She wasn’t a doctor, at least not one with an M.D. behind her name. She wasn’t a leader, except to her fifteen children and their spouses and children. She wasn’t a rock star, except to those of us who were blessed to have her in our lives.
She was my grandmother.
My grandmother and I on my first birthday, January 23, 1978. If she were still alive today, she would be celebrating her 114th birthday.
I was her forty-first grandchild. That’s right. The number four, followed by the number one. And despite a grandson being born four years later (my younger brother Jason), bringing the count to forty-two, not to mention more great- and great-great- (and great-great-great) grandchildren than a person could count (and that are still being brought into this world), I felt like her one and only grandchild.
Grandma had a way of making you feel as if you mattered, simply because you drew breath. I can remember watching throughout my life the look on her face when she saw the newest member of our family for the first time: Her eyes would light up, her arms would stretch out, and she’d gather close to her heart the newest part of her soul. It didn’t matter how many times before she had embraced a new grandchild, what mattered to her was that she had been given a new life to love, to influence, to teach faith to.
Grandma could make chicken and dumplings like on one else. She taught me the ins and outs of King’s Row, and never once stopped cleaning the dove and quail my Dad, uncles and cousins would bring home on hunting weekends in the fall. My favorite childhood memories include sitting around her kitchen (with the requisite four feet of cigarette smoke hanging from the ceiling), and seeing her lit up with joy at having her family surrounding her, running up her back porch steps to throw open the screen door to hug her after driving from Oklahoma City and later Dallas to visit her in Chanute, Kansas, to the fact that she never once said no to my cousin Amy and myself squeezing into her full-size bed with her, long after Amy and I had grown taller than Grandma.
She never once forgot a birthday for any of her children, their spouses, or her many grandchildren. She always commemorated Christmas and birthdays and special events with a card.
While there was no blood shared between my grandmother and I (I was adopted at birth), still, Grandma gave me a rosary, the ability to hold on to faith no matter how hard things become and the ability to love unconditionally. three things I carry with me at all times. She also gave me the gift of love and with that gift, the knowledge that I was a blessing and the ability to love my children in a way that will impact not only their lives positively, but the lives of those them come into contact with.
Every year, I write a blog post about my Grandmother. She has been one of the greatest influences in my life, so much so that as an author, the first piece of work I wrote that was ever published was about how inspirational she was. I was seventeen, and my essay, “My Inspiration” was published in the Plano Star Courier. Her impact on my life fueled my words, and today, writing from my heart with total honesty and wide open is what I’m known for.
I write about her every year on her birthday, and every year on the anniversary of the day she was called to Heaven to join those members of our family that had passed on before her, several of which were sons and daughters she lost to war, to cancer, to heart disease. I write about the most impacting person on my life, the person who kept me from straying from being a good person by her love and her example of faith and never giving up, no matter the odds. I might not always publish what I’ve written about her, but I always write in an effort to find the words to express how incredible of a person she was and how very blessed I was to have been the recipient of her love and faith.
But words are poor ways of expressing what cannot be expressed. So I’ll do it as simply as I possibly can, because I will never find the right words. Grandma, thank you for all you have taught me. Thank you for your example of love, of faith, of hope. Thank you for showing me true strength and for never once faltering in your beliefs about God, and life, and family and love. I love you, and I miss you every day.