Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I believe in angels

One of my earliest memories is of the checks my grandfather would send for my birthday. Every year, like clockwork, a card would arrive from Grandma and Grandpa with a check inside from Grandpa. The very earliest checks were drawn on an account in Las Vegas, where they lived when Grandpa served in the Nevada Department of Education. Later on, the cards were postmarked from Carmichael, California, where Grandpa was Superintendent of Schools. After they retired to Hawaii, the amount written on the checks increased from $10 to $25, I suppose because I had passed into the double digits.

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?

10 comments:

CatsPuke said...

It's so sad when older people start to forget the things that they once held so dear.

I once worked in a nursing home and saw the sadness every single day. The sadness of the relatives, and the sadness of the people themselves in their most lucid moments. While none of my relatives have gone that way yet, I dread the day.

You're right what better birthday present could a girl ask for in hard financial times. A loving memory of your grandparents.

CP x

Jenn said...

What perfect timing - your birthday week and when you guys could use the money.

Bluegrass Mama said...

How wonderful! Good luck using it to get your finances back under control, and good luck selling that condo.

lisah said...

Serendipity I say! What a wonderful gift from your grandparents!

alwaysvirginia said...

You always make me glad I've stopped by :)

Gingernut said...

What a lovely last gift. This post just made me weep all over my bagel.

I hope you manage to get a little more peace of mind from money worries - I know the feeling, and it's really unpleasant. At least when TCB comes back you can face it together, rather than it feeling like it's your responsibility to keep everything ticking over.

Huggles!

Paige said...

I always believe that's their way of saying 'hi' even though they aren't here with us anymore.

Daisy said...

will you, like I did, wake in the middle of the night for weeks to come and think "oh my gosh! I've got to write a thank you note to...Grandpa...wait a minute..."??

Only for me it was an Aunt. But, boy, did my mom ever teach me a thing or two about writing thank you notes!! LOL

kitty said...

now you've gone and made me cry!

my grandfather was one of the only positive role models in my life - always there when you needed him and just an all around super guy

now he's dying of alzheimers :(

anyway... did you say birthday??

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! :) :)

Cindy N. said...

My dad had Alzheimer's too and it has to be one of the saddest things to watch and live through. I can only imagine their confusion. Anyway, I am happy for you that you have beautiful memories of your grandparents, as do I. Oh, and Happy Birthday!