“Grandma always made you feel
she had been waiting to see just you all day
and now the day was complete.”
Grandma use to tell me that when it thundered the angles were bowling and that my father often said when it rained the angels were crying. It was raining Tuesday, Feb 12th and I am sure that Heavens angels were crying tears of joy and sadness for those who were left behind. Marie Rivera was called home and now one of the most important people in my life would no longer be a phone call away. I cannot recall from memory a time in my life when Marie Rivera was not head over heels in love with me. She was beautiful inside and out and her smile, her songs, her laughter fill all my earliest memories. Even though we moved from New York by the time I was five, I remember very clearly her home, the ceramic figures which had important dates in the window. I remember eating cream of wheat in the kitchen and I remember the smell of grandpa which was a mixture of an old spice smell and beer. I miss her already. Once we moved from New York she and grandpa would follow us anywhere. She assured me she would go the ends of the earth to see “her Jeanine” and I believed her because at least once a year she made a trip to see me. Where ever we were located she would come to see me and my brothers and all their lives were enriched from the time they got spend with Grandma Rivera. I remember the home made gifts that I will cherish more than ever today. I remember how even though there were miles between us I was the center of her universe and as close as a phone call away. There is no other woman aside from my mother who could ever hold a candle to my Grandma, and I know today how blessed I was to have her in my life. My father was taken from me before I could even recall who he was but she never let his memory die. I saw him in her, in her encouragement, in her faith, and in her pride in me.
Life was always simpler when we are younger, the responsibility to keep in touch was the adults and I took for granted the energy and time it took for her to always visit or send a letter. I grew up and married and in my first marriage was able to make a trip to Florida to spend time with her but then money became tight and I soon went through a bitter divorce. Once again my grandmother, my Uncle and his wife were there supporting me and helped me come up with the money needed to file for my divorce, it was a time in which I was reminded family always comes first and my father would have been proud. Time passed and I fell in love again and when I remarried at the age of 29, I was blessed to be surrounded by those who meant the world to me and this included my grandma, my grandfather and my Uncle and Aunt. Little did I know that would be the last time that all four of us would be together and I would give anything to go back to that day and spend just a little more time with them all. It was the last time my older kids would spend with their great grandparents but I know the impression that was left on them from that visit would last a life time.
Remarriage brought more babies, and deployments, and financial strain and we never seemed to have enough money or time to make that trip back to Florida. I went to work full time and sick time and doctors appoints for children ate up the necessary vacation time to get away. You always say to yourself, next year we will head that way and then the car gains an additional ten thousand miles and you worry if you could even make it there and back. Life got in the way and distance grew and then one day I receive a phone call that Grandpa was no longer with us. My husband can tell you that I cried like a baby for days, and I felt guilty for not making a bigger effort to make it to see them. I called and wrote on occasion but not the way I should have, I am ashamed to say that my grandma deserved so much more attention than I gave her and my biggest regret today is that I cannot say tomorrow I will call or next summer I will see her. The last time I spoke to her on the phone she sounded so weak but happy, I could tell that my phone call brought her joy even as she scolded me for not calling more often. The boys were both able to speak to her and even though they had never met her she reminded them of how much she loved them and could not wait to see them. She had a zest for life, she had something deep inside of her that resounded strength and dignity and pride for her family and the gift of life. She was the type of woman I can only wish to be, she always spoke the truth but with encouragement and wisdom. She loved life and even through the pain of losing her oldest son, still was able to see all the beauty that life has to offer. It would be easy to say “what if”, what if my father would never have died? Would we have remained in New York would she have been a street away instead of states away. The only thing that is certain in life is change. Today I can say that I am changed, I am missing a piece of my heart, and I am saddened by the fact that my youngest boys will never know the amazing woman I was able to call grandma.
I spoke to a coworker today and I commented about how kids today will never know what it was like to have grandparents like we had. The truth is that our grandparents were retired and enjoyed overnight trips, weekend visits, and summer vacations. Life for them was about making memories and passing on truths and lessons about family and loyalty and always remembering what matters most. Today grandparents still work and struggle to make ends meet free time is often spent unwinding and catching up, retirement is a far off dream. This situation often leaves little time for arts and crafts or nail polish parties with grandma. Life is always go-go-go. This is how my life became and what I lost in that shuffle was the chance to hear her stories, to gain her wisdom and to feel her hugs. My grandma, I know is now in Heaven, she is dancing for Jesus (because she loved to dance), she is now reunited my father and her husband and forever with her savior. She will never again have to watch her sugars, prick her finger or take an injection; she is free from her physical body which held her prisoner to diabetes. This makes me smile and the comfort I gain from this is that one day I will see them all too. I know that I will shed many tears as I reflect and remember and am reminded she is gone, some will be happy and some will be clouded by regrets. The truth is that even though she is gone, she is a part of me and who I am. She is the reason for the character and determination that I carry and probably the sole depositor of the inner strength that I cling too. I will never forget you Grandma and I will always love you, so until I am in your arms again enjoy your heavenly rewards as I am sure God spoke to you and said “well done, thy good and faithful servant” Go now and share in your masters happiness! (Matthew 25:23)