There are certain things in life that I never thought I would know how to do at 25. My grandmother’s surgery has taught me so much. Hopefully, I will never need to know these things for anyone else, but chances are, someday, I will be in this situation again, if not for my parents then for my future husband, or god forbid, my future children.
My family has never worked so well together. I am an adult. I am being treated as such. I am kept informed, and allowed to handle things that seem so grown-up. If anything good has come of my grandmother being sick, the fact that my parents realize they can trust me and that I am competent enough to handle serious problems is right up there.
This woman, my grandmother, is like a third parent to me. She is the one who taught me to be an independent woman. She taught me it is ok to be tough as a woman, she taught me how to do crossword puzzles, play scrabble, read a Zagat’s Restaurant Guide, take the bus. She taught me about my grandfather, and investing, and giving to charity, and how family doesn’t have to have the same last name. Or even the same blood line.
She is 82 and is still technically working. She is just on sabbatical. She is an executive vice president for an advertising agency in New York City. She is my step grandmother, and the only grandmother I have ever known. She didn’t marry my grandfather until she was 45. She was a career woman before it was allowed. She broke off an engagement at 25 to a sweet, redheaded gentleman who was the manager of a movie theater (a very respectable job in those days) because she couldn’t have a decent conversation with him. She taught me to never settle. She didn’t and she found the love of her life. She is still in love with him. And he passed away 12 years ago.
Because of her, and for her, I have now learned how to comfort someone in critical care, I have learned how hard it is to see someone you love in the ICU, how awful it is to not be able to physically help them. How important it is to hold someone’s hand, and say, “I love you.” How important family really is. How much I will do for them. I had no idea what I would do. What would become completely unimportant and what would suddenly become the only thing worth worrying about.
Because of her, and for her, I learned how to find a quality rehabilitation center. I learned what to ask, and why you ask it, and worse, how many people never ask those questions. I learned what it is like to have a distant relative try to weasel her way into my grandmother’s heart while not having an ounce of understanding about who my grandmother is, and not caring. I learned how a sister who has been ailing for years now can suddenly become the women I remember from my childhood when her sister really needed her. How she could be there for her sister who has always been there for her.
I learned how good friends can be to you. I learned how much a simple phone call to see how I am doing can mean. I learned how family is family even if you haven’t seen them in years. And how it doesn’t matter that you haven’t seen them in years. I learned the meaning of the word, Matriarch. I learned that most people don’t have an 82 year old grandmother like mine. I learned how lucky I am. How important she is. How much I miss her. How much I want to talk to her like I used to. How much our weekly calls mean to me, and how that time is missing in my life right now. I learned how much I really do tell her. How much she tells me. How important our conversations are, even if some days they are just a quick 5 minutes while I am driving to the store. I learned she is a confidant. She is friend. She is one of my best friends.
And I learned I am not ready for her to go. I learned I have a lot to still learn from her and that I can’t wait to pick up where we left off.
I learned just how much I love her.