A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.
―L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
She has eighteen grandchildren (I don't even know how many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren), but there was a time when she answered the phone with a question, and when I said, "Hi, Grandma," she knew my voice from all the others.
And I feel sure: it wasn't that I was oh-so special but that, to her, each of us was. She had this way--when she was wholly herself--of making us feel known. She wrote us letter after letter; she was, hands down, everyone's best pen pal. She loved to talk to us on the phone, across the dining room table, on the porch swing, in the living room, everywhere. She and I fell asleep, many times, talking in the dark.
For nearly thirty years, her favorite story to tell of me was that--when she went to take my photo on my first day of kindergarten--I threw some kind of fit. Her favorite story to tell of Andrea involved Andrea's being a rotten teenager, but it didn't matter: doesn't.
(Andrea cried, a few weeks ago, when she pulled one of Grandma's owl cups from my cupboard. How clandestine the grief.)
It hurts to become unknown to someone who knew you from your beginning and loved you through your bad. For years, I felt bitterly disappointed after every visit, having prayed for Grandma to know me one more time. I let go of that hope after the Lord, in His mercy, allowed a dream. I still pray for good visits, also for my recovery from them; even when they're good, they're hard.
She doesn't know who I am, and no sooner do her visitors leave than she forgets she had them. But I watch her light up for my children and believe it matters that we're there. My younger children have never met so much of her, but I hope--after the last bit of her soul flies to the Lord--they'll remember her smile, her embrace.
And I guess I hope that--even as I stroke her arm or kiss her forehead--the most of her looks down, already, from that better and brighter place. I hope she knows me in real time: speaks my name just out of earshot. I hope she waits for me there even as we sit together, here.
|Photo by Emmanuel Artis. Editing mine.|