When I was younger, my grandma took my brother and I to a lot of movies. It was good bonding time, and we would all hangout at her house before and after. She is really good at Christmas too. She’s generous and creative, and I still look forward to spending Christmas Eve at her house every year even though I’m to the point of actually wanting socks. She is an artist, explorer, and very avid Bridge player.
My grandma has been independent for years now, as long as I’ve known her. She and my grandpa got divorced when my dad was about 20. Independence is one thing, but what makes my grandma who she is, is what she’s done with her independence. She’s travelled the world. She’s seen things almost no one has, and then sees more.
What also makes my grandma who she is is the pain she’s felt.
My grandpa is a good grandpa; I don’t see him often, and from his history that’s understandable. When my dad was young and when my grandma was married to him, he was an alcoholic, and an abusive one. My grandma dealt with his behavior while also trying to maintain a semi-normal household. It wasn’t until the abuse got really bad that she left him. What seems commonplace now, to leave an abusive husband, wasn’t yet a very viable option at that time, nor was it a smart move based on the family’s social standing.
But she did it.
My grandpa is better now, and is remorseful of what he used to be, but the memories are still there for the people that were affected.
My grandma had three sons and one daughter. The youngest is Bryan, next youngest Kelly, next youngest my father Mark, and the oldest Mike. When Mike was sixteen he was killed in a car accident. I remember after coming back from a movie with my grandma and brother, we had just pulled into her garage and were exiting the car. Being young, and not quite grasping the gravity of the question, I asked her if she was sad after Mike died. She told me that it felt like a part of her died with him. She didn’t cry or seem sad, she just left it at that.
That’s also what makes my grandma who she is.
The thing about pain is that time heals all wounds, but where the wounds once were, scars appear in their place. When you look at my grandma and watch her, listen to her, you can see the scars. You can see her awareness and how she’s always trying to pay attention to everything going on in a room. If someone is a little off she can sense it immediately and grows concerned. You can see how much she cares for everyone in her life.
Instead of letting the pain turn her bitter, my grandma made it a part of her. She became a teacher after the divorce. She taught handicapped and troubled youth. Instead of not wanting to become close to anyone due to loss, my grandma cares immensely for everyone. She knows that people can disappear at any moment, and if that’s the case then you should give them all the attention they deserve all the time.
I love my grandma because she’s family and she loves me. I also love my grandma because every life has hardships, and she shows me how to live an even fuller life because of them.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Lukas Budimaier