My grandfather passed away when I was only seven.
I have a few distinct memories. I remember he’d take us on walks to pick blackberries. I remember sitting on his lap. I remember him making grilled cheese.
I even remember the sound of his voice. (As a first-generation American raised in New England by Italian parents—the way he spoke was unique.)
At 36 years old, the rest is fuzzy to me. But I remember that I loved him. I remember feeling so sad when he was gone.
When my grandmother passed away this summer, my own kids were 9, 7, 4, and 1. They spent lots of time with her over the years. Her house was one of their favorite places to visit.
But they’re at that age where time is blurry, where memories will fade.
I wish they could remember everything.
Every single hug, every gift, every special treat, but I know that’s just not the way it works.
I hope my oldest will remember how much she truly adored him. As far as she was concerned, he did absolutely no wrong in his first nine years. I hope he remembers that she played checkers with him endlessly, even enjoying his trash talk.
I hope my seven-year-old will remember the way she loved whatever he loved. He was into calendars and notebooks, so she saved every little datebook and notepad she came across for a year, always sending them home with him whenever we’d visit.
He liked plain Lays potato chips, so she made sure there was always, always a bag in their pantry. Once, we stopped in unexpectedly and the bag was nearly empty. To her, that was an actual crisis.
I hope my four-year-old will remember the way he’d storm into their house like he owned the place. He’d open the door and make a beeline for the refrigerator, sometimes before I’d even made my way out of our car. He’d help himself to her favorite yogurt, which became his favorite yogurt. I think of her every time I grocery shop because orange Greek yogurt is always in my cart now.
I hope he remembers how much she doted on him and enjoyed all his antics. He’s always been our “spirited” child and she just loved that. He’s also the one she promised to help watch over just a little bit extra before she died.
The baby still says her name when he sees her picture. He still asks for her sometimes when we Facetime my grandfather. But he’s so little, he eventually won’t remember her at all.
Still, I hope his heart leaps a little when he sees the pictures and watches the videos of him with her. Because while they only had a year and a half together, she sure squeezed an absurd amount of love and adoration into such a short period of time.
In the end, I hope they keep lots of memories close.
I hope they can vividly recall playing catch in her kitchen, going bowling in her hallway, and jumping on her bed like a trampoline.
But if they don’t, if they can’t, ultimately, I just hope they remember the love.
When they think of her and their time together, I hope they remember being so adored.
Whatever memories linger, I hope they know they were truly cherished.
Because being loved like that – it’s more than a memory. It’s a gift that settles deep in your soul and stays with you for the rest of your life.
Happy Birthday in Heaven, (Great) Nana!