Monday, November 26, 2012

82 and three-quarters

My paternal grandmother joined us this year for Thanksgiving.  Nana Jean.  When I was growing up, she was always Grandma Jean... but when she learned she was going to become a great-grandmother, she decided that she wanted a new name.  When I learned recently that she called her own grandmother Nana, the change all suddenly made a lot of sense.

Nana Jean is 85 years old, still lives on her own, and is very active socially and in her church.  She lives in New Jersey and toughed out several days in a heatless apartment during Hurricane Sandy.  She became a widow at the tender age of 52, but didn't let the loss of the love of her life stop her from loving life.  She worked full time at an executive secretary at Rutgers University and is an avid Rutgers sports fan.

She traveled to North Carolina shortly after Luke and Will were born, and was able to visit them in the NICU.  Her tenacity and willingness to travel and provide support has always amazed me.  She kept tabs on them through the blog and phone calls, and has had the boys on her prayer list at church since the day they were born. 

Nana Jean is the most frequent commenter on the blog.  She sends me emails after almost every blog post, giving me her thoughts on things that I have said or stories that she wants me to hear.  I am grateful that she is around and willing to share such wisdom and family history with me.  It really helps to put things in perspective sometimes.

Some of Nana Jean's wisdom:

On people with disabilities not letting their disability stop them from reaching their dreams:

I must have told my Dad's story hundreds of times; he was my hero with one leg inches shorter than the other and withered. He was born in 1887 and had polio when he was still a toddler. My grandmother didn't expect him to survive all those years ago; I think about him especially when I read about Luke. My Dad, Charles Albert Pascall, walked with a God awful limp for all of his 81 years. When he was little, he was often called gimpy. We had a next door neighbor who called him the same thing. He worked until he was 72 years old as a respected newspaper reporter; he had the bluest eyes and the most wonderful smile I have ever seen. Before elevators and when courthouse steps were many, he spent most of his days walking his beat always with a smile. When he wasn't working at his profession, he was an avid fisherman, gardener, and Dad. I need to put into words his story for Luke to know some day. Luke's story today brought back so many memories of what a gutsy man my Dad was. And he's the Pascall for Luke's middle name.

On little kids acting funny after being separated from a parent (like Hopkins this year):

I'm reminded that when Vicki was born, we were a week in the hospital. That's the way it was done way back then. I didn't see my 17 month old little boy for a couple of days after we got home; when I went to Grandma Baldauf's to pick him up, he looked at me for a couple of seconds and ran for his grandpa. My heart was breaking, but it was only for a few seconds when he came running back to me. One of those unforgettable moments. I know how hard separations can be. Hang in there.

On letting go of anger and hurt:

I learned a long time ago not to hang onto hurt and anger. Life is just too short for that.  There comes a time in life to get on with getting along with everyone.

On strained family dynamics:

I want them to get along.  They just don't. 

On sibling rivalry:

My youngest great-grandson is going to be a people pleaser all of his life if he doesn't drive you out of your mind before he grows up. He is a charmer even while he's breaking things, isn't he? He will probably aggravate Luke more often than not all the time they're growing up. Now I understand why my brother didn't like me very much until we got very old. He was just shy of five years old when I was born, and I was the achiever (and kind of sneaky I'm afraid) and got away with lots of stuff that he didn't. I wasn't as adorable looking as Matt though.

On being herself:

I am well; I am feisty.

Nana has always had a special relationship with Luke, Will and Matt.  But something that happened this weekend really caught my eye and taught me something new about this woman I have known all my life.  It was bright and early, and she was sitting on the couch alone as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse came on the television.  Suddenly Matt crawled up next to her and cuddled in.

Matt isn't always the cuddliest of kids, especially now that he's two.  So Nana took this situation as a gift, and snuggled in to watch the Mickey Mouse episode.  Within minutes, the two of them were laughing and conversing about Martian Mickey, Toodles, and Pete the Cat.  You'd never know that their births were separated by 82 and three-quarters years.  They were like best friends.

I've learned so much about life from my grandmother.  I am so grateful and fortunate to have her so healthy and an active part of my life, and in my family's life!  I love her humor and the fact that she can find relevance in both her past and present.  I love that when I sit back and listen, she tells me stories about people that passed before I could remember but that she loved with all her heart.  What a gift.

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