42: Timeless Generosity

42: Timeless Generosity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Timeless Generosity

Blessed be the hand that prepares a pleasure for a child, for there is no saying when and where it may bloom forth.

~Douglas Jerrold

My grandmother’s Social Security check was the highlight of her life. Everything depended on the arrival of her check. To this day, I have no idea how much it was, but she performed miracles with it. No matter what I wanted, she’d promise it to me, “when I get my check.”

Her visits to our house were timed with its arrival. She could never come empty-handed. No sir, she came with delightful treats purchased with the money from that check. My dad would drive to Pittsburgh to bring her to our house two hours north. She’d emerge from the car laden with red licorice, cookies, chipped ham, potato chips, pop and her small blue suitcase. There was a small present for each of us, including my parents. After distributing her gifts, she’d take out of her pocket a list of things yet to be purchased with the remaining money.

These items always were the same, but she made the list anyway. Pond’s face cream, hairnets, Jergen’s hand lotion, support hose, chocolate-covered raisins, writing paper and envelopes, and some “good cheese.” My dad would drive us into our small town with my grandmother sitting happily in the front seat clutching her pocketbook and my brother and sister and me in the back. Our destination was the G. C. Murphy store where, instead of just looking at things, we would be leaving with treasures.

Grammie, as we called her, loved these trips. She took her time examining the support hose, the hairnets and the cold creams. We hung by her side as she made her decisions... always choosing the same items. Then we were free to pick out something. I always got a book, my brother a car of some sort and my sister usually got chocolate candy. Grammie would then pick out something for our other sister, too little yet to go on these magical shopping trips.

Next we’d go to the grocery store and she’d load the cart with anything we wanted... all the things my mother never bought. I can still hear her urging our dad to get something. “Go ahead, Buddy. I have enough to pay for it.” We laughed at hearing him called by his childhood name.

I never saw my grandmother buy a new dress for herself, but she gave me money for my high school graduation dress. I never saw her buy new shoes or even a coat. She was always “making do” with her own things, but spending generously on those she loved. She lived with my dad’s sister and her other grandchildren in Pittsburgh, and they experienced the same generosity.

The only month of the year she did not follow this ritual was December. She saved that check for Christmas presents. Each December she made yet another list... the list of what we wanted for Christmas. We had to give her three or four ideas so she could surprise us with one. Christmas was wonderful with the arrival of Grammie and all her mysterious, oddly wrapped packages.

Time moved on and I went off to college. By this time there were seven children in my family and some of my cousins now had children of their own. Grammie’s check had to be stretched even further. The first letter she sent me at college read:

Dear Patti Jo:

My check came yesterday and I wanted to send you something, but I guess you have all the books you need there at college. Here are a few dollars so you can go out and have something nice to eat with your new friends.

Inside the folded sheets of the familiar writing paper I had watched her purchase time after time were three carefully folded dollar bills. This was the first of many such letters I received at college. Each letter during that first year contained folded dollar bills... my grandmother’s love reaching across the miles... her check stretching very far.

And then I got the last one. She sent a five dollar bill, a list of what I should get with it and instructions to save some too. The list was long. I laughed, knowing that it would never cover all that Grammie wanted me to have.

Before the next letter arrived, the news came that she was in the hospital. By the time I got to Pittsburgh, she had slipped into a coma. Sitting by her intensive care bed, I was besieged with grief, realizing that I would never talk to her again... never again witness her generosity and appreciation for the smallest of things.

My grandmother had no will, no bequests, nothing to leave anyone... she gave it all away to those she loved while she lived.

Not too long ago, I was out to dinner with my parents and I offered to pay.

“You’re just like my mother,” Dad said.

I’ve never ever received a nicer compliment. Grammie left me more than I ever realized.

~Patti Lawson
Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul

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