I have my grandfather's hazel eyes. I know this might seem like a fairly obvious statement to anyone who knows how genetics work. But it’s an interesting thing to me because, up until a couple of years ago, we didn’t know that my grandfather had hazel eyes. So it was always a bit of a mystery where my hazel eyes came from growing up, since we didn't know anyone else in our family with hazel eyes. And it’s also something that happens to be on my mind recently because both of my grandparents have passed away over the course of three months.
I’ve been lucky enough to not really experience much of this kind of loss in my family up until this point, and now I find that one of the main ways that I have been coping is thinking about the pieces of them that live on in me. It’s a truly beautiful thing that when you love someone, they’re never completely gone because you can’t truly love someone and be uninfluenced by them. So because my way of working through things is always to write about them, here is my celebration of all the pieces of my grandparents that are very much alive in me.
My grandmother was the most optimistic and cheerful person that most people have ever met, and one of the ways that cheerfulness manifested was through an eclectic assortment of earrings. Grandma had earrings for every holiday and occasion and outfit and color that you could imagine. I have now inherited many of those earrings, and let me tell you, they are a hit with fourth graders. I’ve also taken up crocheting, which was something that Grandma always did. She taught me how to when I was younger, but I never really got into it until now. I see why she did it so much. It’s very calming, almost meditative. Before she passed away, Grandma managed to crochet baby blankets for all of her grandchildren so that we at least have one blanket made for our children that will be from their great grandma. That giving nature and great love for her family was such a big part of her. Grandma also loved to cook. Loved to care for people and make sure everyone was fed and content and happy. That trait is definitely alive and well in me. In fact, I’m not sure if feeding people is an official love language, but it would for sure be top of my list if it was. And Grandma loved the holidays, which is also something that I carry with me today. She thought that the holidays should be a special time of year. A time to share with family and other people who you love. A time to give and to smother your house in decorations that make you happy. These didn’t have to be the decorations that everyone else appreciated. Like her coloring books, which were filled with any assortment and combination of colors that happened to speak to her at the moment, she believed decorations should be what bring joy into your house. And in my delight in my Christmas lights, that trait continues.
Grandpa was not very much like Grandma, and in some ways, I am a little more similar to him. Unlike Grandma, he was not the biggest people person. I get it. I get it a lot. After a full day of people I need to not see anyone for a good long while to recharge. Grandpa was also a super creative person. When I was little, we would sit at the kitchen table in their apartment, and grandpa and I would paint together. We always painted on paper plates. Were there canvases? Yes. Did we use them? Never. I don’t know why we always used the paper plates, but it worked for us. Today, I use actual canvases, but much of my love of art began on those cheap paper plates. I also remember him making these little buildings and structures for mini figurines. They didn’t really serve any purpose, except as a way to busy his hands. The stuffed dragon on my bookshelf speaks to a similar sort of creative personality. And grandpa was the greatest storyteller. At dinner, he would tell stories about playing baseball in the streets of Brooklyn. He would use the salt and pepper shakers to map out where everything was and manage to keep my attention, despite my complete lack of interest in baseball. I guess the storytelling trait could be genetic. I just happen to put mine in writing.
Both grandma and grandpa appreciated their music too, albeit in different ways. Grandma liked her worship CDs, while grandpa often listened to old Italian opera. One thing was the same, though. Both of them had a tendency to sing along in a way that didn’t match most of the words or the tune or anything else about the song. But they enjoyed it. And I enjoy music too, even if the music I make doesn’t always sound so perfect.
So I guess the point of this, other than being a bit of a therapeutic exercise for me, is to encourage anyone else who is grieving that whoever you’re missing has not lost all connection to you. I will say again that if you love someone, it is impossible to go untouched by their influence. So look for the ways to recognize the people you’re missing when you look in the mirror. Recognize their work in the things that you create. Find peace, knowing that they did not leave you completely without them. And know that there is so much beauty in a legacy of love.