12 Sep Slice of Life: She Was My Friend #SOL17 #TWTBlog
My husband’s grandmother
My children’s great-grandmother
My mother-in-law’s mom
I struggled with all of these names last week when I shared the news of her passing with friends, family and colleagues. During her wake, when I introduced myself as her grandson’s wife, someone said, “Clare, she thought of you as a granddaughter. You were her granddaughter.” While the sentiment was touching, I don’t agree.
I called her Nana. She was Nana to everyone around her, that is what happens when you live to be 99 and a half years old. But I don’t feel like I am saying goodbye to my nana. I have been trying to figure it out and I have been thinking about it over the past two weeks. What was she to me? What will I miss? How did she fit into my life? How do I finish the sentence, My …. ?
Nana was my friend. I know it sounds strange to consider a woman more than twice my age a friend, but for the last twenty-four years she was a true friend to me.
She was the friend I called as a young mom when my life was out of control trying to balance the demands of kids and work. She always found a way to “need” me and get me to bring the boys down to her house. We would arrive ready to help her, but in fact she was ready to help me. This became our weekly ritual. I would bring the boys to her house and find a quiet spot to work all day. She took care of the kids, fed us dinner, bathed them and sent us home ready for bed.
She was the friend who helped me realize the depth of my strength. I will always remember the moment of weakness I had with her. She needed me to help her care for her husband as he battled cancer. One day when it was too much for me, I walked away. I told her I couldn’t do it. I told her I was afraid of death. I told her I was not strong enough. She walked over to me. She held me firmly by the shoulders, looked me straight in eyes and told me she never met anyone stronger.
She was the friend who was a true working mom role model for me. Nana worked her entire life. She worked because she had to and she worked because she loved it. Nana was a woman before her time. She understood the personal sacrifice and pressure involved with two working parents trying to raise a family. Nana knew I didn’t have choice about working and reminded me that just because I had to didn’t mean I couldn’t love it. Nana helped me navigate the guilt of a working mom. She always had words of wisdom and reminded me to never doubt my intelligence at work or my dedication to my kids.
She was the friend who gave the best hugs. They always lasted the perfect amount of time.
She was the friend who always found a quiet moment to tell you what you needed to hear. She would pull me aside to fold laundry, wash dishes or shuck the corn and use the opportunity to give advice, to ask a poignant question or to tell me to trust my instincts.
She was the friend who helped me care for my own mother. She would come and stay with my mom and our boys to give us a break. She always let my mom believe that she was taking care of Nana when we all knew that was not the case. She allowed my mom to have the dignity of being a grandma taking care of her grandkids.
She was the friend who always held me to high standards and was never afraid to tell me what she thought I needed to hear.
She was a storyteller. Some thought she was getting forgetful and didn’t realize that she was telling the same stories again and again. I think she knew exactly what she was doing. She was purposeful in her choice – it was always a story she felt you needed to hear. Her stories always had a message and these stories reminded us that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Her stories are still with me. I knew her for more than half my life. So much of who I am is because of my friendship with her. I will always hear her laugh when I see a blue jay and remember not to take life too seriously. I will always hear her “gaw” when I play gin rummy and remember we have to do the best we can with the hand we are dealt. I will always see her sitting in her chair when I am on the beach and remember to treasure time with family. I will always feel her presence when I have a cup of tea and remember to pause and appreciate life. Whenever I need a friend, I will think of her stories and remember that she is now a part of me. Nana was her name, but she was my friend.