I want to honor the loving support of grandparents raising grandchildren. Our family of grandmas raised grandkids for two generations. In the fifties and sixties, my dad’s mother lived with us and took care of my brother and me, while my parents worked full time. Grandma Brown was old, maybe late seventies, and I got away with doing whatever I wanted, because she couldn’t chase me down. I never doubted for a second that my grandma loved me, and she’s the one who taught me what she loved, literature, opera and writing. Grandma Brown was there, foibles and all, with those powdered sugar stuffed dates she made for snacks.
My boys knew that my mother stood by them and truly loved them, too, all of her life. When my life was at the most difficult stage, two dead marriages and divorces, I was a single mom with a five-month old, returning to California after living in the Northwest for over fifteen years. She invited me back to the Bay Area. With a tiny amount of retirement dough from eight years of teaching, enough for beans, rice and rent, I started over.
My mother knew I had a bad second marriage going, and she loved me enough to say so to my face, especially when I didn’t want to hear a word about it from her. She nailed it exactly, said my marriage was like “mixing ink and axel grease.” That second marriage was also doomed from the start, different values being a very big reason. I knew in my bones I was leaving that man, either at age thirty-two or forty-two. What was I thinking? Well, that’s too long a story for this blog. It’s in the memoir. It was my mom who offered me a one-time way out of what looked like no way, and I thank God every day that she offered. I never would have asked for help, pride being pride. She had a rental, back in my childhood neighborhood, and for reduced rent I could afford, so I didn’t feel like a total mooch, she let me live there. How lucky is that, to be given a chance to return to Marin County, with what it costs???
For the next few years, the two of us raised my firstborn. I had to attend California teaching certification classes (more school), and worked part time until I got another fulltime teaching position. I paid a neighbor for morning daycare, and Mom cared for him during the afternoons for free, when he took naps at her place. She didn’t criticize me, and her lack of judgment gave me courage. Mostly, she reminded me how to laugh when I wasn’t laughing. Lucky for all of us, she loved being a grandma.
My life improved with work, sobriety, and a then I found a true husband-partner. Mom went so far as to help with that second child too, same routine, letting him take naps in the afternoons while I worked. She made sacrifices for us. Mom went farther, also drove both kids to and from piano lessons, swimming and whatever after school activities they did through the years. She fed them both Mother’s pink and white icing cookies with little sprinkles.They loved them. She let them watch TV with their faces two feet from the tube and shoes on her bed, which was her favorite way to watch TV. She taught them how to play cards, and called them hard on cheating. Because we didn’t have to pay for her to watch those boys, we could save money for their future college tuitions. She saved and put the oldest through University. She paid forward.
Only about two days before my mother died, she was full-on ready to get in her car and drive my youngest to his piano lesson. I can still see her back as she struggled down the hallway toward the garage door, in no shape whatsoever to be driving, but still willing. She went to the hospital instead, and she didn’t come home.
My mother’s commitment to my children was the most precious of all gifts I received. It lives on. Both grown sons love elders, and respect life, aging and understand human limitations. They felt safe with her, knowing Grandma’s was the place to go when things at home got rough. She welcomed them every time, “Hello, Lovey” and her sweet voice rings forever in my heart. Thank you truly.