If these were your grandparents, your mind would be an endless treasure trove of memories.
You would remember the weeks they took care of you when your parents were out of town, and the sandy summer vacations at their house on Cape Cod, with the creepy spiders in the outdoor shower and the chicken salad sandwiches made with sliced poultry cooked fresh that morning. Which is why you were always at the beach 3 hours later than you were supposed to be. But no matter.
If these were your grandparents, you would remember the Halloween when they dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf and drove down to Hartford from Springfield just to scare the living daylights out of you spend Halloween with you and your little brother, wee preschoolers that you were.
You would remember all-out feasts on every holiday. Huge, incredible meals, all made from scratch, at a table set with the best china and silver, with candles lit. With aunts, uncles, and cousins on all sides, but with your grandparents at the head and foot of the table, always, trying to cajole a grandchild into saying Grace. And a great many homemade pies.
You would also remember that they came to every single theatrical performance, violin recital, and solo in the church choir that you ever had. And that although your grandmother panned the show half the time, you were always a star as far as she was concerned. If you were the athletic type, you would recall that as long as they had grandchildren in high school, they drove themselves to field hockey games, gymnastics meets, and dance shows, even though they were in their late 70s and early 80s. Even in the rain and when they’d have to drive home at night. From another state. Even when they weren’t supposed to be driving at all.
You’d recall the multi-college tour, when your grandmother came along with you and your mother. You’d understand as an adult why it was special, even though the point was rather lost on you at age 17, and you would finally be amused by your grandmother’s comment that the students at Haverford were far too serious for you and that you’d be much happier elsewhere. And you’d realize that she was right.
You’d remember that your grandfather had a joke a minute when you were growing up, just as he does now. That he was the one to write the corniest things you ever heard of in your autograph book in elementary school, and that he was always the punniest guy in the room. That as soon as you got married, he started including your husband in the old fashioned off-color jokes you’d never heard him tell.
But most of all you’d remember generosity, pure and simple. Generosity of spirit and generosity of time. Of going all out for others, no matter who they were. Graciously hosting relatives for days at a time. And even now, giving gifts to you and your children that are beyond their means but heartfelt. Because to them, there is no other way to be.
If they were your grandparents, you would remember all of this and more. You would realize all over again how very lucky you are that they are still in your life, and what a gift it is to have had them for 37 years and counting.
And if one of them had a stroke and a blocked carotid artery that was inoperable, and had to be in a rehab facility for weeks, leaving the other one – nearly blind – alone in an unfamiliar apartment, every single one of those memories would flood your consciousness simultaneously and you would simply start making plans to drop everything for a while to be with them. Even if it took the better part of a day just to cancel and rearrange five days’ worth of your everyday life. Even if you had to pay a premium for the last-minute flight and hotel room, and leave your kids for an extended period for the second time in a month.
You would have to shake your head in amazement when your grandmother asks, “How could we be so fortunate?” when she hears of all the support that is lined up from those who live far away, because you would know that it is we who are fortunate, those of us in Chicago and San Francisco, in Spain, Austria, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, and – soon – Iraq, who are fortunate enough to call them our grandparents.
You would go. Of course you would. You just would.