As I’m a bit busy today, tied up with meetings and visits of all sorts I’ve decided to paste in one of my “other writings” for your reading pleasure. Please enjoy and pray for my rest.
One of the curiosities of my person is that I was born in Scotland. My parents were not military, they were Scottish. I say were because many years ago they were naturalized and are now U.S. citizens. And though they love America and have no regrets about their decision to emigrate, they remain Scot in their hearts.
It’s an interesting story how we got here, but that is not the story I’d like to tell. This is a story about my Granny and the gift she gave to me and to my sisters.
Mom, or Mum as they say in the Old Country, relates the story of her leaving Great Britain. Dad had been hired on in the U.S. and had gone ahead to establish a home for his young family. My older sister was not yet one and I was not yet born. When Dad left, Mom moved in with her Mum and Dad to care for my sister and to await my birth. Seven weeks after I arrived Mom made ready our departure.
My grandparents must have looked upon that day with mixed emotions. Here they were sending their eldest daughter to America to begin a new life in a new country. For Mom, and for us, it was the beginning of a grand American adventure. But for them it was a good-bye that had no certainty of a reunion. They were no doubt happy for us all, but must have had an ache in their hearts knowing that they would not know their grandchildren, nor us them. At the time we couldn‘t have known we would spend our whole lives here. Perhaps they nurtured a hope that someday we would all come home to Scotland. But, for now it was good-bye.
They say that people know when their time is near. People seem to know that they will die soon. They may not know the date or the time or even the means of their death. They just know. They take time to get their affairs in order. They do things they’ve been meaning to do. They finish things that need finishing. In retrospect I think my Granny knew that her time was coming. And the one thing she wanted to do, the thing she needed to do was to come to America and see her grandchildren. We had been to Scotland once to see them, but she had never been to America to see us. They were too old, it was too expensive, it was out the question. But, the coming of death, whether one knows it consciously or unconsciously, makes old excuses seem small and miserly.
I was about seven or eight. I remember greeting them at the airport in Houston. Mom and Dad picked them out of the crowd, looking small and gray and not a little weary. Granny kissed us all, for there were four of us by that time. It was a wet kiss on the cheek. I remember it clearly. I wiped it off. Not because I was callous, but because I wasn’t yet sure what to make of this little old lady who seemed to know me so well.
They stayed with us, in our home, for a time. I don’t remember many of the details of their visit except that one morning, early, my mother and dad got me and my older sister out of bed. She looked grave and she told us that Granny had died in the night. My sister immediately broke into tears, but I was unfazed. I did not grieve, then or later. I didn’t know what to say but probably asked about breakfast or about going back to bed.
There was no funeral or memorial that I remember. There was simply another good-bye as my Grandpa got back on the plane and went home, alone. I thought it strange at the time that arrangements had been made for my Granny to go with him, only not in the seat next to him. She was in the plane, below somewhere, as she was to be buried properly in Scotland.
From that time onwards I simply told people that my Granny had died and that I had only three grandparents. It was an unemotional recounting of the facts. Where once I had had four, I now had three. There was for me no real change nor any real sense of loss. How could I lose what I had never really had in the first place?
Knowing that one is loved is as essential as Mother’s milk. Babies must be touched and held and talked to. Children need the same. To be deprived of such things is to leave a child emotionally malnourished. The trouble with children is that they don’t always know when they are being loved. They lack the experience to comprehend the love that is given to them, even lavished upon them by people they hardly know. But love and touch and kind words and even wet kisses make their mark. They never fail. Like meals eaten and forgotten, like sermons heard and gone, they do their work quietly. They help grow a person up. They make him what he is.
Now, whether or not I am correct in my assumption of Granny’s premonition of her death, I will never know. But, I think I’m right. I believe she finished her task and she finished it well.
Recently I recounted this story to my children, to my Mother’s grandchildren. And, as I did so I was taken aback by a sudden welling of emotion. I tried to compose myself, to finish the story. I didn’t want them to see me cry. But, it was not to be. A dam had burst and I could no longer hold it back. The tears came, openly and unashamedly. They were tears of joy for her sacrifice, but more, they were tears of grief at her passing. Thirty years late, and yet right on time, I was grieving for my Granny‘s death.
In time, there is the comfort of memory that comes like a gift from the past. Like a treasure stored away and lost, only to be found, remembered and received again with great joy, my Granny gave to me the perfect gift of her love.
Thank God for Grannies.