When I am an old Gramma, I will tend my chickens and my cats and my grandkids. I will can vegetables in the fall to sustain me as I crochet blankets in the winter for the new babies in my life. I will plant a garden in the spring and teach the children to shuck corn in the summer. I will sit on my porch swing and reflect on where I’ve been. I’ll know I’ve had a productive and love filled life. I’ll know that I grew and learned and loved as best I knew how.
Each evening when the stars come out, there will be a question that goes unanswered in my mind. One day, it will be what are you doing now? Or, are you surrounded by grandbabies of your own whom light up when they see you? Are you loved and happy? Do you ever wonder if? I will contemplate how you spent your day and with whom you shared your laughter. One day, I will hear a song on the radio that reminds me of you and wonder if you heard it, too. I will wonder if you are sitting on your own porch swing wondering about me.
As I swing, I will pet the old cat on my lap and next to me will be a child eating a popsicle or a cookie or a bowl of strawberries from my garden. I will tell them about fairies and dragons. I will ask them about their day and their mom. We will talk about the stars and the clouds and why the world is the way it is. I will do my best to answer their questions.
But one day, one of these grandbabies of mine is going to ask me about love. I will tell them that I love them more than the flowers love the sun. I will tell them about how much I love chocolate and sharing it with them. Love can be compared to a good book that you cannot put down. I will tell them that love is like fireworks, it is exciting and beautiful and fleeting and though it will fade into the sky the image will always be imprinted in your mind.
They will say, no Gramma, real love, tell me about real love. And I will say, real love is unconditional like gravity. You cannot outsmart it, or run away from it, or hide from it. Your mother’s love is unconditional. Your dog’s love is unconditional. You will eventually learn to love yourself unconditionally, forgiving yourself for your little and not so little mistakes. Loving yourself is real love. It will always be there in your heart. You can take it out and look at it. You can share it with other people. But you must always take good care of it.
They will say, what about falling in love, what about that kind of love, Gramma. I will sit quietly for a few minutes, scratching the old cat under his chin. I will take a sip of my drink, stalling for more time, hoping that they will lose interest before I answer. If they have any bit of me in them, they will become impatient with my extended pause. Kicking their feet in frustration they will say, have you ever been in that kind of love, Gramma, and how did you know.
When I turn and look at them, right in their eyes, I will see the depth of their soul, the inexperience of their young life, and the maturity gained from past ones. I will see myself in their eyes and say, yes, I have known that kind of love and you will too. I will say, that kind of love is the most powerful energy in the world. It is both the most rewarding and the most painful thing there is. When it feels great, you will want to scream it from the tops of hills and write poems about it. And when it feels horrible, you will cry with anguish as if the world is dying inside of you. And in those moments of fear and pain, you will feel as if you have lost part of yourself. But, you must never close yourself off from the world. No matter how much it hurts and how bad it feels, you must keep loving. You must love yourself, and your dog, and your Gramma.
I will say, when you find that person who makes you feel so powerful and helpless all at once, you must take out that little piece of yourself and share it with them. Show them how it glows, where it’s been hurt. Let them hold it for a while and forgive them when they drop it. If it is true love, real love, you might even break off a little piece of it for them to carry next to their heart.
My ever inquisitive and way too serious grandbaby will say, what if you need it back, what if they hurt you, what if it wasn’t real love. And I’ll take their hands and I’ll say, we don’t get know that part, we don’t get to ask for it back. We all make mistakes and we can’t predict who is going to hurt us. But, I will tell them, love is always worth it. Sharing that piece of your self with someone else is what life is about. I will say, it will feel like the only thing that matters, when you are wrapped up in the midst of it. It will feel like the only thing that matters, when you are humbled by the pain of the loss of it.
We will sit there in the silence for a few moments, pushing our feet against the wood boards of the porch. The cat will jump down, chasing after something we can’t see. I will look up at the stars then back down at the child and say, one day, you will need someone to hold you and remind you what unconditional love is, to remind you to love yourself. Sometimes that can be my arms, or your friend’s arms. But eventually, there will be a time that no one is there but you and you will take that part of your heart out and hold it gently in your cupped hands. You will see where it glows, where it’s been hurt, and you will forgive yourself for dropping it. You will learn again to love your self and to trust someone else with your love.
We will sit there a little while longer, eating our snack and kicking our feet against the wood boards of the porch. I will let the noises of the night, become a part of my thoughts and I will smile knowing that all my unanswered questions don’t matter because I loved you the best that I could and that I still carry a piece of you next to my heart.
*Maybe this is on my mind because it’s Valentine’s day. Maybe this is on my mind because I had three wonderful dates with a woman who then wrote me an email about how we can’t date because she doesn’t want kids and I still can’t get her out of my head. Maybe this is on my mind because I woke up with a bloody nose from Sudafed and 20 days of a sinus infection and my mind wanders to my past when it’s 4am. But, at 4am I decided to email this to the person I wrote it for as well as to post it on here. I wrote it in September and have only shared it with 3 people. I used pseudonyms partly because Jane and Alice are great old lady names, but also because they tell a story in themselves. The recipient called herself Plain Jane and referred to me as Alice, by way of saying that she was ordinary and I was fanciful. But it was how she saw me that made me believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Thanks for reading.*