My Official Storybook Grandma

My Official Storybook Grandma

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

My Official Storybook Grandma

It is sweet to feel by what fine spun threads our affections are drawn together.

Lawrence Sterne

I spent most of my young life never having what I thought was a typical, storybook grandma. My dad’s mother didn’t live close enough, and my mom’s mother died before I was born.

At the age of sixteen I lived in Alaska, where I met my future husband, who joined our mission team there. From the beginning, Mike talked about his grandma, who lived next door. She allowed him, his three brothers and sister to raid the refrigerator. She defended them ruthlessly. The more he shared about her, the more jealous I became.

After a year of long-distance romance, Mike invited me to his home in New York for Thanksgiving. I was so excited—until I found out I was going to be staying with the famous Grandma Reba. It was common knowledge that she had not liked most of Mike’s girlfriends. I promised myself that I would not talk too much (impossible), swore I would not laugh too loud (unfeasible), but most of all I hoped she would love me.

I arrived and met his family, and then Mike and I walked across the street. I was more nervous about meeting Grandma Reba than anyone else. As soon as we entered, I felt the atmosphere change. Family pictures filled shelves. Homemade crocheted afghans dotted the living room furniture. Next to her chair sat a basket filled with her current afghan project and crochet hooks. A tiny lady, standing around five feet tall with curly gray hair and incredibly thick eyeglasses, came from the kitchen to greet us. She hugged Mike and I could feel her eyes moving over me. All I could think was, Please like me. She welcomed me warmly, and I began blabbing. She listened and smiled.

When Grandma Reba was able to interject a word or two, she told me that she would show me my room. Mike left, and she escorted me down the hall and opened a door. Inside was a bed draped in one of her homemade afhgans. She apologized for the room being so small, then asked me what I would like for breakfast. Desperate to please, I told her, “Anything is fine.” Of course, true to form, I had to elaborate. “Eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, bagel, orange juice, coffee, anything, really.”

She smiled at my nervous chatter and said, “Okay.”

We watched one of her favorite shows (I think it was Wheel of Fortune), then she went to bed. I already loved her but was certain she hated me because I had not shut up since she met me.

The next morning I was greeted by delicious breakfast smells. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw the table loaded with all the breakfast foods I had named. She stood at the skillet frying bacon.

“Oh, is everyone coming over for breakfast?” I asked.

She smiled and said, “No, honey. It’s all for you.”

For the first time since meeting her I was speechless. After falling into my chair in shock, I glanced up.

“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked.

I told her I would never be able to eat all of this and that I’d be too fat for Mike to date and what a sweetheart she was and how I couldn’t believe she had cooked all this just for me. Obviously, I had found my tongue. She laughed and asked me what I wanted tomorrow. I told her cereal, coffee and orange juice was all.

After our visit, I knew I had experienced a storybook grandma. I was now as much a fan of Grandma Reba as her own grandkids. During the next year, I wrote her letters and sent her one of my high school graduation pictures.

The following year, Mike moved to Alaska and we became engaged. We decided to spend that Christmas in New York with his family. I decided to purchase my wedding dress there so his mom, sister and grandma would feel more included in the preparations. Unfortunately, Grandma Reba could not go shopping with us. When I greeted her this second time, it was as if she had shrunk. It was more obvious that her curly gray hair was a wig, her thick glasses looked thicker, and she had lost more of her hearing. It was hard to believe she was the same person, but she still had prepared my room, and each morning I woke up to cereal, orange juice and coffee—she remembered.

One evening while we were visiting her, she got up to go to bed, lost her balance and fell into the Christmas tree, knocking it over. Mike and his brother helped her up and teased her about drinking too much. She laughed, but we all knew that something was not right.

I bought my wedding dress and tried it on for her. I sang her the songs we would be singing at the wedding, and she cried. She told me how she wished she could come. I begged, but she said she would never be able to make a fifteen-hour flight.

“You’ll be a beautiful bride,” she beamed.

I hugged her. “I can’t wait until we get married and you become my official grandma.”

For Christmas that year she gave me an afghan that she crocheted just for me.

Two months after Mike and I left New York and six months before our wedding, Grandma died.

We received a box of things she wanted us to have.

Apparently knowing that her time was short she’d spent her last months walking around her house, writing people’s names on the things. Our trophies were a corner shelf that Mike had made for her in shop class, a picture that Mike had always loved, and my graduation picture that she had placed in a frame on one of her shelves. It was then that I realized she had told me in a very special way that she was my official grandma. Only family pictures were kept on her shelves. I was part of her family. I fell in love with Grandma Reba, but even better, she fell in love with me.

Michelle Rocker

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