Hug Your Grandparents (While You Still Can)

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“Yesterday marked three years since my Nana passed. I can’t help but share some of what I have written over the years, both after we lost her and when we began losing her to dementia, and also what I learned from her. Most importantly, hug your grandparents while you can.

These hands. These hands belonged to the feistiest woman I knew. They were always soft and delicate. They comforted me in my hardest times. When I was heartbroken, or lonely, or lost.

They wrapped around me in times of celebration. They rocked me…and my first born. Even as she lost memory of who I was, they still interlaced mine on walks.

The day I took this picture, God blessed me with a beautiful two hours holding these hands, as she held mine back. On this day, for the first time in over a year, she told me she loved me too.

Courtesy of Stephanie K.

I’ll never forget this day as long as I live. It was the last one I saw my grandmother alive. I curled up in her arms, rubbed her back, and stroked her hands. I tried to take her all in.

I always felt my grandmother was a unique woman. She always cared, but sometimes it was in her own way. She never sat down and never stopped talking. She walked every day of her life, sometimes for hours multiple times a day, as long as her body allowed her to do so. She always said, ‘It’s not my business, but…’ then gave you her opinion.

You always knew where you stood with her and knew how she felt. Sugarcoating was not in her arsenal. She called my husband a movie star—I obviously had to keep him. She loved to hold the babies. When her arms were too weak for her to hold my son or my niece, we would help her.

After college, I had a job offer to stay near school after graduation. Instead, I chose to come home. That year, my grandmother moved to Maryland and we all helped look after her. She was still independent, but Nana needed attention. There were times where it was exhausting, but looking back, I’m so grateful for this time we shared. She lived alone and, even after decades, missed my grandfather terribly.

She loved conversation and nothing made her happier than when we stopped by after work or on a Saturday morning to sit on her couch and talk. She always had mints in the candy container ready for us. If she knew we were coming, she made her famous brownies from a box. They were always partially burnt, but we always ate Nana’s brownies—and took the rest home. She wasn’t a cook (I get that from her) and she knew the importance of a good lunch date. I like to think I get that from her, too.

Courtesy of Stephanie K.

Nana loved to dance, sing, play golf, swim, and I honestly can’t remember a time when she wasn’t full of life. Happy, excited, irritated, she gave it all she had. She always was dressed. Even on days she didn’t leave the house. Funny thing is, she hated shopping. Still, even a sweatpant outfit was beaded and had matching clipped earrings. Her ears weren’t pierced. Her jewelry collection was her prized possession.

She had pieces from her travels with my grandfather and more from her mother and family members. She loved to tell us who and where they were from. Nana could tell a story and remembered every detail. I remember taking deep breaths when I heard the same story over and over again. But now I’m grateful, because I know the details.

She was a creature of habit. She had her half banana and OJ every morning for breakfast, watched the news, and took her walk. She was always up early, ready to go. She wore the same perfume for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I still catch a whiff when I walk by someone.

She had a Rhode Island accent we all teased her about but adored. She was unapologetically proud of who she was and where she came from. She was a Christian and loved being in church. Some of my fondest memories are going to church with her, whether it be Easter Sunday in Florida, my summer stay with her in Pennsylvania, or here in Maryland. And for church—you had better be dressed. Church was home. Nana was home.

So today, I pray you all live like Nana. Tell your stories, talk to those you love, and be full of life. Be proud of who you are and where you came from to get here. Enjoy your early mornings, hold all of the babies, keep moving while you can.

And finally, if you are lucky enough to still have a grandparent, call them, hug them, tell them you love them, and take them to lunch to hear that same story over and over again. Oh, how I wish I could.”

Courtesy of Stephanie K.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie K. of Maryland, and originally appeared on her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Stephanie:

‘I’m the last person you’d imagine to be struggling with Kobe’s death today. Why is this white, rural mom so distraught?’: Mom relates to Kobe Bryant as a father, ‘he had to remain calm in the last moments of his daughter’s life’

‘How will you afford it?’ ‘Are you giving up your career?’ It took me 3 years to take a chance. I’m sad I was so surprised.’: Mom realizes the power ‘I’m proud of you’ had on her as she faced difficult decision

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