only hope that my descendants will know that when I wasn't sticking with writing or researching or whatever, it was usually because my family needed me. That I didn't let ancestors long dead come before my living, breathing, beautiful family.