ON FAMILY AND GRATITUDE
My mom’s side of my family gets together pretty frequently. Many of us live within driving distance and so it’s not uncommon for the locals to get together for a family brunch or birthday celebration. I’ll admit that I’ve often taken this for granted, forgetting how unique it is to have a family that not only lives close by, but enjoys being together. This past weekend really made me stop and think about how grateful I am.
A few weeks ago, my brother Mike finished grad school with a Masters in Social Justice Education and his teaching certification. A major accomplishment for anyone, but given the fact that this was an accelerated year-long program and that he and my sister-in-law had a baby in November, this was a very special occassion. The entire family wanted to celebrate in a big way and since Mike and Emma live in Vermont, we decided to do it there. While it’s true that my family gets together fairly regularly, it’s almost always local. So going away for the weekend was kind of a big deal. In large part because of my grandparents.
I’ve written about my grandparents a few times on the blog, but they’re special enough to do it again. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to be 35 years old with 3 energetic, independent, generally healthy, and mentally with-it grandparents. My dad’s mother, Granny, lives in Maryland/Florida and my mom’s parents, Nana and Popoo, live near me in New Jersey. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that my three grandparents have danced at my wedding, played with my son, and are experiencing this pregnancy with me. And sometimes, I completely take it for granted. I can’t help it - they have always been in my life and it’s easy to feel like they always will be. They are the foundation of our family. But this past year, my family had to deal with a reality check when my 93 year old, WWII Veteran, Boy Scout loving Popoo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I think it took us all by surprise - the idea that anything could slow this man down seemed impossible.
I won’t get into the details of Popoo’s disease here. Suffice it to say, we’ve had our ups and downs, but on the whole, he’s doing incredibly well. He’s reacting well to his treatments and my Nana takes wonderful, loving care of him. So well, that I can sometimes convince myself that everything is normal and that Popoo is fine. But the truth was that spending a weekend in Vermont was going to be tough and we all desperately wanted it to work out.
And it did. My mom drove Nana and Popoo so they wouldn't have to worry about driving or public transportation. They stayed in a lovely hotel 15 minutes from Mike and Emma’s house. They rested when they needed to, they joined us when they wanted to and from their comfortable seats on the patio, they watched four generations of their family enjoying each other’s company. We had a big BBQ on Saturday night with delicious food and even better company.
On Sunday morning, I sat on that patio next to my Popoo, listening to him tell stories about the Victory Garden he planted before going into the service over 70 years ago. I watched my husband engage in conversation with my aunt and uncle. I watched my first cousins playing tag on the grass with my son. I watched my nephew get tickled and kissed by my mom. And I felt a type of gratitude that was so overwhelming it almost knocked me over.
So I have a goal for this week. When Avi throws food on the floor or yells ‘no at the top of his lungs; when the dishes pile up in the sink or I forget to take the clothes out of the washing machine - I’m going to try to remember this quote:
“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s word.”