The Things We Leave Behind

Tuesday morning I went to make my morning tea and found a whole group of tea bags missing. I knew exactly what happened to them.

One of the grands had been making deliveries all day Monday and I guess this one was scheduled for the next day.

On Friday I opened my kitchen utility drawer and found this.

Another grand had been here the day before.

I laughed at both surprises and immediately sent pics to the parents, and reminded them how they did the same thing when they visited my parents in Ohio. Invariably a day or two after returning home, I’d get a phone call from Mom telling me she’d ‘found a surprise’ one of my kids had left in one of her cupboards. She’d be crying – both from laughter and from missing us.

Of course I thought of Mom as I found my own surprises last week, understood completely her joy of being a grandma. And she was a great one. We lived five states away, yet she managed to make sure my kids knew her and knew she was thinking of them. She loved sending care packages with the toys from McDonald’s Kids Meals. She worked at the DMV and made my two older ones bike licenses using their photos and a template of a driver’s license. I’m sure we still have them somewhere. She loved finding handprints from all her grands on the front door, and could barely bring herself to clean them off.

She and Dad made the trip to South Carolina for First Communions and Confirmations, and even a Thanksgiving and a Christmas, though we were living in a one room cottage at the time. It was a tight squeeze, but she rolled with it. They also came down and made things better when my daughter was going through chemo, and when my youngest son was born . . . a week after Hurricane Hugo devastated our area and she needed to see for herself we had running water and electricity.

That smiling little sweetie on the left is the sleepy little sweetie in the above picture.

 She always arrived with her sense of humor intact, her concern mostly under control, her love spilling over everything.

But most often we made the trip north, where the kids had the run of the house, the front and back yards, and the neighborhood. They couldn’t wait to make the drive and spend time with their grandparents. They couldn’t wait to make Mom laugh. She laughed heartily and it was infectious. She even laughed when my two older ones got into her pack of cigarettes and broke each one in half because they wanted her to quit smoking. She took it as a sign of love, not of disrespect or meanness. My oldest in particular liked playing pranks on her and she welcomed it, gave back as good as she got. Packing up three children after a two week visit, it’s no wonder we left things behind.  

Mom was eager to learn computers when they first arrived at the DMV, often being the only one from her office going to the classes. She was always up for a road trip, no matter how simple or ordinary, or for the adventure of something new. When a Meijer’s opened about 25 miles from them, she convinced Dad to make a late-night shopping trip because they’d never shopped at midnight before and she thought it might be fun. I can still hear her giggling as she told me about it.

She always looked for the positive side of everything. Once she, my sisters and I, and the grands made the hour and a half  trip to Cedar Point (an amusement park on Lake Erie) only to be rained out. No big deal. Mom found a bowling alley and we still had a fun day.

On my last birthday, I reached an age mom never did. It was, and still is, a sobering thought. She died way too early. Now that I’ve reached her prime, I realize how youthful and vibrant she was. I think of her when I’m on the floor playing with my grands, when I’m playing chase around the house, when we go for walks and have to stop for ten minutes to be mesmerized by an ant hill. I think of her when my sister shares her joy and exuberance over the antics of her grands.

This week it will be 24 years since her passing, and she would have relished these years.  She would have seen her first grandchild, the prankster, wed and become a dad himself. She would have witnessed the weddings of six of her grandchildren, and the births of eight great-grands. I think of my own grandma–Mom’s mom–who lived to be eighty, and how until the day she died her eyes would light up when she saw her grands and great-grands. Mom’s would have too, accompanied by her big smile and such laughter.

This week I’ll have my semi-annual cup of McDonald’s coffee in her honor, appreciate and honor all the things she left behind.

This photo of Mom with one of my sisters and me, and all but one of her grands, taken a year before she died.
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2 Responses to The Things We Leave Behind

  1. Diane Williams says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog today. You definitely have a way with words and the gift of making the reader feel as if she is right in the middle of every event. I can almost hear the laughter and feel the love & happiness your family shared.

    • Thank you so much Diane. That is probably the highest compliment a writer can receive – that we made you feel like you’re right in the middle of the story. Love, laughter & happiness definitely filled our house while we were growing up, even our friends fell in love with our parents. We were truly blest. Thank you for reading and commenting, that means a lot.
      Wishing you a good week!
      ~ Kim

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