Somehow I ended up with the best parents in the world. I’ve always been grateful to have them, and I know that I’m the badass I am today in large part because of them.
Most people would consider themselves fortunate to have great parents. However, I ended up with the coolest grandparents ever, as well. My last living grandparent died more than 16 years ago, but I think of all of them often.
But I never had the opportunity to meet one of my grandparents. My dad’s mom, Florence, died in 1972, six years before I was born. My grandpa George remarried shortly after my birth, and his second wife, a saintly, kind woman named Marie, became my grandma, and I loved her as much as all of my biological grandparents.
I’ve often wondered about Grandma Florence though.
She was just fifty-seven years old when she died, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember if it was from ovarian cancer or cervical cancer. I think ovarian. Whatever the cause, she died way too young.
But just because I never met her doesn’t mean that she hasn’t had an impact on my life. She has probably impacted my life more than any other person who I’ve never met. That might not make sense, but let me explain.
I don’t remember how old I was when I learned that Grandpa George had a wife, and my dad had a mom, who I’d never met. I suspect I was six or seven-years-old, but I don’t remember learning that information for the first time. It seems like something I always knew, even though I’m sure it isn’t.
I remember seeing pictures of her, and once visiting her grave. My sister’s middle name is Florence, and I knew why.
The earliest impact that I recall Grandma Florence having on my life came one rainy night when I was nine or ten-years-old. My dad, my two sisters and I were in the car and joking around. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but at some point the conversation turned to wishes. If we could have just one wish, what would it be?
I’m sure my sisters and I wished for common kid stuff: a million dollars, school to be canceled, a TV in my room. Real dumb stuff to waste a wish on.
And then we asked my dad what he’d wish for. And he said, “I wish my mom was still alive so she could meet you guys and see how proud I am of you.”
The joking atmosphere in the car immediately became more somber, and I don’t remember if any of us said anything. But I remember thinking to myself, “He sure must love us if he’s going to use his one wish for that.”
I knew he loved us. Despite his occasional moodiness, none of us ever questioned that we were the most important part of his life. He and my mom told us they loved us often, and that they were glad to have us. But his wish just seemed to kick things up a notch.
Since that night, whenever I think of Grandma Florence I think of that conversation in the car, and I’m reminded once again just how much my parents love us. And that never ending, unconditional love has provided so much support for me over the years that I have no doubt it’s the foundation of every single positive thing I do in my life.
I think it’s also the reason that I feel such a devotion to my kids and to my wife. I know how it feels to never have to wonder if anyone loves you completely and unconditionally. I’ve known that all my life. And I want them to know it, also. I never want them to wonder if there’s anyone who loves them so completely.
In sixty-two days, on August 10, it will be the 100th anniversary of Grandma Florence’s birth. I don’t know if anyone else has plans to celebrate it, but in my house we’ll get an ice cream cake, and we’ll sing Happy Birthday. And I’ll tell my kids the few things I know about Grandma Florence, and I’ll tell them the story of that night in the car.
And I’ll do my best to make them feel as loved as I did when I heard my dad’s wish.
Once a month, during an event called Blogapalooz-Hour, ChicagoNow challenges its bloggers to write a post in one hour on a topic that's unknown to them until the hour begins. I've decided to tackle all of the challenges held before I joined ChicagoNow over the next ten days or so. This challenge was "Write about a person, or persons, you never met whose death had an impact on you."
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