As grandparents we can occasionally feel like relics, irrelevant in our busy grandchildren’s lives. However, our steadfastness and the security we provide just by being there is immeasurable. The seeds planted early on may lie dormant for a season, but will sustain life later. The self-confidence my Gramma instilled in me helped me survive some very difficult times in my life.
My best friend and advocate, Gramma reflected the unconditional love of God in my life. With patience she welcomed my childhood hyper-active visits, encouraging creativity. She listened to my energetic chatter like no other adult.
With love, she and Grampa welcomed me into their home when I ran away at 17. With patience, they persuaded me to reconcile with my parents and return home. When I became pregnant at 18, Gramma coordinated our wedding and gave us the tiny apartment adjoining their garage.
My husband’s temper manifested but Gramma wasn’t aware of the abuse. Putting her arm around me, telling me she loved me, made me feel safe somehow. She was my rock.
While I was in my second trimester, my sweet Gramma died in her sleep. That morning was a blur with visits from Amish neighbors “keening” over her body. Dad arrived. Soon the mortician took Gramma away. Other relatives appeared.
I was pregnant and miserable. Suddenly I’d lost my best friend, neighbor, landlady, and confidant – my entire support system.
I sat on the edge of Gramma’s bed, hung my head and wept. What would I do now? Who would love me?
While I quietly cried alone in her bedroom with the doors closed, I felt an arm around my shoulders. The soft, warm reassuring hug felt familiar. As I looked up to see who was comforting me, I found I was still alone. I softly gasped. That same love that exuded from Gramma engulfed me.
Two weeks later Grampa died. At my parents’ request, my husband and I moved into the house until the estate was settled. We were always broke and, even after their passing, my grandparents took care of us. However, when their food was gone, we had no food. When their heating oil depleted, we froze.
Weeks rolled by and my belly grew. Having no maternity clothes, I relied on Gramma’s bras and big “granny panties” for coverage. Being in her house was comforting. Conversations and advice from years past echoed in my mind. I felt her presence with me daily.
The month before my 19th birthday, I had a beautiful baby girl. Bringing her home to Gramma’s house seemed perfect, and I never doubted my ability to care for my newborn.
Within months, Baby Number Two was conceived.
Soon the house sold and we had to move. Without the support of Gramma’s memories, I felt weak. The abuse escalated and I grew timid and frail. After my adorable baby boy was born I realized that the babies were in danger; we had to escape. But I was anemic and so fragile! I weighed less than 100 pounds and my hair was falling out.
Sporadically I tried to leave but always returned. After vacillating in my commitment, the seeds Gramma had planted in my life sprouted, and helped me make the ultimate break from my abuser. One night God gave me a dream to rekindle the strength Gramma had instilled in me years earlier. In the dream, I crawled through a tunnel-like opening in a thick stone wall. On the other side Gramma welcomed me with opened arms, smiling brightly. She gave me a much-needed hug, told me she was proud of me and that she loved me. That was the encouragement I needed.
Mustering the boldness I received from God through my Gramma, I gathered my babies and left – this time for good.
Throughout these many years later, I still find strength in memories of Gramma. I think of her often as I wear her purple apron or serve food in her bowls. I emulate her sweet patience with my granddaughters. Courage and tenacity are inherited. I thank God for Gramma’s strength and her patience to plant seeds in my life.
Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Kelly J. Stigliano has been a speaker and writer for over 20 years. She and her husband, Jerry, enjoy life in Orange Park, FL. To learn more, visit www.kellystigliano.com.
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