I returned from college over an hour late…again. But she was sitting patiently, reading the newspaper. It was past 3 pm but she had not eaten, because she knew I hated eating alone.
I threw a mother of a teenage tantrum, hurting her with my harsh words. I could see her eyes glaze over and her lips quiver ever so slightly, but I slammed the door and left. When I returned she was waiting, because she knew I hated eating alone.
I was late for college. She called out ‘Take care; God bless you’, but I was in too much of a rush to reply or even smile. I returned home even later than usual; she was waiting at the table, hungry but without complaint, because she knew I hated eating alone.
I was not even twenty and I thought Grandma would live forever. The brashness of youth did not permit me to tell her how much I appreciated her waiting up for me, day after day, so that I wouldn’t have to eat alone. The insensitivity of the cocky teens made me blind to the way I took her and her love for granted. Each time this hot-headed youngster gave free rein to her tongue, a selfish voice inside encouraged the delusion, ‘Granny will understand’.
Did she? Did she know how much I loved her? Does she know how much I still love her, how much I miss her, how sorry I am? Does she know that this middle-aged mother of two, cannot, even today, think of her beloved ‘Granny’ without tears choking her? Does she know that over thirty years after her death, I still long to place my head in her lap and feel her stroke my hair, smoothening them, gently disentangling stubborn knots? Does she know that I miss playing checkers with her, and listening to her sing, and hear her reading her newspaper, sharing something of interest, which somehow always made sense to me because it was she who had narrated it?
A voice deep within my soul says ‘yes, she knows’ but I pray for one more chance to see her, to embrace her, to say ‘‘I am sorry, Granny. I love you. Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for putting up with a teenager who felt so deeply that her feelings scared her. Thank you for understanding that. Thank you for knowing that teenagers find it very difficult to say ‘sorry’ and ‘I love you ’.
I want one more chance to bury my head in your lap, and cry all the tears I have never shed. I want to hear you sing, and this time sing along with you.
I want you to know my children, your great grand children. I want them to see the erect posture that can be maintained by a proud and dignified 80 year old, so that they learn to stand tall and strong. I want them to hear the story of your struggles, your sacrifices, your victories, so that they learn how to be self-taught, self-made, self-responsible.
You are not here today, my dearest Granny, but because you were you, I am what I am, and through me you teach my children to be selfless, caring, honest and brave, for you taught me all that when you lived. But only I can teach them not to wait too long before they say ‘I love you’, that there is no humiliation in saying ‘I am sorry’, that the greatness of a human being lies in respecting another, and that ‘thank you’ is a word that forges unbreakable bonds. Only I can teach them this, for you taught me that in the way you lived.
So many long years ago, you waited for me, dear Granny; today I wait for you. Love waits, and in its waiting grows strong, and in its strength the tears flow freely for the Granny I loved… and lost.