Monday morning, my twin granddaughters popped in to my study, pulled up chairs, and sat down. Two years ago they were 10. (They missed their monthlong visit last summer because of COVID.) Two summers ago they sneaked into my study every morning, tiptoed to the back of my chair, and yelled BOO!
It never got old.
But, alas, age 12 is a long way from 10. There’s a Rubicon in between.
At 10 you’re pretty much unaware of self. You’re childlike without knowing it. At 12 you’re fully (and painfully) aware of self. (How do I look?!) The self gets in the way and stays in the way the rest of the way.
At age 12 no one wants to be childlike. Suddenly, childlike is childish. We begin to judge ourselves. Endlessly.
Anyway, as I was saying, the twins pulled up chairs and sat down. I put down the book I was reading. I know contemplative moments with grandchildren—of any age—are rare.
We chatted about this and that.
A cell phone rang in the basement.
Their father came up the stairs carrying sad news. Their maternal grandmother (“YiaYia”) had just died in Albuquerque.
It was not unexpected. Still, I expected tears or sobs or perhaps wailing from the twins. But no, none of that. Just silence, eyes fixed on each other, and a few blinks.
I’ll miss your YiaYia. I really liked her. She was really, really sweet. And funny!
Yes, she was.
The silence was broken. Remembrances, smiles, and laughter followed. As it turns out, YiaYia had prepared her granddaughters for this sad moment.
She had lived with a debilitating disease for years. By this spring she knew her days were few. She also knew her granddaughters had missed out on last summer’s visit to their West Virginia grandparents and their week at the beach.
Of course, YiaYia would have held them in her arms until her last breath if she could have. And she could have.
But she didn’t.
Did you get to say goodbye to your YiaYia? I asked them.
Yes, we did, they said. We saw her in her hospice room. It was really nice.
I guess you knew she was dying, didn’t you?
Yes, we did.
Did she have anything special to say to you?
Yes. She said she loved us. And then she said, Go have fun in West Virginia.
* * *
PS: Due to the violent storm just one hour before, some of you missed the book launch and signing last Sunday. Still nearly 100 made it. Four Seasons Books will host a signing event in September. In the meantime, copies of 80 Dispatches from the Devil’s Domain are available at Four Seasons Books or on-line here.
See Paula’s photo new montage on the home page. Posted June 20.
They don’t come less self-conscious or more profoundly generous than YiaYia. In healthy humans, excessive self-consciousness is a passing developmental phase, pre-teens through young adulthood. YiaYia is one reason your granddaughters will “move through,” and come back to those beloved conversations with you born anew in compassion, empathy, with a healthy, mature, and generous sense of selves. The recognition of YiaYia as a forever gift in their lives will unfold with the passage of time. I don’t doubt your immense gratitude.
Thank you. Our grandchildren are a blessing. And our being there and loving them are our blessing to them… Each, in our own unique way.
Her words of love, her telling them she loves them, and go have fun in West Virginia will ring in their hearts for yours to come. What a blessing!
I was with Yia Yia a lot over her final days. She had two hand-held dry-erase boards to help her communicate before they gave her a speaking valve for her tracheotomy (it was good to hear her voice again).
On the day that the twins visited her before leaving for West Virginia, one of them drew some beautiful and loving pictures all over one of the white boards. Yia Yia cherished those drawings until the end.
A beautiful story! I can only hope that with the help of God’s “amazing grace” I can be somewhere close to as poised and courageous as YiaYia was in her last days! I look forward to my granddaughter’s 12th birthday in 11 years 👏🥰🙏
Thank you for this story Randy. It’s brought tears to my eyes.