We’re celebrating my great-grandma’s 99th birthday today. She lives here in Flint, in an assisted-living facility. She’s still got her mental faculties, but needs some help physically.
She’s wonderful. And boy, does she love her family. She only had one child herself. But from that one child came a virtual empire. My grandmother had six kids. She and my grandfather divorced when my mom was about 16. Then my grandmother remarried a widower with five kids.
My mom, the oldest of those kids, had her first child 36 years ago–my older sister Karen. My uncle Jon (my grandmother’s youngest–younger than me by two weeks, in fact) and his wife just had their first child about four weeks ago. Quite a span, eh?
Ten of those eleven kids are married with children (the one that isn’t, my uncle Patrick, is mentally retarded & lives in a group home). And the grandkids are having kids now. Oh yeah. My own mother has seven grandchildren herself!
So this one remarkable woman, my great-grandmother Ardis Wilcox, brought forth one of the most amazing families ever. I love my family. All of them. And my great-grandma loves us all equally.
Even the ones like my sister, and me. The ones that were born out-of-wedlock, at a time when that was shameful and a disgrace to the family. To my great-grandmother, we were never her “illegitimate” grandchildren. Just grandchildren.
There was a period of time back in 1988 when I didn’t see my great-grandmother for several months. I was pregnant with my oldest child, and didn’t want to tell her or my great-grandfather (who was still living at the time). I was afraid I’d break her heart. Well, four days after my daughter was born, my great-grandfather died. I had to see my great-grandma.
We sat and chatted. I didn’t look pregnant, so I thought I could get by without saying anything (although I was still in an awful lot of pain). My great-grandma asked me why I hadn’t been around for so long. And I snapped. I told her everything. She just smiled and patted my hand, and said “I’m sure you did what was best for you and the baby, honey. Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. And don’t ever stay away from me for that long again, young lady, for any reason, or I’ll sic your mother and grandmother on you!”
I’ve always loved my great-grandma, but that just gave me an entirely new respect for her. To not only know someone like that, but be related to her, a direct descendant, my goodness, how lucky can one get?
Happy Birthday, Grandma. I love you.