Lessons learned from those around the Thanksgiving table..and from those no longer there.
|Word Count: 950
On the Way to Grandmother’s House
By Donna Lowich
Thanksgiving Day was over. We had given thanks for all that we have in our lives, eaten plentiful and delicious food, and enjoyed each other’s company. In this, Thanksgiving 2002 was not much different from any of the past Thanksgivings of recent years. Yes, those sitting at the table had changed--my Dad had passed away 18 years ago, my Grandmother had passed away 16 years ago. The last new member came with the birth of my niece, Kimberly, more than twelve years ago.
During the past dozen years, we had established a few new traditions, one of which is to take turns at the dinner table to speak of that for which we are grateful. This year was no exception as we gathered around the dinner table at my sister’s house. Some lists were poignant, some were amusing, all verbalizing the people and things in our lives for which we feel blessed.
After dinner, we divided into two teams (boys versus girls, as usual) and played a detective game. Soon, too soon, it was time to say goodbye.
My son, Jeff, 21, was going to go out with his friends once he got home, but volunteered to take my mother home. The ride to our house is an hour; it would take him an extra half hour, but he didn’t mind. My mother and Jeff share a special bond. She took care of him during the summer when he was growing up--they went to the movies, had pizza for lunch, and during that time, had grown quite close.
I watched as they walked to Jeff’s car together. There was Jeff, tall and muscular, helping Grandma, small in comparison, as they made their way to the car. He carefully helped her into the car and then hurried to the driver’s side to start the car so it could heat up. I wondered to myself how many times it had been the opposite scenario--when my Mom was the taller, stronger one who helped Jeffrey into the car and made sure he was safe.
Once in the car, Jeff asked Grandma about Thanksgiving when she was growing up. As a first-generation American, her family was very poor. My grandparents could not afford much of a celebration--they knew they had much to be grateful for--they felt it in their hearts, even if they could not put more than the basics on the dinner table.
Jeff spoke little, asking a question now and then, in order to give his Grandma who just turned 85, a chance to talk about her life. He drove a little slower. He wanted to hear more. He knew his friends would wait for him. He would fix that later.
As my mother spoke, Jeff’s eyes filled with tears, but Grandma was strong. When she faltered a bit, he reached over and enveloped her small, fragile hand in his. The warmth of the gesture was symbolized by the warmth of his hand, and was comforting to her. (I know, because I, too, have been the recipient of that strong hand gently enfolding mine in his, during moments of distress).
When they arrived at my mother’s house, Jeff escorted her inside and carried in her packages. He made sure she locked the door.
Out in the car again, Jeff phoned me. He told me all about his conversation with Grandma.
“Mom,” he said with a tone that I rarely hear. “Grandma told me all about her life. She is such an AMAZING woman! She is SO strong! She told me all about Grandpa--about how they met and married, about how much he loved me, about how he had his first heart attack while we were on vacation together, about how much she misses him. And, she told me about how her brother was killed when a car hit his bicycle when he was on his way to work and just seventeen years old. She also told me about your brother (who died at age twelve). She told me about Great-Grandma and how much she had loved me.”
There was a pause. “Mom,” he continued, “I am SO glad I had that time with Grandma! She has had such an unbelievable life! I love her so much!” There was another longer pause. “I have so many people in my life who love me. I really have so much to be thankful for! Thanks, Mom.”
I said, “Jeff, I know how much Great-Grandma and your Grandpa loved you. They doted on you! You are a kind, wonderful person, and people recognize those qualities now, but they were evident even when you were very young.”
Jeff modestly put the compliment aside by simply saying: “I think it is the opposite of that. If I am a good person, it is because I am lucky enough to have had a lot of people love me.”
I am always amazed at Jeff’s ability to verbalize ideas and philosophies that go beyond his young years. I repeated my thanks to him for taking the time to drive Grandma home. I hung up the phone and realized the lesson that these two resilient souls had just taught me on their ride to Grandma’s house.
Their conversation was a peek into their souls, and was Jeff’s link to my grandmother who died when Jeff was still very young. She was known for telling everyone who would listen, what a wonderful great-grandson she had, always following up with what she termed a “Jeffrey story”.
The older I get, the more I realize all that I and my family have to be grateful for, thanks to my Mom, Jeff, and to their ride to grandma’s house.