Over the past five years, both of my husband’s parents passed away, leaving a gaping hole in our family and our hearts. As Sept. 6 inches nearer, I get a lump in my throat as my kids’ schools announce their annual Grandparents’ Day activities.
My oldest was extremely close to his grandmother. When he was sick from school, she would get online and play games with him while they talked on speakerphone. She was always cooking and baking, organizing games and crafts, and spoiling each of us with thoughtful gifts and treats. She was the kind of grandma who went down waterslides and would take your first-grader through a haunted house, both of them screaming the entire way.
My father-in-law was a quiet nature lover who could identify any bird that graced his presence. He tended for ailing animals and knew just where to spot deer. Now, whenever a cardinal visits our backyard or a hummingbird whirrs past or a monarch hovers around the screen door, I think fondly of him.
And I tell all of this to my children. My youngest, especially, has fewer and fading memories of daddy’s parents and is always eager to learn more. Whenever their grandparents pop in my mind, I’ll mention it. “That butterfly reminds me of Grandpa stopping by to say, ‘Hey, hey!’”
I’ll even tell them, through my tears, if I’m upset after accidentally shattering one of Grandma’s vases.
Besides talking about them, we try our best to keep their memories and traditions going in tangible ways.
- We get cotton candy in honor of Grandma at fairs and carnivals.
- On Christmas morning, we make everyone open presents one by one, just the way she did.
- At the beach, we always end up at Grandpa’s favorite spot.
- When we traveled across Europe, we lit a candle in their honor at every church we entered.
- And I especially love making my mother-in-law’s recipes from her stained, handwritten notebook pages. Her candy turtles are stuff of lore, and even though they’re difficult and time-consuming, I aim to make them at least once a year.
So when Grandparents Day rolls around, we don’t hide from it. We talk about them, and I will probably cry a little and give my husband extra hugs and text my sister-in-law. We might look at pictures of Grandma and Grandpa or watch videos, though, honestly, the videos are still really hard for us.
I go to the school activities myself, a stand-in for the two glorious people who are only there in spirit but would have loved to watch their grandchildren grow into teenagers and young adults.
My own parents are in good health but since they’re six hours away, we don’t expect them to show up for school activities. But we’ll call or Skype or send a card or special drawing to make sure they know we’re thinking of them.
Nonetheless, Grandparents Day is still hard. So is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Their birthdays. And all the milestones and special events we celebrate without them.
But we do our best.
And we will continue to honor their memories, keeping them alive always in their grandchildren’s hearts.