when i say 'nan' i get quiet for a second. i usually smile. i don't quite know how to put my maternal grandmother into words. she was, as we all are, a true one of a kind. in my very biased opinion she was unique, she was of the top level of the best kind. you would have loved her. most did. she would have loved you too. she was like that.
when i think of my nan i think of laughing and smiling. and nice nails and chunky eclectic jewelery. her hands, she had lovely small hands. and elegant smoking. and eating. and books. and her sweet perfumey smell. and her hugs. fierce hugs. she would grab at me as i walked by the dining room table just to steal a hug and tell me how much she loved me. she was also independent. she separated from my grandfather in the late 60's. he was a musician and a binge drinker, but they remained best friends until the day his liver gave out in the 80's. that woman knew how to love properly, if there is such a thing. i learned how to love through her.
i don't know very much about her family, just random fuzzy names and waxy memories of stories she told about growing up in newfoundland back when she did. i don't even know when or why she left her home and made her way to new brunswick, my mom's home, our home for a long time. she went back for a period after retirement and renovated the house she was born in. she always was a proud newfoundlander and people soon learned to keep those oh-so-hilarious newf jokes to themselves. she had no time for that bullshit and would tell you. she was feisty.
it's rather odd to think of my grandmother in this way, her resounding influence on who i am. i mean, considering we never once lived in the same city. it's not like i grew up with her down the street, yet that never seemed to matter. for the first 10 years we all lived in the maritimes, we were always 3-7 hours away from each other. we saw her on holidays and any weekend she was nearby. her travelling job brought her into town often. once we moved to the middle (ottawa) it changed that frequency, but she was still on the phone with us and visiting us here for a few months in the winter or my uncle in toronto, so it wasn't like there was a huge lack of nan.
i always used the think the connection we had was normal, the way all grandchildren and grandparents interacted together. i soon learned what we had was special, not just from our own time together but the story of my grandmother and i as a unit. it was just another story among stories, yet it was ours and ours alone.
as an adoptee i've always had a bit of a different story of how i came into the world. i was told of being wanted, and waited for. 11 months my parents wait for me. in 1973 that was about the standard amount of time for a childless couple to wait for a healthy baby. my mom would tell me how the sun came out and sunshowers filled the bright air on the day she was told of my existence. how the day they brought me home was the day god's gift arrived, a baby made especially for them. i would hear of how they drove straight home and stripping me naked and just staring at my 7 week old toes and fingers, in utter fascination and awe. i was told of the next door neighbour coming over and pushing my mom out of the way to bathe me in the sink since she was so afraid i would slip and she'd drop me. i was, and still am, adored.
my nan's story, i would learn later. i remember my grandmother being a traveller and woman on the go. she loved the beach (hello shediac!) and mexico. she was always fun to be with. that was the nan i knew. what my grandmother would share with me as i got older was her own take on my arrival. i can remember at some point being upset about something or feeling unloved or some bs you feel when you're mad at your parents and my grandmother taking me in her arms and telling me her side of my arrival story. she would stroke my hands or my hair and tell me of feeling lost and lonely in the world. her kids were gone, she travelled a lot, was stressed about family and her job. she found herself in the darkest point of her life, sitting in a hotel room in sidney, nova scotia. she would often tear up at this point, and smile at me. i never pressed for details. she told me of the phone ringing. of the clarity of that day, etched in her mind forever. of hearing from my mom that I was coming, of putting down the phone, packing up the car and heading to me - driving 12 straight hours - and how that day i saved her life. she spoke of her love for this brand new chapter, this new life, a rejuvenation and new found purpose for her. she was a grandmother. her love knew no bounds. she wasn't shy with her emotions and telling us how important we were to her. how important the life of a child is to an entire family.
my nan really did show me the meaning of love. her motto always was, you can never have too many people in the world that love you. i do my best to remind myself of that. when she died we all mourned losing her presence with us, but i really try and remember the amazing lessons my nan taught me while she and i were together. i'm lucky in that i get to see her love in action these days. if you saw my brother's boys with my mom, you would see what i mean. my nephew L., was born 1 month to the day after my father left my mother for another woman. my nephew's birth saved her life in that same way my grandmother's was with my arrival. that i know. she is now modelling her relationship with her own grandchildren on the one we had with our nan, with her mother. it's beautiful to see. history is so funny. the future is so possible.
so, today i am thinking of you nan, wherever you are. i'll look for the butterfly you sometimes appear as, the one that dives at the cat, or that bird i know you were that day. and i am thinking of love. amazing, unconditional love and possibilities.