I have only one memory of a great-grandparent. My mother’s mother’s mother was named Gladys, and she let me have Frosted Flakes. I was probably four years old. That was a pretty big deal, because we didn’t have any ‘fancy’ cereal at my house, only Kix and Cheerios and Grape-Nuts.

She died when I was fifteen, and visiting my maternal grandparents. I felt so lost and guilty, because my aunts and my grandmother were so grief-stricken, but I could only cry for their pain, I couldn’t mourn someone I never knew. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel, I only felt that how I felt was insignificant compared to their sorrow.

I met my mother’s biological father when he and his wife came to my mother’s second wedding. They brought my sister and me gummy fruit snacks. I was eleven. He was never my grandpa. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone’s heard from him.

My grandpa was Grandpa Bill. He was an engineer, and I used to think that meant a train conductor. I have to admit, when I was a kid, that was way cooler than rocket scientist. He was a clown, makeup and all, and his favorite exclamation was ‘cheese and crackers!’ We lost him two days before my twenty-first birthday, in 1999.

His wife was Grandma Betty, my mom’s mom. She was such a short lady to have such tall daughters and granddaughters, and she loved to laugh. She was so hollow without Grandpa Bill. My husband got to meet her in 2009, not long before she died, when she came down to my mom’s for a visit.

My father’s father was Grandpa Jonas. He and my grandmother lived in St Croix for most of my life, until they decided to go back to the mainland in 2003. My father sent me to help them close the book on their island life. My grandpa and I went to beach bars to drink vodka and swim. I took care of the swimming, he drank most of the vodka. He was born in Lithuania, and when we lost him in 2010, his children brought his ashes back there.

My Latvian Grandma Inez is all I have left. Her whole life has been about her family. She’s probably racked up more frequent flyer miles than plenty of Fortune 500 CEOs. My sister and I saw her almost every summer we spent with our dad. One day my dad and stepmom were at work, and she walked my sister, our friend, and me five miles each way to the lake to go swimming.

I have so many pillows, and bags, and even a quilt she sewed. She’s made all her own clothes for as long as I can remember, and when my sister came down in December, she brought some pants Grandma had made for our daughter that she won’t fit in for probably two more years.

20120320-184734.jpgGrandma also made this placemat for her, because if you’re not eating five meals a day, you’re wasting away. Grandma’s explanation of how to use it: ‘She can eat her cereal on one side and look at these bears, then she can move her bowl to the other side and look at these bears.’ I can hear it in her voice now.

Three weeks ago we found out she has cancer and a lung infection, which are canceling out each others’ treatment. Today the doctors are sending her home to die. They gave her about two weeks. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to Virginia to see her. I love her so much, and I want her to know that. I just have to hope that maybe, since I haven’t gotten my miracle yet, it was being saved for her instead. But mostly I fear that it wasn’t.

I wish that my children could have met any of these wonderful people. I don’t understand why I got Frosted Flakes, and my children will only have secondhand memories.

At least I can guarantee that they get secondhand memories, and make sure that they know about the people who helped me be here today.

I miss my family.


12 Comments on “Relativity”

  1. 35life says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I chuckled at the placemat story. 🙂 Memories are good things to hold on to. My grandpa passed away several years ago and I wished I had kids to meet him. I have one grandparent left, two parents separated by an ugly divorce and one in-law. Wish I (and future kids) got to meet my husband’s dad.

  2. jjiraffe says:

    What a beautiful post about your family. I am so sorry about your grandmother. (((Hugs)))

  3. Trisha says:

    I am so so sorry for your family. It is never easy to face the death of a loved one. You family sounds amazing and they are lucky to have you say such wonderful things about them.

    ICLW #61

  4. tigger62077 says:

    I’m glad you have those memories to make your family come alive for your children. *many hugs* being sent your way!

  5. peg says:

    I completely understand your feelings on all of this. Of my grandfathers, two died before I was born, one died when I was 3 and one when I was 5. I don’t have many memories of them. Of grandmothers, Two died before I was born, one when I was 15 and my step-great-gramma when I was 18. I have one grandmother left. She’s 86 and luckily in good health. We had a health scare with her last summer and I was horribly bothered by it. The idea that my children would never get to meet her because IF was stealing that away. I had the same fears two years ago when my father had multiple-bypass surgery. Sitting in the waiting room and thinking “what if my kids never get to meet my dad… he’s so awesome and they might not get to meet him”. At that point, we had only been TTC for a year, so it wasn’t as in my face, but it still hurt.

    Treasure what time you have left – call her, write her a letter, make sure she knows how much you cherish her and that you will make sure you children know her.

    hugs – I know it’s so hard.

    ICLW #24

  6. So sorry about your Grandmother. Beautiful post. I know exactly how you feel about the second hand memories. The sad thing for me is if I had gotten pregnant without any problems my Poppy and PopPop (great grandpa) could have met my child.

  7. amy says:

    Hey there From ICLW!!!

    I can understand how you feel. I am an only child of a single parent who was also a single parent and I only have a grandmother left. It makes for a lonely existance!

  8. Lucky you have a memory of one of your great-grandparents! I only knew/met my grandparents.

    I miss my family too 🙂

  9. Jennifer says:

    Dropping by with ICLW! Your photo blog project is interesting.

  10. Casey B says:


    I’m a first timer from ICLW. I’m sorry to hear of your losses, and especially sorry to hear of the impending loss of your grandmother. For your sake and for the sake of your children, I hope there’s some kind of reprieve afoot.

    Thinking of you, and wishing you peace and strength


  11. dspence says:

    I am so, so sorry. I hope you are able to travel.

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