When I was born I had two grandmothers. That’s true for most children, I suppose. Unfortunately my mother’s mother (Ma, or as we say in the mountains, Maw) died when I was about six and a half. Then, my mother’s father died a few months later on my seventh birthday. I still feel sad for my mom that she lost both parents in less than six months. I also think it was sad for me that this grandmother died when I was so young because she was the grandmother who liked me. I would even go so far as to say she loved me. I can still remember specific sweet gestures from her to me. She told me stories. I would put my head on her lap and she would gently smooth my hair off my face and tuck it behind my ear. She taught me that if you don’t have your toothbrush with you, you can break a small twig off a birch tree and chew on it and it will clean your teeth and freshen your breath. She showed me the leaves and bark of the birch so I could recognize it. She was a good grandma.
I remember that she had dizzy spells. I think it may have been an inner ear problem but I don’t really know. I don’t think there was anything wrong with her heart. She died of cancer. I remember her dizzy spells because when I would ask her to play Ring around the Rosie with me, she would say, “Oh, I can’t do that, Honey. My head’s a-swimmin'” I’m surprised to this day that I can remember her as well as I do since I was so young when she died.
So what about that other grandmother? My dad’s mother. She had six children–three girls and three boys. I think I have figured out that she didn’t like my dad. He was a hell-raiser in school. I’ve heard some wild tales about his escapades. He and his younger brother got in trouble often and my dad was always blamed, never his brother. Dad’s perception was that he was a black sheep and Uncle R could do no wrong. He went to his grave thinking that. I think it did serious damage to his psyche.
I never have figured out why Mama W. didn’t like me. I think my dad made her a grandmother before she wanted to be one because she taught us to call her Mama + our last name. Maybe she was vain. I don’t know. I managed for most of my adult life to let it go (or so I thought). But once I became a grandmother the old questions resurfaced. Why didn’t she like ME? She liked my brother and at least some of my sisters. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t a hell-raiser; I was quite the opposite. I made good grades and I looked like a W with my blond hair and blue eyes.
I have nine grandchildren. Each one is unique and marvelously lovable. Once I realized that my love for ALL my grandchildren was endless and totally unconditional, I became more puzzled than ever. I know now, of course, that it wasn’t me. It was something missing in her. Before she died I came to feel some pity or sympathy or something for her but not enough to establish a relationship with her. I didn’t see her the last twenty or so years of her life. She lived to the ripe old age of 98 or 99. Can’t remember exactly.
My takeaway from this sad grandmother/grandchild disconnect is this: It is the grandparent’s responsibility to develop the relationship with her grandchild. It can and should be a rich and rewarding experience. It’s a natural bond and really doesn’t take much effort when your heart is in the right place. Grammy is my favorite role so far.