Throughout college, the checks and my grandparents' location remained unchanged, then, just before I married my first husband, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Medford, Oregon, to a wonderful retirement community: they moved back to the main land but the amount on my checks didn't change. A few years ago, my grandpa and his beautiful, wonderful, kind mind started to separate. He didn't know who Grandma was (although he knew that he loved her), where he was, or who I was. For the last eight years, there have been no cards...no $25 checks....no Grandpa. Then, two days before Christmas last year, God granted Grandpa blessed peace and he passed quietly, in his sleep, at the age of 95. Grandma followed just over five months later, having forgotten everything after 1945, including the fact that Grandpa had gone before her.
(As an aside, my uncle told me a really touching story that I want to share with you. About a week before she died, Grandma was creating a lot of problems for the nurses in the hospital wing of the retirement community. The nurses called my uncle to ask him to talk to her, so he did. When she heard his voice, she said, "They keep telling me that Dad is gone. Why would they tell me that?" My uncle reminded her gently that Grandpa was, indeed, gone, and that he'd talked to her about it several months ago. Grandma got quiet for a minute and then asked my uncle, "How did I take it? Did I cry?" I don't know why that breaks my heart, but it does.)
Anyway, I still think about those cards, and the checks, every October as my birthday approaches. I'm 40 years old and one of the most powerful memories of birthdays past is the check arriving from Grandma and Grandpa, and trying to think what to spend my $25 on. I'd packed that away, however, like so many other childish things. I have adult responsibilities now, like facing my personal demons via painful and expensive visits to the periodontist. Some days, lately, I feel every one of my 14,971 days on Earth.
And then today, a card arrived with a check inside, from Grandpa. My uncle, as the executor of the estate, sent me a check representing 10% of my grandfather's estate, left to me on my grandmother's death. How ironic, I thought, that it should arrive the week of my birthday. I briefly wondered where I'd spend my $25 this year, then I looked at the check and started to cry.
I've been so scared about how we were going to pay off my periodontal work and every other thing on my (over limit) credit card. I cried to TCB the last time we talked because I felt like such a loser for not being able to handle the credit card debt and the condo we can't sell and lose money on every month and the uncertainty of my job plus his job. I worried that the stress of our finances would pull us apart just as he's about to come back. And then my Grandpa and his check gave me the very best gift ever: the gift of financial solvency. It's not enough to pay my credit card off completely and I'm sure TCB will say that I should put part of it in savings instead of toward the credit card, but it will make the credit card balance manageable and that makes me happy. What better 41st birthday present could a girl ask for?