We have a huge extended family on my mom’s side. My grandparents had six children, three boys and three girls. At last count, there were 21 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren (our Betsy is #40) and at least three great-great-grandchildren. At school, my siblings and I always won the prize on Grandparents Day (on their behalf) for the most grandchildren. My grandparents faithfully attended every school and church choir event, and hosted every holiday at their home. My family lived exactly five minutes down the road from them all through my childhood. Grandpa, a master carpenter, built the house we lived in. We spent countless days and nights in their home, playing in their backyard with cousins and eating more than our fair share of homemade ice cream sandwiches while waiting for our turn to play baseball. It was a carefree childhood.
When my grandma started having heart problems, we faithfully accompanied her to every surgery, and I often spent the night at their house so my grandpa wouldn’t have to be alone. He would tell me stories from the war — about what it was like to be a medic in Japan. I was young, but my parents had instilled in me a love for country and for stories about our family. We were close.
But there have been hurt feelings along the way. One day, for reasons that still make no sense, my family’s relationship to my grandparents broke. For years — what could have been the best years — we were out of touch. I’ve had to forgive them for hurt feelings and estrangement. I’ve learned that forgiving others is necessary, even if they never acknowledge how much they hurt you, much less apologize.
Thankfully, we now live just 15 minutes away from my grandparents. They sold their house of memories, including the yard in which my own children might have played baseball, and my grandma can’t remember making ice cream sandwiches anymore. But we visit when we get the chance, and I need to stop by more often. To my son, his great-grandpa is a war hero who healed many soldiers and knows how to tell the difference between a poorly built house and a solid one. To my daughter, her great-grandma is the funny lady with a crown of white hair. I take my kiddos to spend time with them, and we take pictures and celebrate each visit with donuts.
My reasons to forgive are many, and my faith in the forgiveness I have received from God is just a starting point. Life is too short, and I want my kids to have memories with two people who have meant a lot to me.
Our family just celebrated my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary. They couldn’t attend their own celebration because Grandma had a hospital stay the week before, but her children and grandchildren gathered to recognize the momentous occasion of committing to someone and honoring that commitment for 75 years. Wow! There has to be a lot of love and forgiveness in that marriage to stand the test of a World War, six children and their numerous descendants’ countless marriages and many deaths.
These two people have taught me many things: how to hit a baseball, how to make candy at Christmas time — but most of all, they’ve instilled in me the value of learning how to love and let go of things that matter only if you let them. This weekend, you’ll find us headed to their apartment with coffee, a box of famous Bill’s Donuts in hand and hearts that are grateful we get to share these two “young-uns” with the next generation.
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